I have fond and vivid memories of a small Bahá’í get together in the heart of Sussex during my youth, at which I was discussing with a friend the longest prayers that we had committed to memory. I was very impressed when my friend told me that she had memorized about half of the long Healing Prayer.
“Really?” I asked,
“Yes!” She replied, “Thou the Sufficing, Thou the Healing, Thou the Abiding, O Thou Abiding One!”
That verse is repeated thirty-nine times during the prayer, 40 times in many older prints of the translation. For today’s blog post I am going to offer a short reflection on this long prayer.
In yesterday’s post I mentioned that the long Healing Prayer revealed by Bahá’u’lláh is believed to be “invested with a special potency and significance”, there is a story shared by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in his book “Memorials of the Faithful” which attests to the power of this prayer.
If you have watched the excellent film Light to the World, referred to about 9 posts back, you will have heard about how Bahá’u’lláh and his closest followers were sent to the prison city of Akka under such poor conditions that many of them fell ill and some of them died. One of those who fell ill, and reportedly died, was Mírzá Ja‘far-i-Yazdí, whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá described as “patient and long-suffering, a faithful attendant at the Holy Threshold. He was a servant to all the friends, working day and night. A quiet man, sparing of speech, in all things relying entirely upon God.”.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá related the following incident involving Mírzá Ja‘far-i-Yazdí, in which the long Healing Prayer was chanted for him:
“At the time when we were in the barracks he fell dangerously ill and was confined to his bed. He suffered many complications, until finally the doctor gave him up and would visit him no more. Then the sick man breathed his last. Mirza Aqa Jan ran to Bahá’u’lláh, with word of the death. Not only had the patient ceased to breathe, but his body was already going limp. His family were gathered about him, mourning him, shedding bitter tears. The Blessed Beauty said, “Go; chant the prayer of Ya Shafi — O Thou, the Healer — and Mirza Ja’far will come alive. Very rapidly, he will be as well as ever.” I reached his bedside. His body was cold and all the signs of death were present. Slowly, he began to stir; soon he could move his limbs, and before an hour had passed he lifted his head, sat up, and proceeded to laugh and tell jokes.
“He lived for a long time after that, occupied as ever with serving the friends. This giving service was a point of pride with him: to all, he was a servant. He was always modest and humble, calling God to mind, and to the highest degree full of hope and faith.”
I cannot begin to offer an explanation as to how a prayer becomes invested with a special potency, or even what that really means, but can share one small observation from my own frequent use of the prayer.
Another prayer invested with potency is the Tablet of Ahmad, and in that prayer is the promise that “Should one who is in affliction or grief read this Tablet with absolute sincerity, God will dispel his sadness, solve his difficulties and remove his afflictions.”
The word absolute worries me in that Tablet, but sincerity makes sense as a requirement.
All the requests for healing, and protection and guidance, appear at the very end of the long Healing Prayer revealed by Bahá’u’lláh. The majority of the prayer has us invoking God’s “most beauteous names” and “most noble and sublime attributes”, and has us attesting to God’s mercy and grace. We acknowledge that God hears our prayers and answers them, that God is Just, and Kind to all, that God sees everything, and that God’s lovers are tested.
By the time we reach the part of the prayer that asks for healing, if we have invoked all of these names sincerely, we have surrendered our own will in favour of the Will of God, and have signed up to see any sequence of events that our prayers might lead to as a gift from God’s mercy.
In effect, we cannot sincerely say the long Healing Prayer, be it for healing, protection, or guidance, without being – or becoming – detached from any specific wish we may have had when we set out to say the prayer.
Another connected observation on this prayer, which I am repeating from pieces that others have written about it, is that in invoking numerous titles of God before we come to ask for anything we are engaged in the act of remembering God, and to quote a Hidden Word revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, “The healer of all thine ills is remembrance of Me, forget it not.” And, to quote from the short healing prayer revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, “Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy.”