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published: 8/20/05
updated: 6/24/14

Bahá'í Religious Practices



How do followers of Bahai express their faith?

Thai Buddhists at a temple in Chiang Mai

The Bahá'í Faith places great importance on the relationship with God, but not on religious ritual. Bahá'ís have no priesthood or clergy, no initiation ceremonies, no sacraments, and no worship rituals. (Also see Bahai beliefs)

"It is not sufficient for a believer to merely accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality, which he can acquire chiefly by the means of prayer. Laws and institutions, as viewed by Bah'u'llh, can become really effective only when our inner spiritual life has been perfected and transformed. Otherwise religion will degenerate into a mere organization, and become a dead thing."-- Letter of Shoghi Effendi, published in Bahá'í News, 1936

The practices that are required of Bahá'ís are related more to everyday life than to rituals at the temple. Every Bahá'í is to pray daily, abstain from alcohol and other mind-affecting substances; to practice monogamy; to obtain the consent of parents to marriage; and to attend the Nineteen Day Feast on the first day of each month of the Bahá'í calendar.




Bahai practices

Prayer

Every Bahá'í is under the spiritual obligation to pray daily. Bahá'í prayers include both recited prayers and spontaneous, personal prayers. Bahá'u'lláh wrote hundreds of prayers for a variety of situations, such as for general use, for healing, for spiritual growth, for facing difficulties, for marriage, for community life, and for humanity.

Bahá'u'lláh also asked His followers to choose one of three obligatory prayers for recitation each day. The shortest of these prayers is just three sentences long:

I bear witness, O my God, that Thou has created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.

Meditation

In addition to prescribing daily prayer, Bahá'u'lláh also urged His followers to spend each day in meditation; specifically, to reflect at the end of each day on their deeds and their worth. Other than this suggestion, Bahá'u'lláh did not specify a particular approach to meditation. Instead, each Bahá'í is free to choose his or her own meditational form.

Houses of Worship

Bahá'í Houses of Worship are the gathering places for prayer and meditation and the buildings that most closely approximate a church, mosque, or temple. But they are also intended to be the focus of Bahá'í community life and an expression of the Bahá'í Faith's humanitarian concern.

Bahá'í worship services have no sermon, rituals, or clergy. Services consist of prayers, music, and reading of the scriptures of all religions, especially the writings of the Bahá'í Messenger Bahá'u'lláh. Houses of Worship are open to people of every religion.

There are currently seven Bahá'í houses of worship worldwide, in the following cities:

  • Wilmette, Illinois, USA
  • Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • Kampala, Uganda
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Panama City, Panama
  • Apia, Samoa
  • New Delhi, India

There are currently 120 sites set aside around the world for future Houses of Worship, but Bahá'í local communities tend to emphasize developing the social and spiritual institutions of community life rather than the construction of physical buildings.

Calendar

The Bahá'ís use a calendar established by the Báb and confirmed by Bahá'u'lláh, in which the year is divided into 19 months of 19 days each, with the addition of 4 intercalary days (5 in leap years). The Bahá'í year begins on the first day of spring, March 21, which is one of several holy days in the Bahá'í calendar.

The Nineteen Day Feast

A major centerpiece of Bahá'í community life is the Nineteen-Day Feast. Held once every 19 days, the Feast is the local community's regular worship gathering, and an event that promotes and sustains the unity of the local Bahá'í community.

The Feast always contains three elements: spiritual devotion, administrative consultation, and social fellowship. As such, the Feast combines religious worship with grassroots governance and social enjoyment. Music is often a component of its program, and such music often reflects the geographic and cultural setting.

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