Open the class by reciting a prayer and then ask two children to say a prayer each. It is important to remind the children that their class begins with prayers in order for them to make mention of God and implore His help and guidance.
A. Reciting and memorizing prayers
You may then help the children memorize the following prayer. As you introduce it, remember that the words and phrases should be explained to them. If any words are unfamiliar to the children, concrete examples should be given to the children to illustrate their meaning. Not all of your students will, of course, learn at the same pace. Some will advance faster than others. But it is expected that almost every child will be able to commit the prayer to memory within three class periods.
“O Lord! I am a child; enable me to grow beneath the shadow of Thy loving kindness. I am a tender plant; cause me to be nurtured through the outpourings of the clouds of Thy bounty. I am a sapling of the garden of love; make me into a fruitful tree. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful, and Thou art the All-Loving, the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing.”
Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/su-ellis/o-lord-i-am-a-child
The following explanation will assist you in introducing to the children the quotation to be memorized. You will need to express the ideas in your own words when presenting them to the students.
'Abdu'l-Baha tells us that prayer is "conversation with God". Through our prayers, we speak to God of our love for Him. When one friend loves another, his greatest wish is to be close to the one he loves and to express the love he feels. Even though God knows what is in our hearts, still we want to tell Him of our love for Him and thank Him for the bounties that He has showered upon us.
'Abdu'l-Baha lived in a state of prayer. His heart was always turned towards God. He often mentioned that there is nothing sweeter in this world than the state of prayer. When we converse with God each day, our love for Him grows stronger, and we feel closer to Him. Our hearts are open, enkindled with His love, and our souls become joyful. God loves us more than we can possibly imagine. So is it that we constantly receive His bounties as we pray to Him to guide us, to protect us, and to help us become worthy of His love. To aid us in our efforts to live our lives in a state of prayer, and with our hearts always turned towards God, let us memorize the following quotation:
As with the prayer above, the children will find the quotation easier to memorize if they understand it well. It is recommended, therefore, that you spend some time discussing the meaning of the words and phrases with them. Here are some sentences you could use to help them understand the meaning of the words that may be new to them:
1. She stood before the meeting with her head bowed and her eyes closed. Silence filled the room. Then she lifted her head and began to intone the verses of God in a melodious voice.
2. Bahereh taught her children to intone beautiful prayers at the beginning of each new day and in the evening before they slept.
1. The grass in the field was very dry. In the intense heat of the summer, the dry grass kindled, and the fire spread to the edge of town.
2. After reading a few passages from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, Florence felt the love of God kindled in her heart.
1. We enjoy looking at flowers because they are beautiful. We are attracted to their beauty.
2. When we feel God's love, we want to be near Him. Our hearts are attracted to God by the power of His love.
After the children have memorized the quotation, sing with them a few songs from the collection appended at the end of the book. Remember that if the songs selected are related to the theme of the lesson - in this case, prayer - they will reinforce what the children are learning.
- Song: God is One
- Song: Strive
Next, you should ask the children to sit quietly while you tell them a story that will help them understand what it means to live in a state of prayer.
We have all heard of the heroes of the Baha'i Faith who, in its early days, did extraordinary things in service to God. This is a story of a young boy, Ruhu'llah Varqa, who lived during the time of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha. So great was Ruhu'llah's love for God, and so absolute his dedication to His Cause, that whenever we hear his name we think of a life of devotion and servitude.
When Ruhu'llah was about seven years old, he travelled with his father to the Holy Land. There he had the great privilege of meeting Baha'u'llah, Who had brought to humanity God's message for this day. Ruhu'llah's heart became filled with love for Baha'u'llah, and he wanted nothing more than to serve Him. Upon returning home to Persia, he spent his time sharing with others news of Baha'u'llah's coming. Ruhu'llah was truthful, honest, courteous and kind, and his words had great effect on all who heard him. He rose at every dawn to pray and, with his heart turned towards God, passed each day in servitude to Him.
One day, Ruhu'llah was summoned to appear before an official. At that time, many people were fearful of the new message that was being spread throughout the land. They clung to beliefs of the past, and the followers of the new Faith often became victims of harsh punishments. For this reason, Ruhu'llah's father was in great danger. As proof that he had raised his sons in this new Faith, Ruhu'llah was asked to say a prayer in the presence of the official. This, it was hoped, would be enough to cnovince the official to condemn his father. Calmly, Ruhu'llah prepared his heart to offer supplication to God. Then, in a melodious voice, he chanted a Baha'i prayer with exquisite beauty. The official was deeply moved. He dismissed the matter immediately, saying he would not condemn a man who had raised a child so wonderful. And so Ruhu'llah's father was saved.
Later, when Ruhu'llah was about twelve years old, he would once again set out with his father to visit the Holy Land. This time, he would be blessed to pass his days in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Baha, who loved Ruhu'llah very much and especially enjoyed hearing him chant in his beautiful voice the many prayers he knew by heart. Ruhu'llah would leave the Holy Land ablaze with Divine love, ready to sacrifice his all for the Cause of God.
As explained in the preceding unit, there are two types of activities related to drama in these lessons. The first set of activities is concerned with the development of skills and abilities.
To acquire the discipline yet freedom of movement needed to participate in creative drama, the children must learn to control their actions within a defined space. The following activities will contribute to the development of this ability.
- Have your children stand about two meters apart from one another. Each child should imagine that he or she is standing in a square measuring about one and a half meters by one and a half meters. Ask them to draw with their eyes the boundaries of their imaginary squares. Then, have each of them walk along the border of his or her own square.
- Next, tell them to imagine that there is a rope about half a meter above the ground stretching across the middle of each of their squares. Ask them to jump over it, crawl under it, walk along it, hop along it, and go around it without leaving their squares.
The children also need to learn to cooperate and work together. The following activities will help them develop some of the corresponding activities.
- Divide the youngsters into pairs. Think of a very heavy object that is familiar to them and ask each pair to pretend that they are carrying it together.
- Then ask the pair to pretend they are digging a well together.
- Now tell them to imagine that one of the children's mother has invited a guest over, but the guest has arrived early before the mother has returned home from work. One child in each pair is the guest. The other child invites the guest in and offers him or her something refreshing to drink while they wait for the mother.
The second type of activity is related to the theme of the lesson, the state of prayer. Tell the children that they are going to improvise a situation about the state of prayer.
- Begin by having the children return to their imaginary squares. Once they are in position, explain to them that, although we pray to God with words, other things, or their very existence, we are asking for God's blessings and bounties. In this way, all created things are praying to God. A plant, for example, needs rain to grow. By its very existence, the plant prays, "O God! Send me rain!"
- Now, tell the children to pretend that they are a field of corn, or another crop with which they are familiar. For some days there has been no rain on the field How do they look? Days pass, but there is not a could in the sky. The plants droop more and more, day by day. Silently, they are prayer. Then, suddenly, there is a clap of thunder in the distance which grows louder and louder. You can use your hands or some instrument to make the clap of thunder. Then start slowly tapping on something, pretending to be rain. Gradually tap faster and faster. The rain has come, and little by little, the plants raise their drooping leaves.
You should ask the children to do a drawing that will in some way reinforce in their minds the theme of this lesson: It would be natural, following the above improvisation, to have them draw a picture of the plants they portrayed, first before and then after the rainfall. However, you should feel free to come up with your own ideas as well.
As a reward for praiseworthy behaviour, invite one of the children to close the class by reciting a prayer or quotation he or she memorized in the first grade.