A. Reciting and memorizing prayers
Today you may review with your students the prayer they have been memorizing over the last two lessons. Since they will begin learning a new prayer in the next class, you should make sure they can say the first one well.
The following ideas will assist you in presenting the quotation that the children are expected to memorize today.
When we pray, we must always remember that we are in the presence of God, the Almighty, and show humility before Him. In prayer we express our deep love and respect for God and act with reverence. We sit quietly in a prayerful posture and take a few moments before beginning to pray, in order to cleanse our minds of the things of this world. Some people like to fold their arms or clasp their hands together. Many people close their eyes so they are not distracted by things around them. The prayers that we recite every day can be chosen from those we know by heart or from those we find in prayer books. Once we have finished reciting a prayer, we remain still and silent, reflecting on its words. When another person is praying, we feel as though we are praying ourselves. We listen closely to the words the other is saying and maintain a reverent attitude.
'Abdu'l-Baha encouraged the Baha'is to keep their thoughts centred solely on God when praying. He urged them to forget the things of the world, what is going on around them, and even their own selves. To those who saw 'Abdu'l-Baha in prayer, it seemed as if He had been carried away to another world. He was free of distractions, completely absorbed in conversation with God. As we focus our thoughts on God and pray to Him with reverence, we too, feel our hearts overflow with His love. To help us remember how we conduct ourselves during prayer, let us memorize the following words of Baha'u'llah:
“O Son of Light! Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit. This is of the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it.”
- Being in the countryside makes Iona feel at one with nature. When she is in the countryside, Iona communes with nature.
- When Hugo prays, he feels close to God. Through prayer, Hugo communes with God.
- At the beginning of each school year, the principal spoke to all the students in the school and reminded them that they should pay attention in class, do their homework, and read as much as possible. The essence of her advice was that they should study hard.
- Ethan always thought about how to serve others and dedicate himself to helping people. Service was the essence of Ethan's life.
It is suggested that you tell the children the following story today:
During His travels in America, 'Abdu'l-Baha once accepted to teach a very devoted Baha'i how to pray. He told him to come to His residence at daybreak the next day. The believer's heart was filled with joy. He rose at dawn and rushed to the residence of 'Abdu'l-Baha. When he entered the room of the Master, he fround Him already in prayer. Realizing that he could not ask the Master any questions, he decided to do the same. So, he kneeled on the floor and began to pray. He prayed silently for his relatives, for his friends and for himself. When he finished, he looked up and saw that 'Adbu'l-Baha was still deep in prayer. So he decided to pray some more. He repeated all the prayers he knew over and over. Still there was no movement from 'Abdu'l-Baha.
Now, the believer noticed that one of his knees was beginning to ache and that his back was feeling uncomfortable. Next he heard the birds singing outside. Glancing around the room, he observed a large crack in the wall. Then he looked at the Master again, and all of a sudden, the expression on 'Abdu'l-Baha's face created in him a strong desire to pray. He forgot everything else. The only desire in his heart was to be close to God and to converse with Him. He began to pray in a way that he had never prayed before. The Master had taught him how to pray.
At that very moment, 'Abdu'l-Baha arose, approached him with a smile and said: "When you pray, you must not think of your aching body, nor of the birds outside the window, nor of the cracks in the wall! When you wish to pray you must first know that you are standing in the presence of the Almighty!"
You may wish to sing with the children a few of the songs from the previous lessons, before teaching them one that you have selected for today's class.
As always, the period of the class begins with activities that are intended to help the children develop skills and abilities to participate effectively in creative drama.
- Start by asking the children to stand in their imaginary squares. To make sure that their squares are well defined, have each of them walk along the border or his or her own square.
- As in the preceding lesson, ask your students to raise up their arms, stretching them to the sky, and then relax. They should do this three or four times.
- Now explain to them that, for this next exercise, they will move out of their imaginary squares. Tell them that they are to walk around randomly in the area where the class is being held, making sure not to bump into one another. While they are walking, you will call out a series of commands that they should instantly obey. The commands, which you should demonstrate to the children, are as follows:
FREEZE: stop all movement instantly, and stand perfectly still
TURN FREEZE: Turn half way around and then freeze instantly
JUMP FREEZE: Jump in the air, turning half way around, and then freeze
TWIST FREEZE: Jump in the air, turning around in a full circle and then freeze.
Explain to the children that, once they have frozen, they should hold their positions untilyou give them the signal to move again. It is suggested that you ask the children to practice each of the four commands while still standing in their imaginary squares. Then begin. You should feel free to call out the commands as many times as you wish, in any order.
Now, move on to the activities related to the theme of the lesson, which is about ow we pray. For this part of the lesson, you will need a prayer book/ Explain to the children that they will carry out a series of exercises which will help them understand what it means to treat a special object with reverence. We can show reverence, tell them, in the way we position our bodies, in the way we position our bodies, in the way we move, and in the way we use our voices.
- Begin by asking the children to return silently to their imaginary squares and to stand in a reverent posture. After a few moments, have them move into a reverent sitting position.
- Now, tell the children to imagine that they are holding a baby bird in their hands. Ask them to show that they are handling the bird gently and carefully.
- Next, tell the children to imagine that they are servants sanding before the throne of a mighty kind Ask them t show you how they would bow down before the king with respect and obedience.
- Finally, hold the prayer book for the children to see. Explain that this object is special because it contains the Word of God revealed by His Manifestation that we can read when turning to Him in love and devotion. Tell them that each child will have the chance to hold the prayer book, which they must handle with gentleness and reverence. Ask the children to stand up in their squares. Give the book to one of the children and ask him or her to pass it to the next child, who should pass it to the next, and so on. As they pass it, one should say, "It is your turn to hold the special book." After handing the book over, every child should return to his or her imaginary square and sit in stillness and silence with e yes closed. The last child standing should return the book to you and then also sit.
- After a few moments, you can gently thank the children for handling the prayer book with reverence. Tell them that when they feel a tap on their shoulder and hear the words "thank you", they may stand up, then gently tap another child and say "thank you". They may then move on quietly to the drawing activity. You my start by tapping one of the children and softly saying "thank you". The last child to be tapped may say "Thank you everyone!" as he/she joins the rest of the class.
Following the above activities, the children can draw a picture that reminds them of this lesson, perhaps a baby bird being held or a face with eyes closed in prayer.
Repeat with the children the quotation they committed to memory in today's lesson, and review those related to humility and detachment that they learned in Grade 1:
"O Son of Man! Humble thyself before Me, that I may graciously visit thee." (Lesson 9)
"Know that thy true adornment consisteth in the love of God and in thy detachment from all save Him, and not in the luxuries thou dost possess." (Lesson 14; the quote learnt in lesson 14 is just "Know that thy true adornment consisteth in the love of God and in thy detachment from all save Him.")
Choose a student to close the class by reciting a prayer or quotation he or she knows by heart.