Three Reasons to Greet Each Morning with Dawn Prayers

My sweet wife, always an early riser, maintains that the sunrise is the #1 most-wasted natural resource. She always wants to see that glorious moment each day when most people are trying to get more sleep. 

Because of her, I’ve learned how sacred and serene the quiet, peaceful early morning can be. Dawn – that hour of renewal, the springtime of each day – has the power to refresh our souls. So, long ago I began the spiritual practice of saying this prayer from Baha’u’llah every morning:

I have wakened in Thy shelter, O my God, and it becometh him that seeketh that shelter to abide within the Sanctuary of Thy protection and the Stronghold of Thy defense. Illumine my inner being, O my Lord, with the splendors of the Day-Spring of Thy Revelation, even as Thou didst illumine my outer being with the morning light of Thy favor.

Each dawn, the Sufi mystic poet Rumi said, can teach us something: “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep,” he wrote.

As the sun climbs over the eastern horizon, Baha’is all over the world say dawn prayers, greeting the new day with joy, contemplation, and spiritual anticipation.


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1. Rendering Thanks to the Creator at Dawn

Well, first of all, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, urged everyone to pray during the first light of the early morning in passages like these:

  • At the dawn of every day he should commune with God, and, with all his soul, persevere in the quest of his Beloved.
  • Ponder ye in your hearts the grace and the blessings of God and render thanks unto Him at eventide and at dawn.

Praying in the early morning, at the quiet and meditative dawn, has a special power and significance for Baha’is.

2. Dawn Prayers From the Baha’i Writings

Second, the Baha’i teachings contain several wonderful, uplifting prayers meant to be said at dawn, like this one:

He is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful! O God, my God! Thou seest me, Thou knowest me; Thou art my Haven and my Refuge. None have I sought nor any will I seek save Thee; no path have I trodden nor any will I tread but the path of Thy love. In the darksome night of despair, my eye turneth expectant and full of hope to the morn of Thy boundless favor and at the hour of dawn my drooping soul is refreshed and strengthened in remembrance of Thy beauty and perfection. He whom the grace of Thy mercy aideth, though he be but a drop, shall become the boundless ocean, and the merest atom which the outpouring of Thy loving-kindness assisteth, shall shine even as the radiant star.

Shelter under Thy protection, O Thou Spirit of purity, Thou Whom art the All-Bountiful Provider, this enthralled, enkindled servant of Thine. Aid him in this world of being to remain steadfast and firm in Thy love and grant that this broken-winged bird attain a refuge and shelter in Thy divine nest that abideth upon the celestial tree.

Dawn, usually limited to that brief moment when the first light of the new day appears in the sky, has a wider definition for Baha’is – in his Most Holy Book Baha’u’llah defined the time for dawn prayers as “the earliest dawn of day, between dawn and sunrise, or even up to two hours after sunrise.” From a Baha’i perspective, then, dawn represents that time each early morning both before, during, and after the sunrise, when the day is new.

3. The Metaphorical Meaning of Morning Prayers

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the symbolic meaning of the dawn recounted throughout the Baha’i writings alludes to the daybreak of a revolutionary period in human history – the coming of a new messenger from the Creator, signaling the advent of a new era, a new revelation, and a newly-awakened humanity. In a speech he gave in Paris, Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son and successor, said

God leaves not His children comfortless, but, when the darkness of winter overshadows them, then again He sends His Messengers, the Prophets, with a renewal of the blessed spring. The Sun of Truth appears again on the horizon of the world shining into the eyes of those who sleep, awaking them to behold the glory of a new dawn. Then again will the tree of humanity blossom and bring forth the fruit of righteousness for the healing of the nations.

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This strong symbol of the dawning of a fresh future, Abdu’l-Baha said, gives everyone cause for rejoicing:

Lift up your hearts above the present and look with eyes of faith into the future! Today the seed is sown, the grain falls upon the earth, but behold the day will come when it shall rise a glorious tree and the branches thereof shall be laden with fruit. Rejoice and be glad that this day has dawned, try to realize its power, for it is indeed wonderful! God has crowned you with honour and in your hearts has He set a radiant star; verily the light thereof shall brighten the whole world!

Alluding to that global and spiritual meta-dawn, Baha’u’llah wrote that “Darkness hath been chased away by the dawning light of the mercy of thy Lord, the Source of all light.

In his mystical treatise The Seven Valleys, Baha’u’llah metaphorically compared each person’s inner being to a mirror, which has the capacity to embody and reflect the dawning Sun of Truth – and illumine our hearts and souls:

O My brother! A pure heart is as a mirror, cleanse it with the burnish of love and severance from all save God, that the true sun may shine therein and the eternal morning dawn.

This deep and meaningful symbol of the dawn also expresses the primary Baha’i principle of progressive revelation, as Abdu’l-Baha explained in another address he gave in Paris:

Sometimes the sun rises from the centre of the horizon, then in summer it rises farther north, in winter farther south – but it is always the self-same sun, however different are the points of its rising.

In like manner truth is one, although its manifestations may be very different. Some men have eyes and see. These worship the sun, no matter from which point on the horizon it may dawn; and when the sun has left the winter sky to appear in the summer one, they know how to find it again. Others there are who worship only the spot from which the sun arose, and when it arises in its glory from another place they remain in contemplation before the spot of its former rising. Alas! these men are deprived of the blessings of the sun. Those who in truth adore the sun itself will recognize it from whatsoever dawning-place it may appear, and will straightway turn their faces towards its radiance.

We must adore the sun itself and not merely the place of its appearance. In the same way men of enlightened heart worship truth on whatever horizon it appears. They are not bound by personality, but they follow the truth, and are able to recognize it no matter from whence it may come. It is this same truth which helps humanity to progress, which gives life to all created beings, for it is the Tree of Life!

Personally, I never skip dawn prayers now if I can help it – they’ve become an important part of my life, because they help me set the course of each day on a spiritual path. At that still sacred moment of the morning when the sun rises, I love to turn to my Maker and offer my prayers. No day seems complete without that time of contemplation, gratitude, and love. If this spiritual practice of dawn prayers is new to you, give it a try for a few mornings, and see if it changes your outlook – and your life – like it has mine.

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