O God, refresh and gladden my spirit
Posted by Sen on May 13, 2010
One of the friends asked for the Persian text of the well-known prayer that begins, “O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand….”
I had to disappoint him: there is no Persian original for this. It comes from the Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab for May 9, 1914. He would write his diary in Persian, and later translate parts of it into English and distribute the translations. In this case, his handwritten English translation has survived in manuscript (a friend has a copy), and contains this prayer, but when the World Centre’s Research Department was asked to locate the Persian, they reported “although the Archives Office at the Baha’i World Centre holds an untranslated, handwritten diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab covering this time period, the Research Department has been unable to locate this entry.”
From Sohrab’s English translation of his diary for this period, it appears that Abdu’l-Baha was vacationing by Lake Tiberius for several weeks, and on May 9, 1914, he had a visitor (“a stranger”) with whom he spoke at length on a variety of topics such as the objectives of the Baha’i Faith and the nature of evil. Abdu’l-Baha’s words were recorded by Sohrab, including this prayer, revealed for the visitor to use.
Sohrab’s translation of this section of his Persian diary was printed in Star of the West, Vol. 7 page 179 (February 7, 1917), which I reproduce below. From the text just before the prayer, it’s clear that Abdu’l-Baha was speaking the words, not writing them. The version in the prayer books has also been edited somewhat, so that it reads better than this version.
Even if the Persian original should be found, “Refresh and gladden my spirit” would only become an authentic prayer of Abdu’l-Baha if the page showed that Abdu’l-Baha had checked and corrected the text. Without that, it has only the status of a good pilgrim’s note: ‘good’ because the notes (if found) would be taken in Persian without an interpreter intervening, and because Sohrab is generally diligent in his note-taking.
Sohrab’s report, as published in Star of the West reads:
Question: How can one understand the object of his life?
Abdul-Baha: There are two kinds of understanding; objective and subjective. To illustrate: thou seest this glass, or this water and thou dost comprehend in an objective manner their constituent parts. On the other hand, thou canst not see love, intellect, hate, anger, sorrow, but thou dost recognize them in a subjective way through their signs and manifestations. The first is material, the second is spiritual. The first is outward, the second is intuitive. I hope that thou mayst make great advancement in the second kind of understanding. Turn thy face toward God, and say:
O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit!
Purify my heart! Illumine my powers! I lay all my affairs in thy hand. Thou art my guide and my refuge. I will not be sorrowful and grieved any more. I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will worry no more. I will not let trouble harass me any longer. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. Thou art kinder to me than myself. I dedicate myself to thee, O Lord!
Postscript May 10, 2015:
As my friend Johannes Robensaum has pointed out, there is a parallel to Psalm 51, although it is not so close that one could call this a paraphrase. However it is close enough to suggest that the reason this prayer is not found in Sohrab’s Persian diary is that he did not write it down; rather when he was making his English version he thought something up, based on his understanding of King James English, and some memorable Bible verses including
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
51:12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
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