Laws of Prayers and Fasting
Each manifestation of god has ordained laws of prayer and fasting. Shoghi Effendi says of these observances:
As regards fasting, it constitutes, together with the obligatory prayers, the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. They act as stimulants to the soul, strengthen, revive, and purify it, and thus insure its steady development.
The laws of prayer and fasting are sometimes symbolize in the Writings as the sun and the moon. At the beginning of the Dispensation, when these laws are changed, the sun and moon of the earlier Dispensation cease to shine.
Each Manifestation of God has enjoined prayer. Baha’u’llah ordains also that three prayers should be obligatory, in the sense that one of them should be said each day by all Baha’is who have reached the age of 15, except those who are weak from illness or age. Shoghi Effendi writes:
the daily obligatory prayers are three in number. The shortest one of a single verse which has to be recited once every twenty-four hours at midday. The medium [prayer] has to be recited three times a day, in the morning, at noon and in the evening. The long prayer which is the most elaborate of the three has to be recited once in every twenty-four hours, and at any time one feels inclined to do so. The believer is entirely free to choose any one of the three prayers, but is under the obligation of reciting either one of them, and in accordance with any specific directions with which they may be accompanied. These daily obligatory prayers, together with a few other specific ones, such as the Healing Prayer, the Tablet of Ahmad, have been invested by Baha’u’llah with such a special potency and significance, and should therefore be accepted as such and be recited by the believers with unquestioned faith and confidence, that through them they may enter into a much closer communion with God, and identify themselves more fully with His laws and precepts.
Each Manifestation of God has also enjoined fasting for a set period according to set laws. Shoghi Effendi explains the significance of the Fast thus:
it is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purposes are therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.
The Baha’i fasting period is the month of Ala, which lasts from March 2nd to March 20th and is immediately followed by the Feast of Naw-Ruz. On each of the nineteen days of Ala, Baha’is fast from sunrise to sunset. People more than 70 or less than 15 years old, and people who are travelling, or ill, or pregnant, or suckling a child are excused from fasting,