Prayer and service provide solid foundation for new love and marriage
Alan Snyder and Christiana Lawson of Des Moines, Iowa, first met through a dating app online in April 2020. Very soon after, Christi, a Baha’i, invited Al to take part in a Zoom prayer gathering that had been meeting daily for a few months for connecting and saying the long healing prayer by Baha’u’llah. Al, a Christian, jumped right in.
It wasn’t quite love at first Zoom, however, as both were still “untangling their hearts” from previous relationships. “I knew I had to say the long healing prayer every day to be OK and to get through the pandemic and other things,” says Christi. “So why not ask others to join me?”
Christi says Al is very interested in spirituality. Even from the first, he saw the Baha’i Faith as a universal spiritual system open to all and he embraces the Faith as a Christian. “It is like seeing a picture more clearly or having more pieces to a puzzle to make the picture more complete,” Al says. He says that “prayer is prayer” and that after sharing written Baha’i prayers he is able to pray “from the heart” as he has often done in his non-denominational Christian church.
“Once we did the long healing prayer,” he says, “then we would also have time afterwards where anybody could say prayers that they felt they needed or were moving them. We could recite Bible passages or other scripture from other sources.” He also shares his Christian traditions and studies, music, and ministries with Christi and her friends and family.
“Meeting in this space together helped me and Al a lot to learn to pray together and use the power of prayer to solve problems and to generally get to know each other,” Christi says. Christi’s mother and stepfather were part of the group, as well, and Christi says it helped her parents get to know Al in a natural way.
Christi and another Baha’i friend began a second devotional in the evenings. They recite the Tablet of Ahmad, also by Baha’u’llah, and other prayers. The group, all singles around age 50, also began studying the Baha’i writings on marriage preparation.
“One time we danced down a path and snacked on mulberries from the trees,” Christi adds. “It was fun to relax and enjoy ourselves.” They once walked around a college campus and stopped to pick up food in a Chinese restaurant. They ate on the curb while they were Zooming prayers with a Baha’i family in Illinois, Al says.
As their relationship intensified, Al and Christi also consulted with a couples therapist. “He was teaching us to lean into the fears and believe first that God loves you and wants us to have good loving relationships,” she says. The two talked and meditated and journaled together. Christi says when she actually opened up to Al about some issues she was having and then prayed for “neutrality,” some of the things that weighed on her “all of a sudden just went away.”
Over the summer Christi introduced Al to the junior youth spiritual empowerment program that she and other Baha’is were engaged with in their Des Moines neighborhood. The couple began visiting families and holding one-on-one studies for middle-schoolers in the front yards of participants’ homes. Later they started recording weekly classes based on junior youth texts, which the young people could share with their families and friends in their “bubble.” Classes for younger children came next, held on the front porch or in the backyard or at nearby parks.
After a while, their morning devotional group added a study circle. Al tutored portions with the support of five Baha’is, Christi says. “Al is a retired supply sergeant in the Army. After 29 years in service, he has a lot of resilience and experience training others. In the Army Al developed an attitude of turning ‘stumbling blocks into steppingstones’,” she says.
Al and Christi got married in January 2021 with a few family members present. Joining them in their new life together is Al’s 19-year-old son, Sam, and two cats. “He likes Christi very much,” Al says of his son.
As for getting through difficult times, Christi shares advice from her friends to say three especially potent prayers by Baha’u’llah: the long Healing Prayer, the Tablet of Ahmad and the Long Obligatory Prayer. “Every day. You will get through it.”