THE BLOG

Teach Us How To Pray

01/26/2012 10:56 am ET | Updated Mar 27, 2012

Nothing brings the believer closer to the Creator than prayer. With it mind and soul are brought to communicate with their Sustainer in communion and spirituality.

It is common to hear comments on the way that Muslims pray. Muslims perform their ritual daily prayers, or salaat, five times a day. This is done at dawn, after noon time, at mid-afternoon, after sunset, and after the full darkness of night. Through prayer the believer appears before the divine presence of the All Hearing to present their worship, gratitude and petitions to the Creator of all. Standing, kneeling and prostrating we affirm: "Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help." (Qur'an 1:5) The exclusive worship and petitions to our Lord are the main purpose of prayer. This is the same rationale that Jesus, the Messiah, recognized when he answered the pleading from the distressed believer asking him: "...teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." (Luke 11: 1) Jesus immediately followed up teaching them the Lord's Prayer: a perfect expression of worship, petition, and thankfulness directed exclusively to our Creator. This last Bible quote confirms that Jesus was not the first of the Lord's envoys sent to teach the disciples how to pray. John, referred to in the Qur'an as Prophet Yahya, the Lord's messenger and predecessor to Jesus, was also tasked to teach his disciples how to pray. It was this way, through His prophets and messengers, that Al Hamid, God the All Praiseworthy, has taught all previous generations of believers; and will teach all future ones until the end of times.

The believer's manifest need for prayer was accomplished by Moses, John the Baptist, Jesus and Muhammad. This evidence shows us that we, being much more vulnerable than they, have an even more compelling need for prayer. The community of believers who abandon prayer will fail and be lost.

During their salaat (formal ritual prayers) and their du'as (spontaneous supplications) Muslims engage in a genuine communication with the Lord. Contrary to popular belief, the formalities of their five daily salaat prayers were not first established by Prophet Muhammad. The formalities of the Muslim prayer were rather rescued from ritual practices abandoned by their Jewish and Christian predecessors with the passage of time. Forms like the ablutions (ritual washing before prayer); kneeling and prostrating were practiced by the community of believers long before Jesus' and Muhammad's birth; and are well described in the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels.

Unfortunately some of these significant and transcendental forms have been completely abandoned by Jewish and Christian traditions, as it is in the case of the sublime practice of prostration in worship to the Creator. In the past Jews prostrated humbly to their Lord: "Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD" (2 Chronicles 20:18). Jesus himself prostrated and prayed to God, begging for His assistance and mercy; differentiating and subordinating his will from the supreme will of his Lord: "And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will'" (Mathew 26:39).

Our aspiration shall be to imitate the prophets and messengers of God. All of them from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses to Jesus and Muhammad, directed their prayers and supplications exclusively to the Lord Creator of Heavens and Earth and to nothing or nobody else. Let us then offer our prayers and sacrifices, as well as our life and death, to our Creator and Sustainer. He instructs us to say: "Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the worlds" (Qur'an 6:162)

The heart of our spiritual practice is prayer. Its recurrent practice provides immediate palpable worldly results as "... surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil" (Qur'an 29:45). Prayer is a genuine and evident miraculous instrument; very clear and also esoteric; sometimes is silent or audible; but in all circumstances it is received and taken care of by the One God who is As Sami -- the All Hearing.

Prayer is bestowed with an immense and particular spiritual dimension: on one hand it is simple and accessible to every believer; and on the other hand, prayer is of such depth, significance and consequence that it compels philosophers to humble their knowledge.