Things about prayer that I should have learnt a long time ago:
1. God doesn’t need your prayers. The prayers are for you. Why? Because praying five times a day isn’t merely a pointless ritual; it establishes a routine, a sort of rhythm to your life. It is the one part of your to-do list that you get to check off, even if the rest of your work is unfinished.
2. Don’t expect some sort of enlightening experience when you pray after a long time. I think that’s what I found most disheartening about prayer, that I didn’t feel a ray of light enter my heart, that I didn’t feel cleansed when I prayed after a long time. Prayer does feel nice, but the “cleansing” the “enlightening” comes after a while and it comes from within. It comes with the stuff you do along with prayer. It comes from the effort you put in to becoming a good person and into becoming conscious of God.
3. Beating yourself up about missing prayer disheartens you more. Beating yourself up in general is disheartening. Take it easy on yourself.
4. You’ll never expect it, but one day you’ll be crying in sujood and it isn’t because you’re weak it’s because you’re taking a step towards being stronger. Don’t be afraid to cry in prayer. It’s nice to feel yourself humbled towards God. You don’t have to cry in front of anyone else, but you can sob your heart out in front of God and that’s perfectly okay.
5. That discomfort you feel about having missed a prayer, is something that you should address. Don’t brush it off. If you brush it off once, you’ll do it again. Go pray. It really is good for you.
Trust that there is benefit in the matter according to the perfect knowledge of Allah. The Prophet (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) had to leave his beloved city of Makkah; nonetheless it was for a great benefit. When we believe in Allah’s justice and wisdom we know for certain that He does not decree except what is good.
Appreciation of blessings is complementary to patience. One can appreciate his own condition more when comparing it with others whose afflictions are greater than his own. The believer praises Allah that his affliction was not greater than it was and for whatever is left to him that could have been taken away.
He acknowledges that the remaining blessings are far greater than what he lost. Undoubtedly, this attitude is the source of much forbearance and peace of mind.
Allah has blessed man in countless ways that cannot compare to the limited problems he faces. These blessings are sufficient to instill in a believer gratitude to Allah, acceptance of His decree and patience to endure it.
The Prophet (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) taught this du‘aa’: “O Allah, make not our affliction in our religion and make not the world our greatest concern or the sum of our knowledge.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Istikhara is a means of seeking guidance from Allah when faced with making a decision that one may be unsure about. “Should I, or shouldn’t I.. Will I regret making this decision?”. Who better to ask than Allah? You will definitely know that you have made the right decision when the direction has come from Allah Almighty as a result of your supplications.
The description of Salaat al-Istikhaarah was reported by Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah al-Salami (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said:
“The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to teach his companions to make istikhaarah in all things, just as he used to teach them soorahs from the Qur’aan.
He said: ‘If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rak’ahs of non-obligatory prayer, then say:
Allaahumma inni astakheeruka bi ‘ilmika wa astaqdiruka bi qudratika wa as’aluka min fadlika, fa innaka taqdiru wa laa aqdir, wa ta’lamu wa laa a’lam, wa anta ‘allaam al-ghuyoob. Allaahumma fa in kunta ta’lamu haadha’l-amra (then the matter should be mentioned by name) khayran li fi ‘aajil amri wa aajilihi (or: fi deeni wa ma’aashi wa ‘aaqibati amri) faqdurhu li wa yassirhu li thumma baarik li fihi. Allaahumma wa in kunta ta’lamu annahu sharrun li fi deeni wa ma’aashi wa ‘aaqibati amri (or: fi ‘aajili amri wa aajilihi) fasrifni ‘anhu [wasrafhu ‘anni] waqdur li al-khayr haythu kaana thumma radini bihi
(O Allaah, I seek Your guidance [in making a choice] by virtue of Your knowledge, and I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask You of Your great bounty. You have power, I have none. And You know, I know not. You are the Knower of hidden things. O Allaah, if in Your knowledge, this matter (then it should be mentioned by name) is good for me both in this world and in the Hereafter (or: in my religion, my livelihood and my affairs), then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge it is bad for me and for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs (or: for me both in this world and the next), then turn me away from it, [and turn it away from me], and ordain for me the good wherever it may be and make me pleased with it.”
(Reported by al-Bukhaari, 6841; similar reports are also recorded by al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisaa’i, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah and Ahmad).
Fajr passed by as I dreamt on.
Zuhur was lost in the day’s work.
Asr got skipped as I slipped my tea.
Maghrib flew by as I photographed the sunset.
Isha was added to the forgotten list.
Now here I lay, tossing and turning on my bed, wondering why peace escapes me.