I’ve always valued prayer, but rarely practiced it as a Christian. Oh, I would pray “on the fly,” little snippets here and there. I talked a lot to God in my head, but I didn’t listen very often. For a while, I kept a prayer journal—I found it easier to write my prayers than to say them. But that was partly a cop-out. I just didn’t want to commit myself to regular, on-my-knees prayer.
It surprised me that one thing I found attractive about Islam was its emphasis on prayer. I think I wanted to be more devoted to prayer, but I didn’t have the structure I needed to keep me on the right path. Islam has given me that structure. Because Allah knew that humans have trouble committing themselves to prayer He set up a schedule and a specific pattern for us to follow.
But old habits die hard, if you can call not praying very often a habit. I’ve been a Muslim for over a year now, and I’m still having trouble getting in all my prayers every day. I was better at first because I was afraid to miss any. I was afraid to fail as a Muslim. I didn’t see that I was, and always will be, a Muslim in the making. Allah knows my weaknesses, my failures and my sins better than I do. He also knows my intentions. I pray that He will be merciful to me and forgive me for the acts I omit as well as the acts I commit.
I love Muslim prayer. I love the words and the movements. I love that Allah saw fit to give us detailed instructions. I love feeling more aware of Him and of others when I pray. And I especially love the peace that comes over me when know I’m doing His will.
So why don’t I do it more often?
I don’t pray as often:
- when I look at prayer as an obligation instead of an opportunity.
- when I focus too much on how I pray rather than on what I pray.
- when I forget how much I need to be forgiven.
- when I forget how much it blesses others (when I make du’a for them).
- because I’m human.
Prayer is an opportunity for us to rise above our human nature through submission to Allah. He reminds us in prayer that we need Him; He doesn’t need us. But even though He requires us to pray, it is a gift, not a burden. It is both His gift to us and our gift to others.
I have a tendency to think that devotion to Allah just comes upon us. I forget that it comes through discipline. The Pillar of prayer gives us the opportunity to become more disciplined by practicing it.
This public confession is my way of admitting my failure and also of asking for help, from Allah and from others, through the prayers they pray on my behalf. We cannot rectify a problem if we don’t admit that a problem exists.