Examining my prayer and its flaws has brought something important to light: Fixing my prayer is going to take a lot of work. Maybe this is obvious but bear with me …
What has dawned on me is that fixing my prayer is going to involve much more than fixing the prayer itself. I used to think that the reason I was so lacking my prayer was because of how I approached the prayer itself. I was making too many mistakes, not concentrating, rushing, and so on and so forth. When I started to think more about the flaws of my prayer I realized that they were all much broader than the prayer itself. Many are not simple things I can just alter in the moment. They are habits of practice; things I do regularly throughout my day and therefore carry them into my prayer. It’s not that I make mistakes only in my prayer, or lack focus only in my prayer, but rather, my prayer suffers because I have a habit of rushing or a habit of inattention. Because of the nature of the flaws I bring into each Salah, it’s not as though I can just adjust my actions during the prayer to mend them. I actually need to put in effort in my habits and manners in order for it to have a long lasting affect on my prayer. That means a lot more work and investment than simply altering my prayer in the moment …
This made me think of some sayings of the Prophet I had heard before. There is a hadeeth of the Prophet ﷺ in which he tells us that a prayer atones for sins that have happened since the last prayer. Additionally, in another hadeeth, he likens prayer to bathing and asks whether a person who bathed 5 times a day would still be dirty. When I heard these ahadeeth before, I simply took them to mean that prayer is a means of wiping away a bad deed, sort of like an eraser. If you do something wrong and then pray, it can erase that bad deed. My prayer observations however, have given me a new insight. Maybe prayer is not just a tool for redemption, but also, and more effectively, a method of prevention.
Close your eyes and imagine a person who takes 5 showers every day. Okay forget about 5, lets say just 3 or even 2! What kind of person do you see in your mind? Do their clothes look neat and pressed or disheveled and tattered? Do they seem well groomed or scraggly? How do they smell? Do you think they leave the scent of body odor wherever they go or a sweet perfume? A person who showers multiple times a day is a clean person. They are not the type of person you would expect to be rolling around in dirt much less negligent about their overall cleanliness or hygiene. It’s pretty interesting because even though they are probably cleaner than the average person, they actually spend more time and energy showering and making themselves even cleaner!! It’s almost as though they are averse to filth. It creates a sort of loop. They are clean people by disposition so they shower more often. They shower more often so they affirm their disposition as clean people.
Maybe prayer is the same way. Yes, it will help us clean off the filth we have accumulated from mistakes we’ve made. It helps us recenter and check in with our Creator after engaging in the tasks of our livelihoods. Additionally though, prayer should help us be more God conscious and stay away from dirtying ourselves with His disobedience. It should make us averse to sin. That connection that we rekindled during the prayer should spread light over the course of our day. It should help us grow and become better and better Muslims.
So what does this mean for my prayer refuge? It means more than just addressing my prayer flaws in the prayer itself. It means I need to search for the root causes of my issues and work on addressing those. Having a better connection in the prayer means being a better person outside of it.
May Allah Grant me a truly transformational prayer that helps me gain nearness to Him and elevation in my character and development.