In today’s section, in the midst of talking about fighting the Qur’an admonishes the Muslim to:

Keep up regular prayer, for prayer is obligatory for believers at prescribed times. (4:103)

Sunnah.info says this about prayer in Islam:

Since the prayer is the most important matter of Islam after having the correct belief in God and His Messenger, one must plan his life around the prayer. It would be a great sin to neglect praying when at work if a prayer was required at that time. If a believer is shopping at the mall or waiting at the airport and there is no way to get home or to a mosque, he is still obligated to perform the prayer within its due time instead of purposely leaving out or delaying the prayer. This indicates the importance of the obligatory prayer. Doing the obligatory prayer on time takes priority over other non-obligatory matters.

Whether you like the Muslim faith or not, it seems we need to respect their devotion to prayer.  A committed Muslim prays five times each day.  The following list nicely summarizes these prayers:

  • Fajr (pre-dawn): This prayer starts off the day with the remembrance of God; it is performed before sunrise.
  • Dhuhr (noon): After the day’s work has begun, one breaks shortly after noon to again remember God and seek His guidance.
  • ‘Asr (afternoon): In the late afternoon, people are usually busy wrapping up the day’s work, getting kids home from school, etc. It is an important time to take a few minutes to remember God and the greater meaning of our lives.
  • Maghrib (sunset): Just after the sun goes down, Muslims remember God again as the day begins to come to a close.
  • ‘Isha (evening): Before retiring for the night, Muslims again take time to remember God’s presence, guidance, mercy, and forgiveness.

At a time when many Christians spend more time watching television in one day than all the time they spend in prayer in a week, the practice of having set times of prayer and being devoted to these is very admirable.  Of course, prayer can become so ritualized and heartless that it become ineffectual, but there may be no more powerful act to foster in our spirituality than prayer.

Prayer connects us to God.  Prayer also connects us to others.  I am more and more convinced everyday that the power of prayer is not that “prayer changes things” but rather than “prayer changes me” and then I change things, usually within myself, to be more in line with God (to paraphrase Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, August 28.

There is a Christian tradition of “fixed-hour” prayers as well.  Some times these are called the “divine hours” or the “offices.”  Prescribed or personal prayers are made in the morning (between 6:00 and 9:00am), mid-day (between 11:00am and 2:00pm), and again in the evening (between 5:00 and 8:00pm).  Christian monastics have prayed this way for centuries and still do, and many others are finding the value as well.  My friend and minister Chris Altrock regular observes the practice and shares his simple prayers through Twitter and on his blog (at the bottom).  explorefaith.org has a good overview of the practice, including set prayers one can borrow each day.

Do you have this practice?  Have you found value in a regular prayer habit?  How did you find success in developing this habit?

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