Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is one of the most important acts a Muslim can do, and it is performed five times a day. These five ritual prayers form the backbone of the faith and assist the believer to remain firm on belief and stay away from sin.
The prayers set the rhythm of the day and in fact sometimes serve as a clock. Appointments are made before or after a certain prayer, rather than at a set time. Prayer is a large part of life in Islam; the Arabic word for prayer Salah means connection. It is our connection to God.
What happens though when learning how to pray causes anxiety, or makes us feel less than confident? This is the time to take a step back and think about prayer being our link to God.
Prayer is our opportunity to converse with our Creator. If we are unable control our anxiety then preparing for prayer will help to boost our confidence. Prophet Muhammad said:
When any one of you stands to pray, he is communicating with his Lord, so let him pay attention to how he speaks. (Al-Bukhari)
We could extrapolate those words to thinking about what we are about to do and why we are doing it.
How many of us remember the first time we understood that prayer was a private audience with God? Nothing outside this metaphorical chamber could interrupt or distract us. This feeling is not unique to those who come to Islam from a different religion or from no religion at all.
Sometimes Muslims find themselves reconnected to their religion in a way they never thought possible. They are in effect embracing Islam; and for all those immersing themselves in Islam, these days, weeks, or months are filled with big emotions.
Perhaps you can remember the joy and trepidation of your first prayer. Perhaps you can also remember the feeling that comes when you establish your bond with God.
It is that feeling of surrender that washes over you leaving us flooded with tears, or tingling with excitement. It encompasses the realization that we have no control, and that surrender is all about our lack of control. We become like feathers in the wind, blowing this way or that, not through our own choice but by the will of God.
2 Ways of Communication
In Islam there are two ways to communicate with God. One is through ritual prayer the other is through supplication, what is known in Islam as dua. Those who were once Christian called their supplications prayer, thus initially there might be some confusion or worry.
However, dua can be made at any time of day or night, silently or aloud. This way of communicating with God is not wrong. The five daily prayers must be prayed in a certain way and at certain times, in order for them to be accepted.
Thus, we add the fear that our prayer may not be accepted to the list of all the other overwhelming emotions swirling around in our minds. Suddenly we are riding a roller coaster of emotions. Once, not so long ago we were fretting about not waking up in time for the dawn prayer, now that pales in comparison to the fear of not being able to fulfill all the obligatory items in the prayer.
It must be in Arabic, there are certain movements and positions. The lightness of surrendering feels as if it has been replaced by a heavy load of worry.
This is not the correct way to approach our new found faith or God. Islam is easy, it is not designed to put stress and pressure on us. We are not required to somehow become an expert in the Arabic language or remember words, actions, and positions we may never have seen before. The most important aspect is to establish a connection with God.
Try to understand that when we go to our praying places we are with God, and even in the ritual aspects of the prayer we are indeed in conversation with God.
Build Self Confidence
Feeling this connection is what builds our self-confidence. Islam tells us to take one step at a time. Baby steps will one day be giant strides.
The purpose of prayer is to strengthen our relationship with God, it is a way to express our gratefulness for all His blessings and remind ourselves of His Greatness. It is also a time in which we can contemplate the great honor that God has bestowed on us. He chose us from among the billions of disbelievers and offered us Islam. That is something that should inspire great confidence.
Rather than being afraid or overburdened we should take the opportunity to examine our lives and contemplate what God saw when He looked at us. What light was hidden from everyone except Him? That light can now come forth and guide us to the perfect prayer.
Take it Slowly
Each person is different and will require a different timetable. Some may be able to pray immediately reading from a book, others might struggle to even quiet their minds long enough to feel God’s presence. There is no strict agenda, we all learn at our own pace. In fact, slow, steady, and consistent is better.
Choose a time and chose a place. Pick up the Quran read a small portion, inviting God to guide you to a perfect prayer. Perhaps you could learn some Arabic words of praise such as Alhamdulillah (all thanks and praise is due to Allah), or Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest). These words will help to calm your heart and your mind, and you can decide on the best way to begin.
God assured us in the Quran that:
Without doubt, in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest. (Quran 13:28)
And Prophet Muhammad told us that:
The closest we will get to our Lord is when we are in prostration. (Muslim)
Therefore, it might be wise to begin by prostrating to God and becoming familiar with this powerful symbol of surrender.
Websites such as this have sections designed for new Muslims to learn how to pray. Books are available from mosques, or anonymously online, to read or to buy.
God will provide the best method designed specifically for you. The new Muslim only needs to be watchful for the opportunities to learn that present themselves.