By: Karen Armstrong Washington Post* -
I always had difficulty with prayer. If God knows everything and is, as the Qur'an says, closer to me than my jugular vein, why did he need to hear my requests?
I disliked the idea of a God who demands endless praise - he reminded me of a tyrant who demands constant, obsequious abasement from his subjects. Surely God did not need to be reminded that he had created the world and that we are all miserable sinners, as we say so frequently in our liturgy.
And I had great problems with petition. Why should God answer my prayers, when he so clearly fails to heed the prayers of many hopeless people throughout the world? I also did not really believe in a God who would intervene in history and change the natural order: Why should he avert a storm from the location where I am planning a picnic and send the storm onto some
other unfortunate folk?
But then I came to understand that prayer is really for us. It is selfishness and egotism that hold us back from God and our best selves. We use language to build a protective carapace around ourselves, to ward off attack and to bolster our self-esteem. How rare it is to really apologize; and how frequently the person who does apologize points out that you too are somewhat to blame for what has occurred.
How rare it is really to praise. There is a nasty little part of us that feels impaired by somebody else's success or good fortune. I recall a friend once saying to me: "Oh Karen! Congratulations on your marvelous reviews!" And then, almost immediately: "Have you put on weight recently?" People are often reluctant truly to thank somebody from the bottom of their heart or to express need: It is a tough world and you have to seem in control.
But prayer teaches us to use language in a different way: To thank, praise, and beg pardon wholeheartedly, without holding anything back. And as we do that, we chip away at our egotism. And that, in turn, will make us a force for good to the people around us and make the world a better place-without asking God to perform a miracle.
Karen Armstrong has written many books on religion including Muhammad: A Prophet of our Time
1- It is said in Islam, I am not sure it is a hadith about the prophet that one hour of sincerity is the hour of salvation. This is stress how we as humans made it difficult to be sincere with our worship.
2- Karen is right in stressing how prayers chip away our ego. When we are praying sincerely to God we are separating ourselves from all our desires, possessions, ego.... We are coming to him and submitting to him as faithful servants. When we come to him in this way we feel connection to him and happiness. My happiest moment is during my prostration, My ego reaches the zero in my scale.
3- God in Islam demands 5 times of prayers only, total of about 30 minutes or so. It is you who will make your life happier when you pray more and stay close to him. Why we want to stay closer to people who may give us pain even as they praise us and stay away from God who makes us happier in this life and the hereafter.
4- God does not need us we need him. The best thing man has created in his mind, heart and soul is God and for our good fortune he is true. It is like we are created with the sense of thirst and for our good fortune there is water there. Knowing God is best cure to our problems including Egotism.
5- We worship God on his terms and not ours. When he would send us a message, when he will answer our prayers, why he did not answer all the prayers. You can go on with questions. The best to God and ourselves is accepting what God decides. It is not easy sometimes, but this is the way it works. God test us with gifts and with mishaps. If we are thankful in the first and patient in the second we passed the test. The most he loves are his messengers and were the most to be tested. A good example is Job who did not blame God for his mishaps and remained patient and faithful servant to God.
38:41 And make mention (O Muhammad) of Our bondman Job, when he cried unto his Lord (saying): Lo! the devil doth afflict me with distress and torment. وَاذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا أَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَى رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الشَّيْطَانُ بِنُصْبٍ وَعَذَابٍ (38:41)