Did you ever drive and reached your destination and realized you have no clue how you made it there? It’s like something took control over you and you didn’t even realize it until at the very end of your journey. You want to trace your steps but draw a blank with frustration. Do you find yourself praying like that as well? Only recalling getting into it and then got lost somewhere in your journey? More often than you’d like to admit may be?
I know I sure did. I’d make the right intentions and as soon as I’d start praying I’d get lost every now and then. Sometimes I’d forget which raka I was praying, wandered about random stuff, say salam only to realize I prayed yet another prayer that sure could use some improvement.
So here are the mistakes that I’m trying to rectify for an improved prayer. My goal is not to attain a perfect prayer but to achieve an excellent one because-
a) Perfection belongs to Allah(swt), excellence is for us.
b) Chasing perfection is yet another trick from shaitan as being perfect is about your pleasure while bringing ihsan to salah is about your Lord’s pleasure.
c) Trying many times give the opportunity to ask for Allah(swt) forgiveness and help keep my wings lowered.
What didn’t work in the past-
Close my eyes while praying-
I thought I was bringing more focus when I closed my eyes during prayer. What happened on the contrary was that I was becoming even more lost in my thoughts- with closed eyes you get the visuals along with your errant mind. Now you have pictures on your mind to go with random thoughts. You can perform all the acts of prayers while running a minor motion picture on your mind! And that’s no way to pray.
Like closed eyes, I assumed silent recitation means you’re really focusing on what you’re saying. But the thing is that you’re not actively saying anything, no action is being done here. You’re engaged in the inaction of meandering through your thoughts, worries and daydreams and before you know it, you’ve finished your prayers like sleep walking.
3 Steps to an improved prayer-
Keep your eyes opened-
Practice keeping our eyes opened throughout your salah. This habit takes time and effort as you wouldn’t even notice when you closed your eyes and dozed off to wonderland. Be aware- shaitan will keep trying to derail you. But you are a strong believer masha Allah and you will keep on trying until you eliminate this habit of nodding off during prayer insha Allah. Would you drive with your eyes closed? I’m sure you wouldn’t as it certainly wouldn’t take you to your destination. Keep your eyes opened and enjoy the journey of your prayer.
FInd a focal point-
This is a great habit to develop if you tend to have wandering eyes. Find a focal point on your prayer mat and bring your focus on it every time your eyes try to drift away. Even if you’re praying on a mat that’s devoid of any pattern/design, find a spot a few feet away from you and make it your focal point. Your goal is to keep your eyes from wandering as much as you can insha Alah. You focal point is like your GPS, you want to keeps your eyes on it so you don’t get lost in your journey and avoid distractions. Remember, wandering eyes can lead to a wandering mind.
Reciting audibly so you can hear can make a big difference in your prayer. Reciting audibly takes effort on your part- remembering to move your lips and to increase your voice enough so you can hear the beautiful ayah. These actions require constant reminders and help you to be more engaged in your prayer. It’s sort of like increasing your GPS volume as opposed to put it on mute. The sound of your voice will improve awareness so you stay active in your prayer.
Don’t fall for shaitan’s trick to keep you quiet. Don’t think You don’t sound nice enough or your recitation is not good enough. Work on your recitation the best way you can and recite as melodiously as you can muster. Musical talent or genius is not a requirement for salah, intention followed by consistent action is however a requirement for an improved salah.
Other steps that improved my prayer-
1. A mindful wudu- more on that here.
2. Pray on time- Praying as soon as the time comes is a great way to develop good prayer habits. It increase the quality of your prayer since this is an intentional action. Try to avoid praying late or praying at the last-minute to “get it out-of-the-way”
3. Take prayer break- Make prayer a priority and show this by taking break to pray on time. This short break is a great way to clam you down and give you a much-needed time out.
4. Pray when you’re full (not hangry) and well rested ( not exhausted) and you will be less vulnerable to shaitans tricks insha Allah.
5. Assign a couple of minutes after you’d finished your salah. Don’t automatically take on the next chore/job/assignment on your to do list. Take a short 1-2 minute pause and do some dhikr ( 11 or 33 times work wonderfully), say a little prayer, ask for forgiveness and thank Allah(swt) for something that He blessed you with today.
We all have good days and bad days when it comes to pray salah. Focus on how you can learn from your mistakes so you can improve your prayer through consistent steps. Ar Raheem knows about our struggles and we get closer to Him through our attempts to please him through better prayers.
Do you have any tips to share that have worked for you?