Tips for Improving Prayer
Not every prayer is equally well accepted by Allah. Sometimes we miss out on better acceptance of it by God the Almighty for lack of a few things which may improve it. To give you but one idea, Al-Bukhari and al-Muslim say that a prayer in congregation is twenty seven times as effective as one done alone. This doesn’t mean that you must do your five daily namaz at the mosque, doing so is a good deed but it is supererogation as far as worshipping Allah is concerned. It simply gives you an idea of how the proper performance of prayers may increase their effectiveness. For home prayer, there are similar tips to improve praying efficiency.
Naturally, there are rules for prayer reflected in the Sunnah which are important and which must be observed. Sometimes they are not performed properly so one needs to pay attention to their strict and complete observance. Remind yourself each time before praying to follow these rules meticulously. For instance, perform properly the ablution, stick closely to the prescribed body movements during praying. You may even want to get yourself a written prompt to be placed in front of your eyes so as not to make mistakes. Physical observance of the rules for your body at prayer is important, it is a direct path to the spiritual uplifting, because the body is home to your soul, once that home is looked after well, the soul is free to take a journey to loftier places.
In order to gain better spiritual experience from praying you might want to pay special attention to the following points:
1) Reflect deeply on the meaning of each particular prayer. Especially if Arabic is not your native language. Remember, what you are reciting has a meaning, and this meaning is deep and revealing of God’s will and His plans in respect of you personally. Receiving Allah’s insights at the time of prayer shall augment it immensely and make it spiritually more viable as compared to thoughtless recitations of prescribed formulas.
2) Do not eat or drink too much, because a heavy stomach is the worst of companions in the matters of spiritual devotion;
3) Do not stay up late, you may oversleep afterwards and miss the prayer at dawn (fajr);
4) Before you start praying, have a very brief pause to ‘warm up your heart’, consider the glory of Allah the Exalted, God Almighty, the Creator of all, His grace and mercy, His love and forgiveness. Rejoice in these thoughts and start praying. You will soon notice how your mind will slowly depart from the matters of this world and repose in the spiritual abode with Allah.
The famous Islam scholar Imam Ibn al-Qayyim divided all those praying into 5 classes, by the amount of God’s grace or censure to be received at Judgement Day. Class 1 is them who forget ablution, they will be definitely punished. Class 2 is them who cannot leave the matters of this world and recite their prayers mechanically, they will be questioned. Class 3 is those who struggle hard to keep their minds focused on prayer, those will be pardoned. Class 4 is the proper observer of all the rules with his body and mind intent on praying, such ones will be rewarded. Finally, Class 5 is those who are not only intent on praying with their bodies and souls but have reached a state of extreme exaltation and experience inexplicable joy while praying, such will receive rewards far surpassing any others.
Hopefully, the simple tips above will help you find your way into the last three classes.