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The value of prayer

Published Nov 30, 2012 12:20am


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PRAYER constitutes the kernel of human existential reality. The act of prayer links every human being with God. The core of the human self overcomes its immense loneliness in this universe by engaging in the act of prayer.

Every word uttered during this act liberates us from fear and pain. However, the most important attribute of prayer resides in its ability to let us become part of the great cosmological interdependence created by God. Our prayers put us in direct communication not only with the Absolute Being, but also other creatures of the world.

Prayers are as necessary a part of human existence as the rising of the sun for the general sustainability of life on earth.

The cognitive programmes of the human self are so coded by God that man likes to connect with this ultimate reality in the darkness of night. Do the words whispered and spoken loud or resonating in hearts have any consequences? They do seem to possess an affective and cognitive importance.

Clinical research published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice has shown that repetitive and sequential cueing to human infants makes them respond to those stimuli. These infants respond to sequences of laughter and anger. Psychologist Jean Piaget has also conducted studies with children on their concept of God.

He has argued that children relate to God the way they relate to and understand their parents. Their understanding of God is connected to and shaped by their understanding of their parents and their role in their life. However, they experience a transformation in their cognition of God when they realise the ‘fallibility’ of their parents.

They start associating omniscience and omnipresence with the being of God. In fact, praying to God is nothing but a psychological reflection of our childhood cognitive resonances with that living reality, which gives meaning and broader relevance to our finite being within the general scheme of the cosmos. We are grounded in our prayers. This removes from ourselves the burdens of personal, cultural and historical incongruities.

The Quran also points to this cognitive programming of the human ego to reach out for God. In one of the verses of the Holy Book, God speaks to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and informs human beings that if they shall seek Him, their prayers shall be answered.

God hears the call of human beings and responds to them. Prayer thus creates an ontological relationship between the human and the divine. The words uttered in the darkness of midnight with joyful pain in the heart and tears in the eyes make a person the centre of the cosmic design. His heart resonates with the divine.

Prayer also indicates that there is a cosmic register which records our joys and pains without any alteration. The Quranic verse, “…We are closer to him [man] than [his] jugular vein” (50:16) testifies to this effect. Where else should human beings look for the healing of their pains, fears and losses, if not to the ‘Closest One’?

We discover when the moment of death arrives that we spent our entire lifetime seeking worldly status, power and money. We were enamoured with childhood games and chased butterflies which were never meant for us.

All religious traditions of the world have been engaged with this ceaseless desire to communicate with the living reality of the world. The Hindu yogi, the Buddhist bhiksu, the Christian monk and the Muslim fakir all have yearned over the ages to understand the cosmic soul and find effective ways and means to establish grounds of communication.

Some through self-mortification, some through meditation, some through sheer solitude and some through invocation have established authentic psychological practices which not only enlighten one’s ego but help in linking with the living reality of the cosmos.

The energy which is experienced by the praying ego can also be felt by other creatures of the world. The Quran testifies to this fact by telling us that the birds would join Prophet Daud in his prayers (38:17-20).

The Quran consistently through the exemplars of the prophets teaches every human being how to pray, using what words and at what time and seek which of God’s blessings. One can read in the Quranic text prayers for seeking forgiveness, prayers for thanksgiving, prayers for seeking knowledge, prayers for moral and spiritual growth, prayers for peace and purity of heart, prayers for bounty and giving, prayers for learning to worship God, and prayers for protection from the hidden evil of the world. Everything in the world knows its forms of prayer and remembrance of God.

Prayer leads our ego to the centre of our being which is nothing but a continuous participation in the cosmic nexus of eternity, life and immortality. According to the mystic Abdul Karim Naqshbandi, the words uttered during prayer and invocation from the lips of a mortal (man) makes him immortal and eternal because of the very intensity and energy of these words.

The mystic Bayazid Bustami states that God lives in the broken heart of a praying ego while Jalaluddin Rumi says in his famous Masnavi that the rhythmic beats of the goldsmith’s instruments are nothing but the reverberations of the living and praying heart.

The midnight prayers and solitary weeping do make a difference. They link us to the only true source of all life — the eternal and living God.

The writer is a social scientist based at the University of Management and Technology, Lahore.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (20) Closed

Seeker Nov 30, 2012 02:23pm
Some people do horrible sins after praying to god,they ask god to grant success for them to commit those sins. :(
Vikram Nov 30, 2012 02:16pm
Prayer gives hope and of course strength through grace of Almighty.Prayer is the nectar to remove poison of hopelessness.
Tribal Manto Nov 30, 2012 06:51am
Prayer is the symbol of humility. When we raise our hand for supplications, then it means we have submitted our will to the will of God (read Allah).
Surendran Nov 30, 2012 05:40am
Prayer does play an important part but overdoing it takes out the spirituality.
Faraz Nov 30, 2012 11:59am
Very nice.. thank you.
Mian Arshid Farooq Nov 30, 2012 04:19pm
One "liberal" did not liked this comment!
Zahida Nov 30, 2012 12:06pm
Well said. Thanks. I would like to share something that will transform the JOY of prayer. Find some time to read the ' Sahifa Sajjadia, especially his Duas communicating with Allah in the middle of night. For those who may not know this book. These are compilation of prayers by the son of Hazrat Imam Hussain - the only surviving male member of his household after the tragedy of Karabala.
Yusuf Nov 30, 2012 03:16am
Enjoyed Reading it. Look forward for other article from the gentleman.
HASEEB Nov 30, 2012 09:58am
The only blessing of ALLAH that leads to Physiological and Psychological relief is none other than "PRAYER"
raika45 Nov 30, 2012 02:33pm
No religion in the world pays so much emphasis on prayer as Islam.Yet frankly speaking with the oil windfall in the middle east that is used properly would have given the muslim umah a prominent place in the world map.Yet what do you muslims have?Mayhem in your country and the middle east.Looks like your prayers are not working as far as your umah is concerned.In fact even in your country it is not working what with the taliban with their own idea of Islam.As for your own personal well being in prayer, I cannot say.
zehra Nov 30, 2012 02:59pm
that book is amazing thanks for that
mazharuddin Nov 30, 2012 03:40pm
Such comments are valuable for Dawn.
SBB Nov 30, 2012 05:24pm
These are all very wonderful and thought provoking things about Prayer. My question for you is how many people actually *believe* what you've written? There's a big difference between things that sound just wonderful and actually doing things that sound wonderful.
NASAH (USA) Nov 30, 2012 05:37pm
"The midnight prayers and solitary weeping do make a difference. They link us to the only true source of all life
Muhammad Nov 30, 2012 06:19pm
Do you mean some things like 'namaz'? I agree that a repeated prayer like 'namaz' does tend to become a routine and a ritual. In most cases, people will do that without realizing or understanding what they are doing. But it still gives peace of mind to believers.
ram Nov 30, 2012 07:18pm
Acts and deeds composed is Prayers....reciting without meaning is childish! After deeds of kindness,compassion and generoucity....prayers have affect. Concentration on candle light also evokes power but missing blessings of Love.
Saeed Nov 30, 2012 10:52pm
But why those countries where less believer in prayer (religious institution have less presentation ) and more believe in human kind is in better shape. Than any religious countries. Even many Good Pakistani believer wanna go those secular part of world
shakrullah Nov 30, 2012 09:04pm
Prayer serves little purpose unless it results in self-transformation
Claude Dec 01, 2012 06:49am
Any reasonable God will expect compassion towards fellow beings and othera creatures which do influence human psyche. He is certainly not a landlord or a mega-ego who will override all misdoings beacuse someone goes down on knees and praises him. I never believed anyone who flattered me, why will do the God who is certainly more balanced than I'm.
taranveer singh Dec 01, 2012 09:01am
extending your hands to help someone has more value than joining hands for prayers. action matters. prayers can provide us confidence but we can get reaction only after action.