5 Pillars: The 5 Daily Prayers of Islam
Five Daily Prayers (Salat )
Muslims are required to pray fives times each day, facing Mecca in the East. These prayers are delivered up to Allah at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and after dark. Children as young as seven are encouraged to participate in the salat. Many Muslims meet for the prayers corporately in a mosque, but they can also be performed individually at any location. Prayers in the mosque are led by the leader, an imam.
Prayer is a huge part of Ramadan for Muslims. Just like the rest of the year, they will be praying five times each day to Allah. But the Qur’an teaches them that this is a key month of the year that they can expect God to answer their prayers. There is actually one night late in the month, the Night of Power, that Muslims are taught their prayers are 10,000 times more effective.
BBC points out some key things about Islamic prayer:
“This prayer timetable gives Muslims the pattern of their day. In Islamic countries, the public call to prayer from the mosques sets the rhythm of the day for the entire population, including non-Muslims…Carrying it out is not only highly spiritual, but connects each Muslim to all others around the world, and to all those who have uttered the same words and made the same movements at different times in Islamic history.” – BBC News
Like Christians, Islam also teaches that mere rote repetition of words is not enough to honor God or hear from him. Muslims believe that they must pray with the right attitude of heart and mind to concentrate exclusively on Allah.
What do Muslims pray?
Each of the five daily prayers is centered on a recitation of the Qur’an in Arabic. In fact, this is how each of the five prayers begin. Much of the Islamic prayer ritual is dedicated to worshipping Allah for his power and authority, but there is also an expressed purpose of receiving forgiveness for past failures and asking for help to fight future temptation.
Some key purposes of Islamic prayer:
- Community and solidarity
- Unity of mind, body, and spirit
- Worship of Allah
- Sincerity of belief
- Better obedience
When all is said and done, the Muslim prayers are memorized and recited much more than the prayers of a Christian. Recitation is not, in itself, wrong. But, the purpose of prayer in Islam and Christianity different drastically. Most importantly, the object of our faith is definitively different altogether.
“When a Muslim washes his face for prayer every sin he has committed with his eyes is washed away from his face along with the water, or with the last drop of water; when he washes his hands, every sin they wrought is erased from his hands with the water, or with the last drop of water; and when he washes his feet, every sin towards which his feet walked is washed away with water, or with the last drop of water, with the result that he comes out cleansed of all sins” (Sahih Muslim).
What Does the Bible Teach?
Without a doubt, the Bible teaches us (and examples for us) to pray words of worship to our Savior (Daniel 6:9; 9:4, 20; Acts 16:25). We can never dwell too much on His power and holiness; nor can we can ask too often for the Lord to grow us in holiness and faith. However, the identity of the God we pray to is wholly different than Allah of Islam. The Christian worships, and prays to, the Trinitarian God of the Gospel.
Jesus’s role in prayer.
We have Christ as our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). Without the atonement of Christ paying the penalty for our sinful existence, we must admit that we have no ability to pray to the Father. Christ stands in our place, and God sees His righteousness covering all those who have repented and trusted in Jesus—and joyfully receives us as His children. The identity of the God we worship affects how we worship and interact with Him. The God of Christianity reveals Himself in different ways than what Islam teaches of Allah, and the Bible directs to engage our Lord much differently than the Qur’an teaches.
The Holy Spirit’s role in prayer.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26–27)
Christians also receive the Holy Spirit, the second person of the Trinity, upon conversion. As Paul wrote in Romans 8, the Spirit intercedes for us according to the Father’s will. Without the heart-transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our souls, we would not even be able to pray with humble, worshipful hearts and minds. We don’t even have words holy enough to present before the Lord. This is what the Muslim man, woman, and child are missing in their prayers. Without the joy of Christ in salvation, they miss out on a personal relationship with God through the Holy Spirit and the perfect, fatherly love of God. By God’s grace, we speak to Him as our loving, heavenly Father who has found favor in us. The Muslim can only worship Allah at arms-length, without any type of personal relationship with his god.
In Acts, the first-century church was always described as being active in prayer (Acts 1:14, Acts 2:42, Acts 4:23-31). Praying to God the Father is not a recent understanding of Scripture. We have promises of God in Scripture that He listens and responds to the prayers of His children.
“Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer.” – Elisabeth Elliot
Some key purposes of Christian prayer:
- Worship of God
- Confession & repentance
- Express gratitude for forgiveness
- Enjoy the presence of God in relationship
- Intercession for others
Results of Christian prayer:
- Personal fellowship with God – When we spend intentional time focused on prayer with our heavenly Father, the intimacy of our relationship with Him takes tremendous steps forward. This isn’t anything magical due to memorized, empty phrases but rather a supernatural response to the Spirit speaking to our hearts and enabling us to speak God’s thoughts and desires back to Him. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount that the heart of Christian prayer is humility, repentance, worship, and confident longing for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-13; 18:9-14).
- Fellowship with other Christians – Christian fellowship comes through the Holy Spirit working within our hearts, through prayer. Muslims must depend on the consistent acts and recitations to maintain their community with other Muslims, but the Christian trusts the God of our prayers. The One we speak to in prayer is monumentally more important than the recitations we make. Likewise, the posture of our hearts is more important than the posture of our bodies.
- Hearts are changed – As our intimacy with the Father grows, our hearts are conformed more to the heart of God. Sins that break the heart of God will burden ours. We will long for and pray deeply for more faithful days of walking with Jesus. Acts 4:31 reminds us that Christians are also emboldened through prayer and communion with God. By humbly submitting ourselves to worship and listen in prayer, the Lord gives us renewed confidence in the Truth of the Gospel. Our confidence doesn’t come from the solidarity of the act of praying with other brothers and sisters (although this is important), but rather comes from the identity of the One whom we are praying to. Praying and think over the glory and love of Christ gives us the love and boldness we need to proclaim the Gospel to Muslims and anyone else who is separated from God.
- Souls are saved – Finally, Jesus Himself believers in the first century to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2). God is on a mission to save souls and bring people unto Himself from every tribe and tongue (Revelation 7:9-17). This is the missio dei (mission of God). But, praise God, He uses the Church to reach these people through faithful prayer, sacrificial love, and persistent proclamation of the Gospel. He doesn’t need us, but like a loving earthly father, He brings us into His work. For His joy, He responds to our prayers by bringing people to salvation in Jesus. It is, after all, the Holy Spirit who quickens the souls of men to respond in repentance and faith in Christ.
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16–17)
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:1–7)
- Worship God for His glory and grace. Thank Him for sending His Son to earth to serve as the Mediator who could reconcile us to Him. Thank God for loving us and even giving us the very ability to pray and communicate with Him as our heavenly Father.
- Pray for love (Matthew 5:43-46).
- Pray for opportunities to speak the Truth to those around you (Colossians 2:4-6).
- Pray for boldness (Acts 4:23-31).
- Pray for spiritual strength (Ephesians 3:14-21).
Go & Do:
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:2–6)
Memorize this passage from Colossians 4 today. This might seem like more like a spiritual discipline and less like an active step to win Muslims to Christ. However, our message of Truth will sound hollow without the love, grace, and boldness the Holy Spirit provides. Notice the complete lack of dependence on self that Paul exhibits in this request for prayer. Paul, the apostle called to the Gentiles and who wrote much of the New Testament, needed an open door to preach and clarity in his Gospel message.
Prayer is the beginning of a faithful walk with Christ, and prayer is the beginning of a loving friendship with people across cultures. So, let’s cement God’s Word into our hearts and minds so deeply that it affects how we pray. Paul explains, in these short verses, the how, what, and why of prayer to the Colossian believers and we are blessed to have it recorded for us as well. We are all needy, broken people but Christ has the answer. May we remain humble, loving, and infinitely gracious as we share the Gospel with those around us!
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Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – Donald Whitney
A Praying Life – Paul Miller
Praying the Bible – Donald Whitney
Salat: Daily Prayers – BBC Online
Why Do Muslims Pray Five Times Daily? – CNN Belief Blog (interesting interview with a young Muslim in Atlanta)