Prayer For Focus And Calmness
Lesson 9 : Spiritual Benefits of Prayer
Description: Taking time out from the daily routine of life to stop and pray is a commandment of God, but does it entitle us to spiritual benefits as well?
- To understand that that the prayer is a means of remembering Allah and increasing God-consciousness.
- To understand the relationship between prayer and repentance, prayer and discipline, and prayer and humility.
- Salah – the Arabic word to denote a direct connection between the believer and Allah. More specifically, in Islam it refers to the formal five daily prayers and is the most important form of worship.
- Taqwa – Awe or fear of Allah, piety, God-consciousness. It describes a state of awareness of Allah in everything one does.
- Imam – someone who leads the prayer.
Remembrance of Allah
Almost every person in the modern world is involved in some basic worldly activity earning a living, going to school, eating, sleeping, and socializing. Naturally, we forget Allah and the obligations due to Him.
When we forget Allah, this life and its worries become the central occupation of the human mind. Desires run wild. A person begins to ‘chase his shadow’, something he can never catch. For many, money becomes the sole goal of life.
The more you make, the more you spend, the more you want.
Allah has set times to break regularly from the daily chores of life for a few minutes and worship Him. First thing in the morning before we begin our day, in the middle of the day, in the late afternoon, in the evening, and at night before we go to sleep.When done with concentration and properly, it awakens and stimulates the soul. A Muslim reminds himself that Allah is in charge of everything, he is Allah’s faithful servant, and Allah’s pleasure is His aim.
For a few minutes, five times a day, a Muslim leaves this world and meets His Lord:
“And establish the prayers (salah) in order to remember Me.” (Quran 20:14)
The prayers (salah) also makes a person God-conscious. When a person prays five times a day, he becomes accustomed to feeling the presence of God and develops the sense that Allah is watching Him at all times. He is never hidden from Allah, even when alone.
A sense of God-consciousness keeps the heart suspended between fear and hope. Fear of Allah keeps a Muslim away from the prohibited and encourages him to do the obligatory; a mix of divine love and devout reverence that keeps him religiously observant.
Regular performance of the prayers increases one’s awareness of Allah.
To err is human, and even the most pious of Muslims sin and need to repent. We all need to constantly ask for Allah’s forgiveness and try our best not to repeat our mistakes. Without regular contact with Allah, a person is unly to feel guilty for his sins and repent.
Sometimes if a person has not asked Allah to forgive him in a long time, he might become insensitive to sinning and may even forget that he fell into it, thus not even seeking forgiveness for it.
Certain prayers in the formal prayers (salah) reminds the Muslim of his sins and makes him seek forgiveness for them This in turn causes Muslims to feel guilty for their sins and seek repentance as soon as they are committed.
A Muslim learns to constantly seeks forgiveness for his sins and never feels too distant from his loving Lord. The prayer places man directly before Allah seeking pardon for his short-comings.
The prayer itself is a means of erasing sins, albeit the lesser ones.
Messenger of Allah, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, asked:
“What do you think if there was a river by the door of any one of you and he bathed in it five times a day, would there be any trace of dirt left on him?”
They (his companions) said, “No trace of dirt would be left on him.”
The Prophet said, “This is the five daily prayers, through which Allah erases sin.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)
Control and Discipline
The prayer has the capacity to catalyze change for the better in people’s life. The fact that we give up whatever we are doing and line up behind a prayer leader (called imam) five times a day in the mosque, or find room to pray in at work or school by ourselves, instills discipline in life.
People join the army to learn discipline and everyone admires it. Similarly, the prayer trains us to go through specific motions and utter special words at specific times.
All the body parts are under control, obeying and worshipping Allah, and if this discipline is broken, the prayer may have to be repeated.Islam recognizes that we are all different, so it allows flexibility in many cases. The prayer leader (imam) should keep the prayer short. Women are not required to attend the prayers in the mosque. A sick person may pray sitting, and if unable, he may even pray laying down.
The discipline learned in the prayer is to be acquired in other aspects of one’s religious and mundane life as well. Just as we should not look around when praying, we should control our eyes outside of the prayer not to fall on forbidden objects.
Just we use our tongue to praise Allah, outside of the formal prayers we should not let it backbite or lie. Just as our hands and feet perform controlled motions, outside of the prayers we should not use them to steal, buy or eat what is forbidden.
We should not walk towards the forbidden, but away from it. This is the essence of which Allah tells us:
“…Surely, the prayer (salah) prevents evil speech and bad deeds…” (Quran 29:45)
Calmness and Serenity by Developing Focus in the Prayers
A very important ingredient of the prayer is the state of calmness and tranquility coupled with humility achieved by deep concentration. Allah says in the Quran:
“Successful indeed are the believers, those who humble themselves in their prayers.” (Quran 23:1-2)
The purpose of the prayer is not just to fulfill an empty ritual. For the prayer to be acceptable, it must be done with a passion. Learn the meaning of the Arabic words used in the prayer, focus on their meaning and whatever portions of Quran you will recite. Know that Allah responds to prayers and He is listening to you.
Focus your eyes on the place of prostration, or shut them if something present causes you to be distracted and can not focus otherwise.
By concentrating on the words of the prayer said in different postures, by raising one’s consciousness of being in front of Allah, by choosing a comfortable, clean place with no distractions, one can increase their presence of mind in the prayer. There will always be room to improve it.
Remove the clutter in the mind and focus on Allah’s blessings in life, feel your insignificance in front of the Magnificent Creator, feel guilty for your sins. It will help you reduce stress, worries, and anxiety. There is only so much our mind and body can take. The prayer is relaxing and will help regain lost focus in life.
The prayer is healing for the soul. But for your salah to reach this state of concentration it requires patience, practice, and asking Allah for help. The postures of the prayer are important. For example, in prostration the believer is closest he can be to Allah, and thus he should feel this closeness and supplicate even more.
To reach a high level of concentration and humility in prayer requires constant work, and struggle. There will be lows – but one should never give up the prayers (salah). Remember! It connects you to your Creator. You don’t just pray while you feel it is working for you and easy to do.Frequently, a new Muslim is overcharged with zeal on accepting Islam, reading a lot, listening to tapes, surfing the web, talking to friends, but after some time they burn out. It is at that critical moment when the real test comes, one feels weak in faith and it is difficult to pray.
Take some good advice for those times, and keep on praying.
“If you avoid the great sins which you are forbidden to do, We shall remit from you your (lesser) sins…” (Quran 4:31)
Slow me down, Lord!
Ease the pounding of my heart
By the quieting of my mind.
Steady my harried pace
With a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Amidst the confusions of my day,
The calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves
With the soothing music
Of the singing streams
That live in my memory.
Help me to know
The magical power of sleep,
Teach me the art
Of taking minute vacations
Of slowing down
To look at a flower;
To chat with an old friend
Or make a new one;
To pet a dog;
To watch a spider build a web;
To smile at a child;
Or to read a few lines from a good book.
Remind me each day
That the race is not always won by the swift;
That there is more to life
Than increasing its speed.
Let me look upward
Into the branches of the towering oak
And know that it grew great and strong
Because it grew slowly and well.
Slow me down, Lord,
And inspire me to send my roots deep
Into the soil of life's enduring values
That I may grow toward the stars
Of our greater destiny.
– Offered by Dave Johnson and Kyra Shahid; Written by Orin L. Crain
God, who is more than we can ever comprehend, help us to seek you, and you alone. Help us to stand before all that we could do and seek what you would do, and do that. Lift from us our need to achieve all that we can be and instead,
surrender to what you can be in us.
Give us ways to refrain from the busyness that will put us on edge and off center,
give us today your peace.
– Author Unknown
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I Want To Be Available
Holy and perfect God, you know I want to be available. Help that desire sink deeply enough into my being for me to actually change and to say “no” to a least one worthy, but not urgent, task today. Give me the ability to be open to the life I am leading;
not the one I am planning to lead.
– Author Unknown
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A Prayer for Inner Peace
Lord, please put Your peace in my heart. I'm worried and anxious. My mind races and obsesses. I can't help thinking about my problems. And the more I think about them, the more depressed I become. I feel I'm sinking down in quicksand and can't get out. Calm me, Lord.
Slow me down, put Your peace in my heart.
No matter what problem I have, Lord, You are bigger, You are more powerful than it is. So I bring my problem to You. I know what I want. I know my will. I do not know Yours. I do not know how You will use this problem for my salvation. I do not know what good You will workout from this evil. But I trust You. I trust Your goodness and Your wisdom.
So I place myself in Your hands.
Please fill my heart with peace.
– Author Unknown
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A Christian Prayer for Peace of Mind
Almighty God, We bless you for our lives, we give you praise for your abundant mercy and grace we receive. We thank you for your faithfulness even though we are not that faithful to you. Lord Jesus, we ask you to give us all around peace in our mind, body, soul and spirit.
We want you to heal and remove everything that is causing stress, grief, and sorrow in our lives.
Please guide our path through life and make our enemies be at peace with us. Let your peace reign in our family, at our place of work, businesses and everything we lay our hands on.
Let your angels of peace go ahead of us when we go out and stay by our side when we return. In Jesus' name,
– Author Unknown
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A Prayer to Heal Stress
Loving God, please grant me peace of mind and calm my troubled heart. My soul is a turbulent sea. I can't seem to find my balance so I stumble and worry constantly.
Give me the strength and clarity of mind to find my purpose and walk the path you've laid out for me. I trust your Love God, and know that you will heal this stress. Just as the sun rises each day against the dark of night.
Please bring me clarity with the light of God.
In your name I pray,
– Author Unknown
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Prayer for Peace and Calm
Dear Lord and Father of humankind, Forgive our foolish ways; Reclothe us in our rightful mind, In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our strivings cease; Take from our souls the strain and stress, And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm; Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
– John Greenleaf Whittier
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Within Our Reach: Joy
There is nothing I can give you which you have not; But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give, You can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our Reach is joy. Take joy! There is a radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see, And to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look! Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, Cast them away as ugly, or heavy, or hard.
Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, Woven of love, by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand That brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty Believe me, that angel's hand is there, the gift is there, And the wonder of an overshadowing presence.
Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts. Life is so full of meaning and purpose, So full of beauty beneath its covering- That you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. And so, at this time, I greet you.Not quite as the world sends greetings, But with profound esteem And with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
The day breaks, and all the shadows flee away.
– Fra Giovanni, Christmas Eve, 1513 A.D.
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Prayer for Calmness
As he sat by the river,the eyes of his understanding began to be opened;not that he saw any vision,but he understood and learnt many things,both spiritual matters and matters of faith and of scholarship,and this with so great an enlightenment
that everything seemed new to him.
– Ignatius of Loyola, The Autobiography
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A Guide for Confession – Prayers – Catholic Online
The basic requirement for a good confession is to have the intention of returning to God the “prodigal son” and to acknowledge our sins with true sorrow before the priest.
Sin in my Life
Modern society has lost a sense of sin. As a Catholic follower of Christ, I must make an effort to recognize sin in my daily actions, words and omissions.
The Gospels show how important is the forgiveness of our sins. Lives of saints prove that the person who grows in holiness has a stronger sense of sin, sorrow for sins, and a need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession.
The Differences in Sins
As a result of Original Sin, human nature is weakened. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, takes away Original Sin, and turns us back toward God. The consequences of this weakness and the inclination to evil persist, and we often commit personal or actual sin.
Actual sin is sin which people commit. There are two kinds of actual sin, mortal and venial.
Mortal sin is a deadly offense against God, so horrible that it destroys the life of grace in the soul. Three simultaneous conditions must be fulfilled for a mortal sin: 1) the act must be something very serious; 2) the person must have sufficient understanding of what is being done; 3) the person must have sufficient freedom of the will.
If you need help-especially if you have been away for some time-simply ask the priest and he will help you by “walking” you through the steps to make a good confession.
Be truly sorry for your sins. The essential act of Penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again, the love one has for God and which is reborn with repentance.
The resolution to avoid committing these sins in the future (amendment) is a sure sign that your sorrow is genuine and authentic. This does not mean that a promise never to fall again into sin is necessary. A resolution to try to avoid the near occasions of sin suffices for true repentance.
God's grace in cooperation with the intention to rectify your life will give you the strength to resist and overcome temptation in the future.
Examination of Conscience
Before going to Confession you should make a review of mortal and venial sins since your last sacramental confession, and should express sorrow for sins, hatred for sins and a firm resolution not to sin again.
A helpful pattern for examination of conscience is to review the Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church:
- Have God and the pursuit of sanctity in Christ been the goal of my life? Have I denied my faith? Have I placed my trust in false teachings or substitutes for God? Did I despair of God's mercy?
- Have I avoided the profane use of God's name in my speech? Have I broken a solemn vow or promise?
- Have I honored every Sunday by avoiding unnecessary work, celebrating the Mass (also holydays)? Was I inattentive at, or unnecessarily late for Mass, or did I leave early? Have I neglected prayer for a long time?
- Have I shown Christ respect to parents, spouse, and family members, legitimate authorities? Have I been attentive to the religious education and formation of my children?
- Have I cared for the bodily health and safety of myself and all others? Did I abuse drugs or alcohol? Have I supported in any way abortion, “mercy killing,” or suicide?
- Was I impatient, angry, envious, proud, jealous, revengeful, lazy? Have I forgiven others?
- Have I been just in my responsibilities to employer and employees? Have I discriminated against others because of race or other reasons?
- Have I been chaste in thought and word? Have I used sex only within marriage and while open to procreating life? Have I given myself sexual gratification? Did I deliberately look at impure TV, pictures, reading?
- Have I stolen anything from another, from my employer, from government? If so, am I ready to repay it? Did I fulfill my contracts? Did I rashly gamble, depriving my family of necessities?
- Have I spoken ill of any other person? Have I always told the truth? Have I kept secrets and confidences?
- Have I permitted sexual thoughts about someone to whom I am not married?
- Have I desired what belongs to other people? Have I wished ill on another?
- Have I been faithful to sacramental living (Holy Communion and Penance)?
- Have I helped make my parish community stronger and holier? Have I contributed to the support of the Church?
- Have I done penance by abstaining and fasting on obligatory days? Have I fasted before receiving communion?
- Have I been mindful of the poor? Do I accept God's will for me?
After examining your conscience and telling God of your sorrow, go into the confessional. You may kneel at the screen or sit to talk face-to-face with the priest.
Begin your confession with the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. My last confession was _______ weeks (months, years) ago.”
The priest may read a passage from holy Scripture.
Say the sins that you remember. Start with the one(s) that is most difficult to say. (In order to make a good confession the faithful must confess all mortal sins, according to kind and number.) After confessing all the sins you remember since your last good confession, you may conclude by saying, “I am sorry for these and all the sins of my past life.”
Listen to the words of the priest. He will assign you some penance. Doing the penance will diminish the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. When invited, express some prayer of sorrow or Act of Contrition such as:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.
At the End of Confession
Listen to the words of absolution, the sacramental forgiveness of the Church through the ordained priest.
As you listen to the words of forgiveness you may make the sign of the cross with the priest. If he closes by saying, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good,” answer, “For His mercy endures forever.”
Give thanks to God for forgiving you again. If you recall some serious sin you forgot to tell, rest assured that it has been forgiven with the others, but be sure to confess it in your next Confession.
Do your assigned Penance.
Resolve to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation often. We Catholics are fortunate to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is the ordinary way for us to have our sins forgiven. This sacrament is a powerful help to get rid of our weaknesses, grow in holiness, and lead a balanced and virtuous life.
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