One of the things that the Prophet ﷺused to do when heﷺ prayed was to pause in between the verses of the Qur’an heﷺ recited.
This is something we often neglect- we rush through our prayer so mindless and in a rote and repeated fashion. Stand up, recite, bow, stand, prostrate… It’s just this exercise we do, without contemplating and reflecting. One way to encourage a more meaningful prayer is to actually understand what it is we are reciting.
We recite Surah Al-Fatiha (Chapter of The Opening) in every single rakat (unit) of prayer. This Surah is by its very nature, a request, a supplication to God.
In a Hadith in Sahih Muslim, it mentions that when one recites Surah Al-Fatiha, there is a response for every verse that is read.
When one recites:
الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِين
Praise belongs to Allah (God), the Lord of all the worlds
Allah (God) says: “My servant has paid his homage to Me.”
The All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful
Allah says: “My servant has praised Me.”
مَـالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّين
The Master of the Day of Judgment
Allah says, “My servant has proclaimed my greatness.”
إِيَّاك نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِين
You alone we worship, and to You alone we pray for help
Allah says, “This verse is common to Me and My servant. He shall be given what he has prayed for.”
اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّين
Guide us to the straight path.
The path of those on whom You have bestowed your grace, not of those who have earned Your anger, nor of those who go astray.
Allah says: “All this is there for My servant.-He shall be given what he prays for.”
Every single verse has an answer given by Allah. Yet, we rush through this surah as if it means nothing, as if it is just a something we do by habit and we rob of it its right. Truly though we are depriving ourselves. If we are sincere and earnest in our turning towards Him and in seeking His Help and Guidance, then we should mean what we say. It is not enough for us to superficially understand the translation of the ayah but never mean it.
Many people value sincerity. Sincerity in this sense means valuing and recognizing what we are reciting in our prayers. The first example that comes to mind is when someone asks their child to apologize. When the child says , “I’m sorry” sometimes the parent says “Say it like you mean it.” The child knows what an apology is, but without meaning, it is nothing. Similarly in salah, when we ask Allah for something, we should truly mean it. If Allah says that He will give us what we ask for, but we are wishy-washy in our asking, then what do we really expect of the response?
One of my parents’ friends was sitting at dinner one day, and he said that we were told by Allah to ask Him for what we need and want. But if we don’t even approach prayer and we don’t even ask from the One who Gives, then why should we expect to receive?