Dryness and struggling in prayer is not always a bad thing. Persisting in prayer despite sluggishness may be a sign of real devotion to God.
By Nabi Raza Abidi
Prayer is a struggle for many people. Dryness and lifelessness are not alien and they can be moods that lead us to the cessation of prayers. When our salāt (prayer) becomes difficult, it is important to remember that God is aware of this struggle. He knows our needs and what we want even when we are not aware of them, or don’t know how to express them.
This is the time for discipline and to pray without worrying about the prayer’s dryness. When we find that our minds are not engaged in prayer, it is ok to let the words of our prayers (e.g., the surahs we recite from the Qur’an) to be our voice without having to despair.
The sweetness of prayer will eventually come, but its initial path is full of toil and struggle. God wants to enter our being but this kind of graces requires our cooperation and our struggle in the face of emotional downs. Our relationship with God, or even our prayers, do not need emotional responses as not all of our relationships require emotional responses.
Being true to Allah is more important than having those nice emotional feelings in prayer. The lack of emotion in prayer is not an indicator of a lack of love, respect or fear of God. An indicator of love, respect and fear of God is when we move towards Him even when there is dryness in our emotions, when treading the path to Him and praying are a struggle. It is in this struggle and dryness that the special grace of God (rahmah) is often found through which the lasting joy and bliss in prayer is created.
Perhaps a good analogy would be our relationship to our children and spouses. We do not always feel emotional highs being with them. Staying with them and fulfilling our responsibilities are not always joyful but our persistent commitment is a sign of love. Maintaining our relationship with God in periods of dryness (especially when struggling in prayer) is perhaps more suggestive than maintaining that relationship during emotional feelings of fullness.
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California