Suffering is a mental reaction towards what you value in life. What you value the most is what makes you suffer the most. There are certain kinds of suffering that you can end by changing your set of values. This is why people who value their relationship with God and their state on the Day of Judgment tend to suffer less in this world because what pains most ordinary people pains them minimally. Changing your set of values is not an easy task, it requires restructuring a self that has been built over the years.
A good place to start would be changing your daily micro-habits. You spend half of your life doing them (folding your clothes, changing your sheets, organizing yourself, etc.) and they shape a large part of your character. Spend enough time persistently trying to change your micro-habits and you will end up changing your values in life.
This is why praying on time is so important in Islam as it directly affects your mind. How does this work? When you pray on time, it forces you away from your daily routines and makes your prioritize your relationship with God.
At first, you will feel great tension between what your self wants and what is pleasing to God. Over time, your brain gets rewired in accordance with your external actions (this is called neuroplasticity) and a new habit is formed. Once the habit becomes strong enough, you will see that not praying on time will begin to pain you and slowly but surely, you will also see that the other things that usually pained you in life begin to pain you a little bit less.
Success in seeing the results of praying on time is also incumbent on making an effort to reduce your sins when your not praying. Your life’s habits are like a web and they are networked together. What you do in one aspect of your life will affect another. Just like fighting with your spouse may affect your performance at work, your sins will also inevitably affect the quality of your prayer.
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California