The Efficacy of Prayer

The Efficacy of Prayer {Ismail B. K. Addo) Allah states in the Holy Quran: “Certainly We have created man to toil and struggle.” (90:5). “And that man shall have nothing but what he strives for and that his striving shall soon be seen: Then shall he be rewarded for it with the fullest reward,” (53:40-42). The above verses imply that one should earn one’s livelihood by the sweat of one’s brow. One can only achieve the object of one’s life after incessant and persistent striving and readiness to make sacrifices for the purpose of one’s goal. It may be asked what use are prayers if man has to work to attain his objective. The answer is that man sometimes finds himself hopeless against a hard struggle and he finds himself quite helpless. In such a case prayer is a source of gaining help, strength and succour. Even when everything seems lost man should not despair for he may know that nothing is impossible with God to Whom he should earnestly pray in his hour of need. Prayer is the means of gaining an end after all other means have failed. We read in the Holy Quran: “And seek help with patience and Prayer; and this indeed is hard except for the humble in spirit, who know for certain that they will meet their Lord, and to Him will they return.” (2:46-47). Nowadays most people find the very existence of God questionable and 36 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS find it hard to accept; yet in every nation and community there have been people who, through prayer, have realised the eternal truth of the existence of God within the inner recesses of their hearts. Let me take the instance of the Prophet Abraham. Centuries ago, in pursuance of Divine command, he and his righteous son Ishmael laid the foundation of the sacred town of Mecca. They prayed to God that it should become the centre from which spiritual light would illumine the world. Both father and son made great sacrifices in obeying the commands of God. The following prayer of Abraham was answered in the person and advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him): “Our Lord, make both of us submissive to Thee and make our offspring a people submissive to Thee. And show us our ways of worship and turn us with mercy; for Thou art Oft-Returning with compassion, and art Merciful. And, Our Lord, raise up among them a Messenger from among themselves, who may recite to them Thy Signs and teach them the Book and Wisdom and may purify them. Surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise.” (2:129-130). Prayers enable man to face difficulties and tribulations with vigour and hope. Testimony of this truth is born out by the early history of Islam. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and his companions were undoubtedly the greatest believers in the efficacy of prayer. The Quran mentions them as spending from one to two thirds of the night in prayer (73:21). Prayers fortified them to face great difficulties with iron determination. They underwent severe persecution in Mecca for ten long years. In battle they successfully combatted their aggressive opponents whose armies outnumbered them even by ten to one. Never has a man demonstrated the power of prayer in daily affairs more than the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). On retiring at night, awakening in the morning, on entering or leaving his house, on entering the mosque, when eating or visiting the sick, embarking upon a journey or even visiting a cemetery he recited special prayers for the occasion. He remembered God both in adversity and prosperity. It was through his prayers that hundreds of thousands of disbelieving and hostile people became converted to Islam. Sincere Muslims all over the world can testify to the wonderful acceptance of their prayers. THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER 37 I would like to end with an illustration of the acceptance of prayer related by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad: “I recall an extraordinary instance of the acceptance of prayer of the Promised Messiah. One Ahmadi friend, Munshi Ataullah Patwari reported it to me. He said ‘I was quite indifferent to and ignorant of religion; nay I used to mock at religious matters. I drank liquor profusely and accepted bribes. When some Ahmadi friends’, living in my locality preached their faith to me I used to mock at them too. One day an Ahmadi friend pressed me hard with his preaching. I retorted that I am going to write to your Mirza Sahib, asking him to pray for the achievement of an objective of mine. If the objective is achieved, I will believe that he is true in his claim. I then wrote to him stating that you claim to be the Promised Messiah’and friend of God. The prayers of the friends of God are accepted. I have now three wives. Twelve years have past since my last marriage, but I have no issue by any one of them. I desire to have a handsome, promising and auspicious son, and that too by my first wife. Please pray for the fulfilment of this desire of mine. In reply, Hazrat Maulvi Abdul Karim Sahib wrote to me on behalf of the Promised Messiah in these words: ‘Hazrat informs you that prayers have been offered for you, and that God will bless you with a handsome, promising child by your first wife as desired by you, but there is one condition; you must turn to God like Zacharia.’ Munshi Ataullah says: I thereupon sincerely repented and turned to God. Seeing this change in me, people began to say what charm has been practised upon the devil, he has given up all evil ways in a trice. Four or five months after this, my first wife developed symptoms of pregnancy and I started saying to people you will soon see, I shall have a son and he will be handsome and promising. At last one night my wife gave birth to the promised child. I at once went to Qadian, several other people accompanying me, and we took initiation at the hands of the Promised Messiah.”