believe me, i know that having to pray five times a day seems like a lot of work; it certainly seemed that way to me before i became muslim. so, why? why five?
well, let's think about prayer not in terms of it being a chore but in terms of it being a break from the chaos of the world outside. imagine that you are at work and your phone is ringing, your colleagues want your help, your emails are piling up, and you are beginning to feel overwhelmed, what would you do? you would take a break, right?
prayer is a break for us and a time of meditation. it allows us to set aside the demands of the world and simply focus our hearts on god. we get up and make ablution and then find a quiet place to pray in peace.
we take ten minutes to remember our creator and refocus our energy on what is really important and relax. relax our hearts, our minds, and our souls. when we return to work, we are refreshed and ready to begin and then, just when we are starting to be stressed out again, it is time for the next prayer.
so really, we should be asking, why five? why not six?
god knows us better than we know ourselves and in his great wisdom, he set the prayers at perfect intervals. the first prayer is the dawn prayer and is prayed before the sun comes up. wow, that's early, right? well, what time do you get up to go to work? before sunrise? what a perfect way to start the day: a cup of coffee, some breakfast, a little conversation with god, and then off to work.
then the next prayer is the noon prayer, and it is prayed usually somewhere between 12 and 1 p.m. this is right around the time everyone takes a break to eat lunch and to recuperate and we also take the time to remember god again and re-center ourselves.
the third prayer of the day is the afternoon prayer, and is usually prayed three to four hours after the noon prayer: just when we're hitting the mid-afternoon slump. you know that time of the day when you are feeling sleepy at your desk and you are watching the clock tick by until you can leave? this is another great time to get up and take ten minutes to rest and re-focus, and by then it is time to head home.
the fourth prayer of the day is the sunset prayer, and it is prayed right after the sun goes down. how many times have you sat in the evening on your porch or in your backyard relaxing and watching the sun set? after we watch the sun go down we take a few moments to remember the god who created that sun, commanded it to set, and then made those beautiful colors for us to enjoy. what a powerful moment for meditation.
and then finally comes the night prayer, which we pray before we go to bed. this is an opportunity to think about our day and about our blessings and to calm and quiet our minds before we sleep.
in this way we begin and end each day bowing our heads to god and to me this is a divine symmetry.