When he finished, one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray.” [Luke: 11:1]
The disciples of Christ asked him about the real meaning of prayer.
How do we pray like Christ?
This is not a prayer that most of us know intuitively.
We have to be taught how to pray.
A man came to see the Prophet Muhammad (S). Before talking with the Prophet, he quickly performed his prayers. When he walked up to the Prophet, the Prophet sent him back to do his prayers over again, and said: ”You did not do your prayers.”
The man was puzzled, yet he went back and quickly performed his prayers again.
Once more, he came back to the Prophet.
A second time the Prophet sent him back.
The man came back a third time,
and for a third time the Prophet sent him back to perform his prayers.
This time the Prophet (S) added:
“There is no prayer without the presence of the heart.”
Where there is presence of the heart, there too will God be present.
There are many items and conditions that are deemed helpful for prayer:
a beautiful temple/shrine/mosque/church, mood music, ritual purity, proper rituals, a rosary, clasped hands, incense, etc.
All of those can help in bringing about one’s focus on the presence of God. But none of them can take the place of presence of heart.
If we are not fully present in our own heart, there is no prayer, no communion with God.
God is always present.
We are mysteriously absent from our own being.
Prayer is nothing other than being present where we have been all along.
When we become present, there too is God.
When we are present, and God is present, there is the alchemy of prayer.
An early Muslim mystic once said:
“have your heart be where feet are.”
This is a great motto for life, to be fully present where we already are.
It is the requirement for prayer, and eventually, for sanctity in every breath.
So we do not pray to beseech God.
We do not pray to ask God for things, or events, or blessings.
We do not pray to change God’s mind, or appeal to God’s heart.
We pray to change our own heart.
This is the way Christ prayed, this is how Muhammad prayed.
This is how we are to pray.
Oh Lord, teach us how to pray like this.