I've talked a little bit about the importance of having a strong relationship with yourself, but essentially the most important relationship we will ever have is our one with God. He is the only one that we can truly rely on to be with us throughout everything, no matter what. It makes sense then that this relationship is one that we should nurture to ensure it stays strong and lasts (beyond) a lifetime.
One of the best opportunities to connect with God is in our daily prayers. The thing is though, to actually connect with God when we pray takes more than actually praying. It requires focus, concentration and preparation; we need our heart to be present.
As Muslims, we pray 5 times a day; however doing something this often, combined with the hustle and bustle of daily life means that it's a potential slippery slope from prayer being a connection to our Creator to an autopilot action that our minds disengage from.
Each prayer that we disengage from is a wasted opportunity. Your prayer is a conversation with God. He wants you to talk to Him. He listens every time we talk to Him. Don't miss that wonderful opportunity to connect with God again, to forget this worldly life for a few minutes and to wholly connect with the Almighty.
* One way to resist auto-pilot in your prayer is to change it up a bit.
Before you pray, choose the verses from the Quran that you want to recite, and make sure you know the meaning of it in your own language. You could make it a habit to recite different verses with every prayer
* Pray as soon as you can
When the time for prayer starts, pray as soon as you are able to. Don't leave it to the last minute - if you leave it then you'll more than likely be worrying about praying to get it done with, rather than connecting with God. If you pray as soon as you can, then you can take your time and really have a present heart.
* Read the tafsir of the verses you are planning to recite.
If you understand the bigger meaning behind those words, it will be easier to engage your heart with what you are saying
* Start your day with Fajr
Seriously, Fajr (the morning prayer) kicks butt. It's awesome. Praying when everything around you is still and quiet, when the sun has barely risen, when it's just you and God - that is the best way to start a day.
* Think about how grateful you are and all the blessings God has given you.
Before you start praying, you could list off your own Blessings & Loves in your mind and thank God for all of those things. How could we not focus on God, once we realise all that He has given us?
* Concentrate when you make wudhu' (ablutions).
I'm sure this is another wisdom behind ablutions before prayer - it prepares us not only physically but mentally as well. Instead of jumping straight from watching TV to trying to connect with God, we've got wudhu' in between to ease us into it. Think of it as a warm up - athletes always stretch before they play a game, and we too need to prepare ourselves before prayer.
* When you're finished prayer, don't move on straight away to something else.
If you had just caught up with your best friend, you wouldn't jump up and run off when it came time to say goodbye, would you? No, you hug each other goodbye, you talk about when you are going to catch up again, and you say how nice it was to be able to spend this time with them.
So likewise, don't jump off your prayer mat and rush to watch TV or make dinner. Talk with God a bit more - tell Him what you're doing until your next prayer to Him, ask Him for help or strength to make things easy. Thank Him for listening and being with you. Show Him your gratitude.
These are just a few things you can do to turn off that auto-pilot during your prayer and to put the controls back in your hand. It can be a challenge, but remember this:
On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. [Surah Al Baqarah, 2:286]
It is possible to turn every single prayer into a connection with God, we just need to have faith and try.
Do you have any tips for turning off auto-pilot in prayer?