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The Essence of Prayer & Faith

From the Writings of the Promised Messiah(as)

Taken from Lecture Sialkot. pp.29-35
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Promised Messiah and Mahdi (peace be upon him)

O’ ye people who were taught to practice forbearance and righteousness, how could you be so mistrustful and impetuous? There is no sign which God has not shown to you, and there is no argument which He has not produced, and still you do not believe! You have defied Divine commands with great temerity. To whom should I compare the deceitful people of this age? They are like the sly fellow who keeps his eyes shut in broad daylight and cries, ‘Where is the sun’? O’ you who deceive yourself, open your eyes first, only then you will behold the sun. It is very easy to dub a Messenger of God as kafir, but it is a lot more difficult to follow him in the subtle paths of faith. To declare a Messenger of God as Dajjal is quite easy, but to enter the narrow gate of his teachings is an arduous task indeed. Those who say that they do not care for the Promised Messiah, in fact, do not care for their own faith, salvation, and purity. If they had any sense of justice and were to analyse their own inner condition, they would realize that, without the renewed certainty of faith which descends from heaven through the Messengers and Prophets of God, their prayers are but a ritual and their fasting mere starvation. The fact is that no one can attain true deliverance from sin, nor can one truly love God or fear Him, as He deserves to be feared, until one attains true knowledge and strength through God’s own grace and mercy. It is evident that true knowledge is the basis of all fear and love and it is only after one has gained knowledge and recognition of a thing that love, desire, fear or aversion for that particular thing takes root in one’s heart. It is of course true that one cannot attain true knowledge until God grants it, and it cannot benefit anyone except through God’s grace. This knowledge then opens the door of seeking and recognizing the truth. It is only through repeated acts of Divine grace that this door remains open and is not shut thereafter. Spiritual knowledge, in short, can only be attained through Divine grace, and through it alone can it survive. Divine grace purifies and illuminates knowledge, removes the intervening veils and cleanses the Nafs-e-Ammarah of all its impurities. It bestows strength and life upon the soul and releases the baser self from the prison of sin and purges it of its evil passions. Also, this grace salvages one from the flood of carnal passions and a kind of transformation takes place in man and he develops a natural aversion for sin. Thereafter, the very first urge felt by the soul, through God’s grace, is called du‘a [supplication]. Do not think that we already pray everyday, and that the Salat we offer is also prayer; for the prayer which follows true knowledge and is born of Divine grace is of an altogether different colour and complexion. Such prayer is a thing that consumes, it is a fire that melts, it is a magnetic force that draws Divine mercy, it is a death but ultimately gives life, it is a raging flood but finally turns into a boat.  through it every wrong is redressed and every poison finally becomes an antidote.

Blessed are the prisoners who never tire of supplication, for they shall one day be freed. Blessed are the blind who are not listless in their prayers, for they shall one day see. Blessed are those lying in graves who supplicate to God for help and succour, for one day they shall be taken out of their graves. Blessed are you who never tire of supplication, your soul melts in prayer, your eyes shed tears, and a fire kindles in your breast which takes you to dark closets and wildernesses so that you may taste solitude and drives you to restlessness and near madness, for you shall finally receive Divine bounties. The God to Whom I invite is very Gracious, Merciful, Modest, True, and Faithful. He bestows His mercy on the humble ones. You too should be faithful and pray with all sincerity and faith so that He may bestow His mercy on you. Dissociate yourselves from the commotion of the world and do not give religious complexion to your egoistic disputes. Accept defeat for the sake of God so that you may become heirs to great victories. God will show miracles to those who supplicate and those who ask will be blessed with extraordinary grace. Prayer comes from God and to Him it returns. Through prayer God becomes as close to you as your very life.

The first blessing of prayer is that it brings about a holy change in a person, as a consequence of which God also brings about a transformation in His attributes. His attributes are indeed immutable, but for such a transformed person He shows a different manifestation of which the world knows nothing. It would seem as if He had become another God, whereas, in fact, there is no other God. The truth is that it is a new manifestation of His which portrays Him in an altogether different light. It is then that God, in honour of this special manifestation, does for the transformed one what He does not do for others. These are what are known as miracles.

In short, prayer is the elixir which turns a handful of dust into pure gold. It is water which washes away inner impurities. With such prayer the spirit melts and flows like water to fall prostrate on the threshold of the Holy One. It stands in the presence of God, bows down and prostrates before Him. The Salat taught by Islam is only its reflection. The standing of the spirit signifies that it shows readiness to suffer every hardship and to obey every command for the sake of God. The bowing down of the spirit before God means that, by renouncing all other love and relationships, it has turned to God and belongs to Him alone. Its prostration is that it falls on the threshold of God and, forsaking all personal thoughts, loses the very identity of its existence. This is the prayer which helps to establish communion with God, and this is the prayer that Islamic Shariah has depicted in the prescribed daily Salat so that physical prayer may inspire spiritual prayer. God Almighty has fashioned man in such a way that the spirit influences the body and the body in turn influences the spirit. When the spirit is melancholy, the eyes shed tears; and when the spirit is glad, the face glows with happiness and one even feels like laughing. Similarly, whenever the body is afflicted with pain or distress the spirit also partakes of the suffering. When a cool breeze enlivens the body the spirit feels it too. Thus, the object of worship is that, through mutual relationship between body and spirit, the spirit may move towards the Holy One and engage in spiritual standing and prostrating.

Since man has to strive for progress, such prayer too is a kind of striving. It is quite obvious that when two objects are linked together and we pick up one of them, the other also moves. But mere physical standing, bowing and prostrating is of no use, unless an effort is made so that the spirit may also partake of these movements of Qiyam, Ruku‘ and Sajdah. This partaking depends upon true knowledge which in turn depends upon Divine grace. Ever since God has created man He has made it His wont that, out of His sheer grace, He blesses with His Holy Spirit whomsoever He pleases. Then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, He infuses His love into such a person, grants him truth and perseverance, strengthens his knowledge with various signs and removes his weaknesses until he is practically ready to lay down his very life in His path. He establishes such an unbreakable relationship with the Eternal Being, as no calamity can destroy and no sword can sever, for this love is neither based on temporary motives, nor associated with the desire for paradise or fear of hell, nor has it anything to do with worldly comfort or, for that matter, with wealth and riches. Rather, it is a relationship which is known only to God. What is even more strange, the captive of such love cannot grasp the real nature of this relationship, nor can he understand its whys and wherefores because it is a timeless relationship. It is not based on spiritual knowledge and understanding, for that only comes afterwards to illumine the relationship. It is like fire, which is inherent in a stone, but the sparks only appear when it is rubbed. Such a person, on the one hand, possesses personal love for God Almighty and, on the other, he has an overwhelming sympathy and desire for the reform of mankind. For this reason, not only does he enjoy a relationship with the Divine that constantly draws him to God, but he also has a relationship with humankind that attracts their eager souls towards him. It is like the Sun which pulls the strata of the earth towards itself and is itself pulled in some other direction.