Prayer in Islam vs Christianity: What's the difference?
Prayer in Islam is not the same as our prayer life as Christians. Muslims are under a strict schedule of prayers that they must follow to please Allah. These prayers lack the intimacy that we have with Jesus when we pray through the Holy Spirit. Instead, there are rituals and schedules. There is no conversation back and forth between the Muslim and Allah.
Structure can be a good thing in our faith. It can hold us accountable to continue our faith journey when we are not feeling like it. However, structure becomes harmful when failing to follow it threatens one’s salvation. This is the case with Muslims; fulfilling the five prayers every day affects a Muslim’s eternal standing with Allah!
What is prayer in Islam?
Prayer is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, salat. It is a collection of postures, repetitive words, and bodily cleanliness procedures that must be done five times daily. There is a particular schedule and structure that Muslims must follow according to the Quran and the example set for them by Muhammad.
The schedule for prayer
“ ‘I ask you by Allah. Has Allah ordered you to offer five prayers in a day and night (24 hours)...?’ He [Muhammad] replied, ‘By Allah, Yes.’”
Hadith Bukhari, v. 1, # 63
Muslims are required to pray five times every day: before sunrise, at noon, mid-afternoon, at sunset, and in the evening. They must stop wherever they are and pray. If a prayer is missed, they have to make it up before the sunrise of the next day.
Ritual for prayer
“O believers! When you rise up for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, wipe your heads, and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of full impurity, then take a full bath. But if you are ill, on a journey, or have relieved yourselves, or have been intimate with your wives and cannot find water, then purify yourselves with clean earth by wiping your faces and hands. It is not Allah’s Will to burden you, but to purify you and complete His favor upon you, so perhaps you will be grateful.” Quran 5:6
Muslims are required to be as ritually clean as possible by performing “ablution.” They have specific postures and positions they must be in as they recite the Quran. Regardless of whether or not a Muslim understands Arabic, they must recite the Quran in Arabic in their prayers.
Prayer is a good deed
“Establish prayer O Prophet at both ends of the day and in the early part of the night. Surely good deeds wipe out evil deeds. That is a reminder for the mindful.” Quran 11:114
Performing these prayers correctly counts as a good deed that will be weighed against the bad deeds in a Muslim’s life. Instead of being a conversation between the Muslim and Allah, they pray out of requirement and fear of punishment. Prayers performed in the mosque have more rewards to Muslim men, while women are rewarded for praying at home with the females in the family.
If a Muslim has a personal request or supplication that they wish to pray outside of the scheduled five prayers a day, this is called a Du-aa. There are particular times when it is best to present these requests, such as late at night, during Ramadan, before war, or after a rooster crows.
What is prayer to a Christian?
The Bible teaches that prayer is a direct conversation with God through the Holy Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit in us because of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. There are no set times or rituals that we are required to follow in order for our prayers to count. God wants us to always be in prayer so that our hearts are always set on Him and His will.
Praying at all times
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
It is repeated multiple times that we should pray throughout our days, constantly in conversation with God. We are supposed to be devoted to prayer, which is shown repeatedly throughout the Bible (Colossians 4:2, Acts 1:14).
How should we pray?
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. ‘Pray, then, in this way:
Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’”
While sometimes it is beneficial to repeat The Lord’s Prayer word for word, it is often used as a guideline for how our prayers can look. For example, beginning with worship, submitting to God’s will, presenting our requests, asking for forgiveness, and then worshiping as a final reminder of God’s sovereignty and character. It is not required for us to be lengthy in our prayers, only to be honest and open with God.
The relationship in prayer
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
God wants us to come to Him in prayer, not because we have to, but because we want to talk to Him. He wants to hear all of our concerns, because not only is He looking out for us and willing to answer our prayers, but praying builds our relationship with Him. Imagine having a friend that you did not talk to regularly. If you said this person was your best friend, you would sound a little foolish. Prayer is a key part of our relationship with God.
Talking about Prayer
Since prayer is such an important part of your relationship with God, and your Muslim friend prays five times a day, there will be many opportunities for you to talk about it! It can be as simple as asking them questions about their prayer life:
- Is it hard for you to complete your prayers in day to day life?
- What do you say when you pray?
You can also offer to pray over a meal when you are eating together! Even if they say no, at least they will know that you are serious about prayer. However if you have a close relationship, take a chance and ask if there’s anything that you could be praying for, and offer to pray for them right then and there.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the ability to come to you with my concerns whenever I need to. Please create a hunger within my Muslim friend’s heart to have a relationship with you that is outside of the rules and rituals of Islam. Show me how to be a light to them everyday and love them like you do. Amen.