S is nearly 8. And we are working on getting him to pray. From what I see, there are two kinds of praying people: The people to whom praying is as much a part of their day as getting dressed. It would be inconceivable for them to miss or delay a prayer.
And the others to whom praying is something they have to constantly think about, it’s something to be waited for and worried about and sometimes accidentally delayed.
I am, unfortunately, mostly from the second group. Even if I have prayed all 5 prayers on time I still find myself suddenly panicking at 10 pm till I remember that I did pray Isha**.
I am talking to both S and J, in ways that are age appropriate for them, about praying. About why we pray, and how praying can benefit us in this life and more importantly in the next.
We were never taught the spirituality of our religion at school. It was you ‘either do it or your going to hell’. Funny enough, any other person I have spoken to who went to a strict Catholic school or even a strict Jewish school all had the same experiences. I remember my daughter once talking about being “burned in the lava” in front of a Catholic friend of mine which got her telling me all the things she used to hear and say to her friends and cousins when they were younger.
I want my children to feel the need to pray. 5 minutes 5 times a day. I want them to feel a void when they do not connect with God directly, with out anyones help, 5 times a day.
I want to raise my kids to be part of the first group. Humans are creatures of habit. So all it is, to begin with, is getting them into the habit.
I have asked many people to whom praying is first nature to them (second nature is everything else) how they got that way. They all mostly have no idea! It is just that they grew up with it. Some look at me like I am insane because they think what I am asking is ridiculous. How and why could they not pray?!
I read somewhere that it takes between 21 – 30 days for something to become a habit. I also read somewhere else that that is nonsense but it makes me feel better to think it is true. So, I have a plan! Just make them pray.
The trick is to get them to do it out of love and not out of fear. But there has to be no wishy washiness. It’s Athaan, it’s prayer time. I get up and do it, why shouldn’t they? Obviously J is too young, but she does get up and pretends to pray. Baby B even copies what we do. But S is getting to the age where if it becomes a habit now, then it’s a habit for life.
S was praying next to me a while ago and in the middle of praying he did something, I can’t remember what, but I obviously thought it was disrespectful because I pulled him by the arm to make him stand straight and then after prayer I really had a go at him for what he had done. That left him, obviously, upset and ashamed.
I immediately felt like a complete and utter idiot for it! If I had just waited till we finished praying and sat down with him and quietly and calmly explained to him that when we are praying we are standing between Gods hands. And that we have to be respectful. I could have given him an example of how he would stand in front of his headmaster at school. I should have asked him if he would have been messing around or standing seriously. I should have then asked him then how he would act when it was God he was standing in front of and not just the headmaster?
But I didn’t do that. I did something stupid instead. So I made a pact with myself (for probably the hundredth time) to not over react to things, to take a deep breath and to think (even for a fraction of a second is better than not thinking at all B).
*It is a beautiful verse from Sourat Albaqarah. I couldn’t find a translation that does it justice, but this is the best I could find: “When My servants ask thee about Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.”
** It is the fifth prayer of the day. If you want more information about the five prayers or islam in general check out the Islam Today site.