Growing up in my parent’s house, I prayed regularly. But it was mostly because my mom told me to. It was easier just to do it than argue about it. However, when I lived alone in undergrad, I just stopped.
I had no real explanation for why I stopped. I just wasn’t motivated to pray. I didn’t feel that “spiritual renewal” people talked about during prayer. I didn’t feel an urge to pray. What I did feel was guilt. I felt guilty because I knew the importance of prayer, but I simply didn’t understand that importance.
As I got older, it got harder and harder to pray. At first I used the excuse of being busy. But deep down I knew that wasn’t true. I was simply afraid. It’d had been so long since I prayed.
What if, even after all these years, I STILL didn’t feel anything?
What if, I’m still not mature enough to understand prayer? What if I just am not spiritual? What if I didn’t have faith?
I tried all different ways to get into the habit of reading regularly. I did the reminders on my phone. I left the janimaz out so I would feel guilty every time I saw it. I even tried to use my daughter’s rewards charts to motivate me! It would work, for a week, and then I’d just stop. I wouldn’t feel that calm during prayer. Or I’d be so distracted during it that it seemed pointless to pray.
Recently, I joined a gym but the only time I could go would be early in the morning. Except, I’m not a morning person. My coach told me:
“Start small. Build a habit. Have no expectations other than to build a habit.”
And suddenly it made sense. The way I was approaching prayer had such high expectations that I was setting myself up for failure.
Before I can feel anything from prayer, it needs to stop being a chore. And for something not to be a chore it needs to be a habit.
After doing a little research, I found a study done by Phillippa Lally that said:
“On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact”
So that’s where I started.
Build a habit
For two months, my only expectation was to just show up. Just to pray.
I didn’t care if I prayed distracted, or didn’t feel anything, or that I even enjoyed it. I just had to check the box that says I prayed.
I didn’t wake up for fajr, I started small. I chose two times in my day that were convenient enough for me to pray during.
For the first two weeks, it was a burden to pray. I didn’t “feel” any sort of connection and was distracted. But as time went on, and it became a habit, it felt less like a chore.
It happened randomly one day. I happened to be having a really busy day, so when I stopped to pray I felt it. I cried but I wasn’t sure why I was crying. I felt that relief. It felt like a weight was being lifted from my shoulder.
Two months later, I no longer was having that internal argument with myself to just go pray. It was automatic. Now I am working on making sure that I do take a few minutes after each prayer to make a dua and reflect. I don’t always “feel” it when I pray, it’s still rare. But I crave it, so I pray. I pray because that relief was better than any relief I have felt.
Inshallah, I want to wake up happily for fajr and pray. I want to feel the itch to pray when we are traveling. But I know, I have to set myself for success if I want long term results.
Just like the gym, set realistic goals. If you set goals that are unachievable, you will become unmotivated and give up. Instead setting smaller goals gives you the opportunity to have frequent victories.
18 thoughts on “I Didn’t Pray For 10 years…”
Salams sister and thank you for posting this. Thoughtful, honest and really helpful!
I am so glad you liked it 🙂
Great Post! This is something which I feel a lot of people can relate to, including myself!
I’m so glad! I felt very alone when navigating this. I just felt no one talked about how prayer doesn’t automatically “works”.
Glad to read this as I have the same problem! It’s just getting into the habit but it seens so hard.
I know but treat it just like that. It’s just a habit to build. Nothing more expected from. The same way you build a habit to brush your teeth. Just need to check off the box in the to do list!
Great work Hira! Highly impressed with your creativity and not to mention, your vocation! Keep it up!
Thank you! Do share it with your friends!
I find when I pray that reading some Quran even 2 lines afterwards makes me feel that connection. If I don’t do anything after it feels empty.
That is a good idea!! I’m going to start doing that too! Do you read the Arabic or try and read the translation too?
Just that Arabic because Im learning to read it.
Love it! Will definitely try it!
Its same wid me bt i wl try …i sometimes feel guilty wid every azan dat azanis calling me n m nt repling…i regret at end of day fo nt sayinh my prayers.thnx alot fo sharing ur story. Its
Yes I agree that the regret is always there!
[…] (Allhumdolilah, I received some amazing messages after I shared my experience about building a prayer habit in part 1 of this post.) […]
Wonderful post and very honest and relatable.
This is everything Hira! We need more people to speak about the things in our faith that are so fundamental and yet not given enough room for real discussion. This has been exactly what I’ve been “praying” for. May Allah (swt) bless you for your raw and real sharing. Love and duas ❤️