“Oh Allah, I ask that you relieve me of such and such burdens/resolve this issue for me/grant me this much needed personal thing. Amen”
We’ve often supplicated some variation of the above prayer. We utter heartfelt words with sincere intentions and wait for divine intervention. But what if what we’re asking for never happens or doesn’t happen soon enough? What then?
We are often advised by well meaning members and leaders of our religious community to pray for alleviation of our worries, to lean on God and trust Him to handle our affairs. So we muster up the most sincere devotion we can and supplicate, pouring our hearts out. We cry, we beg, we plead and then, feeling relieved by such cathartic exercise, we sit back and wait, with hope filled hearts, for a resolution. But what happens if God doesn’t respond in the way we want Him to? Or in the time we need Him to? We may infer that God is ignoring us and we get frustrated, disheartened and a crack in our faith structure materializes.
Is He ignoring us? we ask ourselves.
Do we deserve what’s happening to us? we wonder.
And the more this happens, the weaker our faith becomes and we get to a point where we ask ourselves, what’s the point?
There are inherent dangers in such lines of thought.
The first danger is in the assumption that our complex, intertwined and multifarious relationship with God can be reduced to a transactional one. “I prayed therefor my prayer must be answered” is not just overly simplistic, it is flawed. It risks a negative association between faith and undesired outcome. It discounts the remainder of our relationship with God and blinds us even further to why we may be going through what we’re going through. It keeps us in our shortsighted state, unable to see the wisdom behind our current situation.
The second danger is in the assumption that our complex human life with all of its varied emotions, relationships with the divine and with each other can be navigated and addressed by supplication and prayer alone. When someone is stressed out or depressed and all we tell them is that they just need to pray then we discount all other forms of help around them. We potentially exacerbate their issue as they may conflate it with a lack of faith. “I prayed, God didn’t answer my prayer then I must not be faithful enough.” Their stress or depression spirals down even more and they become more isolated and helpless.
This is not to say that praying and supplication are useless or ineffective. This is to say that we should reevaluate how we use them and how we (the laymen, general public) tend to advise each other on how to use them.
Dusting off old duas (supplications) on as needed basis while not maintaining, or attempting to maintain, a relationship with God otherwise may not be the most effective. A weak faith will most likely become weaker by one off attempts that don’t produce favorable/desired results. Relying solely on dua and neglecting signs and symptoms of deeper underlying issues may not be wisest.
When our minds are stuck in a rut and we feel tired, stressed and helpless by whatever negative may surround us and we take a few minutes to remember God, to utter a prayer, we are essentially putting a pause on such thoughts. A pause that gives us comfort in remembering that no matter how big an issue is there is the One who is bigger, to whose magnanimity such issues pale in comparison and from whom we seek help. No matter how weak we may feel, there is the One who is stronger, who is capable and in whom we put our trust. We take the time to introspect, reflect and replenish our patience through faith.
And when praying and supplicating does not yield much comfort, we should realize that perhaps we need action to go along with this faith. Depression, anxiety and mental health disorders are all disease that we should seek treatment for. We pray for cure and better health but we utilize what God has made available and accessible for us in the form of mental health providers, communities and relationships.
May we all be granted the patience needed to see through the periods of fog in our life’s experiences
Palestinian, Muslim, American, Husband, Father, Academic, Pharmacist, Coffee Addict, Nutella phene, Pseudo writer, Soccer player, former Canadian, Community servant, Pinch hitter imam, interfaith ninja, Intellectual vigilante, and the undisputed KING of snark