Richard Mouw's article about "competing" prayers made me reflect about what Muslims may be praying for as we approach war with Iraq. I know that many Muslims are praying that there not be a war. This is not because they love Saddam Hussein. Quite the contrary, most Muslims are praying for Saddam to be deposed. Still, they pray against war because of the suffering a war would bring to the already suffering Iraqi people. I am also sure there are Muslims, probably Saddam Hussein's Iraqi victims, who are praying for a war that will finally rid them of their vile dictator.

Which leads me to reflect on prayer. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that "prayer is the mind of worship." My recent pilgrimmage to Mecca taught me this lesson. I agree that we should keep praying about what matters most to us, and that God is pleased that we acknowledge our dependence on Him. In fact, in the Qur'an, God says specifically, "And your Lord says, 'Call on Me, I will answer you. Verily, those who are too arrogant to serve Me will enter Hell in humiliation!'" (40:60) God likes to hear us pray for the same thing over and over and over again.

I disagree, however, that we should not tell God "what to do." By my asking God to do something for me, I further acknowledge that He is the Force behind everything in this world. I have prayed for the magnificent and the mundane. I have prayed for His Mercy and Forgiveness of my (countless) sins, and I have prayed for God to remind me to pick up some milk on the way home from work. I find that whenever I want to do something, if I first pray to God, everything goes smoothly.

I often give sermons encouraging the faithful to pray to God for everything: wisdom, health, wealth, a good spouse, a nice car, an "A" on the final exam. Prayer has been my secret power throughout my life. It is the only reason I am where I am today. It is not because of anything I have done.

Muslims also have "rules" when it comes to prayer.

Our prayers should come from the heart. We should pray to God with the utmost sincerity. Prayers that come only from the lips are not what God wants (Although I can't say God would not answer those prayers as well).

We should pray with full hope that God will answer the prayer.

We should be patient with God. The Prophet told us, "God will answer the prayer of those of you who are not in haste." For instance, if I pray for an "A" in English (by far my worst subject in school) and I get an "F" on a paper, I should not say, "Well, I prayed for an 'A' in the class and God did not answer my prayer." If I continue to pray for the "A", God will answer the prayer. This exact scenario happened to me in high school. If we patiently continue to pray for what we want from God, He will give it to us.

And prayer is a win-win-win situation for Muslims. There are three outcomes to a Muslim sincerely making a prayer, called dua' in Arabic. First, it can be answered immediately, which is what the believer wanted in the first place. Second, it will not be answered immediately and God will give the believer great reward on the Day of Judgement in its stead. Third, the prayer will block a calamity from falling upon the Muslim. So I say, "Go ahead and pray!" There is nothing to lose.

Which brings me back to war with Iraq. Who will God side with? Whose prayers will God answer? God only knows. I will continue praying to God, and if He answers me, then cool. If not, then God has decreed thus, and He does what He wills.

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