People may sometimes depend on their ritual prayers to God, the Most High, exclusively to meet their needs without making any additional effort of their own. This is not only ineffective, it is in fact a wrong approach, according to Islam. If we contemplate the words of God Almighty in the Holy Quran, which say, “God does not change the condition of a nation unless it changes what is in its heart”, essentially, it is imperative for a person to make an effort before they can see the blessings of their labor. Otherwise, their condition will remain unchanged.

Prayers That Are Not Accepted

As we approach the end of another academic semester, students are preparing to take exams and deliver final papers in their respective fields of study. It is common to find such ambitious minds busy in study and prayer. While this is admirable, it is also important to note that prayer without studying, is a potential recipe for failure.  God will not accept the prayer of a student who sits in a corner and prays to Him for success, without making any effort to achieve that success. It is like the prayer of a person who asks for sustenance from God while doing nothing himself.

Narrations tell us that Imam Ali (p) said, “One who prays without exerting effort is like one who shoots [an arrow] without a bow-string.”2 God has blessed us with abilities and does not help those who do not even make a single effort to help themselves.

God Responds to Efforts

The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) is reported to have said that God, the Most High, says, “I am with my servant. If he remembers Me within himself, I will remember him within Myself, and if one mentions Me in a gathering, I will mention him in a better gathering, and if one [moves toward me] the width of a hand, I [move toward] him an arm’s length, and if he [moves toward] Me an arm’s length, I [move toward him even closer].”3 The Holy Prophet  (pbuh&hp) is teaching us that any effort we make, no matter how small, will be reciprocated by God with an even greater return in our favor.

Therefore, it is important that we strive in life to achieve our goals and objectives as God, the Most Merciful, has instructed us so that we can see the result of those efforts multiplied by His immeasurable generosity.

Pieces of Advice

Make an effort! As seen from the words of God in the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp), it is vital for us to work hard in whatever we do so that He accepts our prayers and our efforts are successful. God does not accept the prayers of those who do nothing to achieve their goals. However, “For a single good deed, one will be rewarded tenfold.”4

Prayer and efforts go hand in hand. After we make sure that we are not among the kinds of people whose prayers are not accepted (due to not making an effort), we should not despair of the Mercy of God as He has said in the Holy Quran, “[Muhammad], if any of My servants ask you about Me, [tell them that the Lord says] “I am near; I [accept] the prayers of those who pray.”5

Do not lose hope. Sometimes, even after we work hard toward our goals and are devout in our worship, we fall short of achieving our objectives. We should not lose hope or allow satanic doubt and whisperings (was was) to take over our thinking. Depending on the situation, we should either continue to make efforts or change our approach to a new direction. God, the Most High, says in the Holy Quran, “You may not like something which, in fact, is for your good and something that you may love may, in fact, be evil for you. God knows, but you do not know”.6

1. The Holy Quran 13:11. All Quranic quotes in this blog are from the Muhammad Sarwar translation
2. Nahj al-balagha, wisdom 328.
3. Sayyid Burujudi, Jami ahadith al-Shia, vol. 15, p. 368.
4. The Holy Quran 6:160.
5. The Holy Quran 2:186.
6. The Holy Quran 2:216.

1.     {إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ} (سورة الرعد, آية 11)
2.     {[ روي عن أميرِ المؤمنين علي عليه السلام ] الدَّاعِي بِلاَ عَمَلٍ كَالرَّامِي بِلاَ وَتَرٍ} (نهج البلاغة, الحكمة 328)
3.     {[ روي عن النبي صلى الله عليه واله] أَنَا مَعَهُ إِذَا ذَكَرَنِي فَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي نَفْسِهِ ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي نَفْسِي وَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي مَلَإٍ ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي مَلَإٍ خَيْرٍ مِنْهُمْ وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ بِشِبْرٍ تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ ذِرَاعًا وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ ذِرَاعًا تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ بَاعًا} (حديث قدسي, جامع أحاديث الشيعة للسيد البروجردي, ج 15, ص 368)
4.     { مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا} (سورة الأنعام, آية 160)
5.     { وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ} (سورة البقرة, آية 186)
6.     { وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ} (سورة البقرة, آية 216)

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