Asalaamu aleikum, brother/sister. I have a question about prayer. If prayer is only for my benefit, if me praying doesn’t help God at all and me not praying doesn’t hurt him in any way, why do they call any missed prayers “a prayer debt”. How can I owe God prayers I have missed if praying them only benefits me and missing them only harms my own soul? How do I “owe” God missed prayers?? Isn’t it more accurate to say I owe MYSELF these missed prayers?
Salam dear Kazuma,
Thank you very much for your question.
Yes, God Isn’t Benefitted By Our Worship
First, you are right that God (Allah) does not need prayers and other acts of worship that we do every day. It is we who benefit from these acts of worship.
We read in many places in the Quran the repeated message that our acts of worship serve us alone.
And whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for [the benefit of] his soul. (Quran 35:18)
And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous. (Quran 27:40)
So whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul, and whoever goes astray only goes astray [in violation] against it. And I am not over you a manager. (Quran 10:108)
And whoever strives only strives for [the benefit of] himself. Indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds. (Quran 29:6)
[And said], “If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you do evil, [you do it] to yourselves.” (Quran 17:7)
Having said that, I have to rush to add that God made people well-prepared to obey God so that they live a good life and get rewards in the Hereafter.
We read in the Qur’an what means:
Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do. (Quran 16:97)
We pray to God because he deserves this act of worship and no one else should be worshiped beside Him.
All this makes him worthy of our prayers and other acts of worship.
Mu`adh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
I was riding a pillion with the Prophet (peace be upon him) on a donkey. He (peace be upon him) said, “O Mu`adh, do you know what is the right of Allah upon His slaves, and what is the Right of His slaves upon Allah?” I said: “Allah and His Messenger know better”. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Allah’s Right upon His slaves is that they should worship Him Alone and associate nothing with Him; and His slaves’ right upon Him is that He should not punish who does not associate a thing with Him.” He (Mu`adh) added: I said to the Messenger of Allah: “Shall I give the glad tidings to people?” He (peace be upon him) said, “Do not tell them this good news for they will depend on it alone.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
- We worship God and we pray to Him because we need him and need His help and support. We read in the Qur’an what means:
O mankind, you are those in need of Allah, while Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy. (Quran 35:15)
- We worship God because He commanded us to do so. We read in the Qur’an what means:
O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous. (Quran 2:21)
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. (Quran 51:56)
- We worship God as a sign of thanking Him for his countless blessings and favors on us.
And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful. (Quran 14:34)
Then eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] lawful and good. And be grateful for the favor of Allah, if it is [indeed] Him that you worship. (Quran 16:114)
Prophet Muhammad’s Example
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to offer night prayers till his feet became swollen. Somebody said, to him, “Allah has forgiven you, your faults of the past and those to follow.”
On that, he said,
“Shouldn’t I be a thankful slave of Allah)?” (Al-Bukhari)
Mu`adh ibn Jabal reported:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) held my hand and said, “O Mu`adh, By Allah, I love you and advise you not to miss supplicating after every prayer saying: ‘Allahumma a`inni `ala dhikrika wa shukrika, wa husni `ibadatika,’ (O Allah, help me remember You, expressing gratitude to You and worship You in the best manner).” (Abu Dawud and An- Nasa’i)
Prayer Is Not a Fine To Pay
From the above, we can conclude that prayer is not a fine that you have to pay; rather it is a trust from Allah that you have to offer five times a day.
Prayer is a sign of the purity of the heart and the soul. Prayer is a sign of being thankful to God.
If someone gives you a gift, won’t you respect him and wish to give him something in return? Putting your head on the ground is thanking God for His favors on you.
Prayer is an obligation that has to be offered on time perfectly. Once you miss a prayer, you have to make it up once you remember it.
We do not offer prayer for fun or pleasure. We offer it because we have to offer it. Prayer is what connect us with God five times a day. Prayer is the first act of worship about which we be held accountable in the Hereafter.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Between disbelief and faith is abandoning the Prayer.”
Now, does prayer deserve to be a debt on you that you owe to God when you miss it and that you have to make it up? Doesn’t God deserve to be the center of our prayer?
I hope this answers your question.
(From Ask About Islam archive)