Before I converted, I found it really stupid that Muslims pray 5 times a day. In Christianity, you pretty much only pray if you felt like it, and of course during Sunday mass (which many Christians do not attend anyway). In Catholicism, you pray during mass, confession, pray the rosary every night, pray the Angelus three times a day, pray before meals, pray after meals, etc. But I hated it. Praying was a drag. Here's an example of a Catholic prayer and I'll explain why it was a drag:
"Bless these Thy gifts, O Lord, which we are about to receive. Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen."
This was what I had to say at Catholic school before every lunch. If one didn't say it, you were deemed as "evil" or whatever. But why would you ask the Lord to bless the food? Most people just mumble their way through it with their eyes fixated on the vegetarian lasagne that they have, and probably a fork in their hand too. The Muslim equivalent is WAY better:
"Bismillahi wa 'ala baraka-tillah. (With Allah's name and upon the blessings granted by Allah (do we eat)."
This makes much more sense. It is a dedication to Allah swt that we do things in his life for Him, through him, and it reminds us that all His blessings are from Him only. The Catholic equivalent is somewhat flawed. "Through Christ our Lord we pray." Through Christ? So you have to pray through Christ, to get to Lord, but Christ is also your Lord anyway? Makes no sense. But hey, that's another topic. See my thoughts on Christianity.
What I really wanted to talk about is the importance of prayer (I suppose this is to remind myself that I need to keep praying, otherwise I'm missing them, and I'm sinning).
The second Pillar of Islam is Salah. Because it is obligatory, it means that every time you miss the five times of praying, it is a sin. If you were a Muslim, you may think that just being a Muslim and believing in God is enough to get you into jannah? Hardly. Only Christians think that believing in Christ is enough.
A Muslim, by definition from the Arabic, is one who submits oneself to Allah, or one who seeks wholeness. Something like that. I'm not an expert, so don't take my word for it. ;) Allah wills us to pray five times a day in order to commit ourselves to him, to seek wholeness and to submit ourselves to Him, and Him only. Prayers are there to remind us that everything Good comes from Him.
One of the major reasons for praying is that it is a way to ask for forgiveness. Praying five times a day is likened to taking a bath. But it just so happens that we sin all the time, and so we need to take a bath, otherwise we'd start stinking, wouldn't we? :') I suppose that's why wudu is obligatory before praying too! Another important reason is to strengthen our relationship with Allah, and act as a way of communicating to him, especially to thank him. The prayers are a way of bringing to mind once again what our purpose is on this world. Prayer strengthens eman (faith), our relationship with Allah and our dependence on Him.
Imagine this. The Day of Judgement comes. The world is turned upside down, and you are suddenly at the front of the queue to speak to God, and tell Him your life story. He asks, "Why didn't you pray five times a day?" What will you say then?
This quote from Muhammad Ali made me realise how important praying really is:
"I don't smoke but I keep a match box in my pocket. Every time my heart slips towards sin, I light a match and place my palm over it. I then say to myself, oh Ali, you can't even bear this heat, then how will you bear the unbearable heat of Hell-fire?"
May we all remember to pray and give thanks to our Lord. Allah Hafiz!