Prayer for focus and concentration

Introduction

The ability to focus attention with sufficient intensity to accomplish the goal five times a day is a skill that needs to be developed. Those people who have learned how to concentrate and can apply their minds to a particular task whenever necessary appreciate this fact. Unfortunately, it is more difficult to concentrate on the act of Prayer simply because it is a repetitious act of worship. As a result, the effort required to fulfill this task is greatly increased.

The 25 strategies for concentrating in Prayer discussed in the Prayer booklet can be further divided into three categories: those that have to be well analyzed and understood; those that have to be applied before the Prayer, and the remainder applied after you complete your Prayer.

This workbook includes a 30-day exercise to significantly increase your concentration in Prayer and solve the problem of distracting thoughts and sounds.

Category One: Knowledge And Awareness

1 Have I understood and convinced myself of Allah (SWT)’s presence?

2 Am I aware that I am standing in front of Allah (SWT)?

3 Do I understand what I recite?

4 Am I making the correct pronunciations in Arabic?

5 Am I aware and practicing the Rules for Reciting The Qur’an?

6 Have I understood the main reasons behind The Five Daily Prayer?

7 Do I have the motivation and energy to sustain my attention?

8 Am I confident enough that Allah (SWT) is with me and that He is assisting me in my Prayer?

9 Have I refrained myself from heedless conversations?

10 Do I remember death often?

11 Do I fast often enough to increase my mental clarity?

12 Have I convinced myself that each Prayer I recite maybe my last Prayer?

If you have answered YES to 6 of the 12 questions above, you may proceed with the workout. However, even one negative answer means that you have to go back and invest more time and reflection in that particular aspect. Otherwise, the workout will not be very effective.

Category Two: Setting The Scene Of Prayer

1 Am I satisfied with the environment, the surroundings?

2 Am I wearing pure, clean, preferably white clothes?

3 Am I clean, pure and scented?

4 Am I confident enough in alternating recitations?

5 Am I in a relaxed and alert state of mind?

6 Have I been moderate in my food intake?

7 Am I grief-stricken and submissive?

8 Have I satisfied my hunger and thirst, as well as other needs?

9 Have I separated myself from the disapproved world and all its attractions?

10 Am I confident enough in arresting distracting thoughts in Prayer?

11 Have I connected my Ablution to the recitation of Adhan?

12 Have I connected my recitation of Adhan and Iqamah to the Takbeer in Prayer?

If you have answered YES to 6 of the 12 questions above, you may proceed with the workout. However, even one negative answer means that you have to go back and invest more time and reflection in that particular aspect. Otherwise, the workout will not be very effective.

This exercise works effectively with FOUR units of Prayer, employed only once a day, AFTER evening (‘Isha) Prayer. Your intention for this four unit Prayer should be for any lapsed Prayer (Qadha).

In this workout, you will employ a Trigger Mechanism and pay the Debts you are obligated to. There are TWO types of debts: one, which has to be paid during your Prayer and the other, after you complete your Prayer. You have to work and complete the whole program as laid out.

Using a personal Trigger Mechanism will provide you a signal to get ready for a moment of concentration, while you complete the obligatory task assigned to you. The detail of this workout is described below and has to be employed for a full 30 days, without a break. Answering a complete YES to 6 out of the 12 items (in both categories) is also a requirement for the 30 days.

Workout: 30 Days

Your first Trigger Mechanism is the Takbeer (Allahu Akbar) that you pronounce before you start your Prayer. This is the signal to your mind that you are now standing in front of your Lord, the Most Powerful in this Universe. You have to appreciate the fact that you are standing in front of Allah (SWT) and He is watching over you.

al-Sadiq (AS) is quoted to have said:

When you say, Allahu Akbar, slight whatever is there between the high (heaven) and the earth, regarding it below His Majesty, because if Allah (SWT) looked into the heart of the servant while telling the Takbir, and saw therein something contradicting his Takbir. He would say, ‘O’ You Liar! Are you deceiving Me? By My Might and My Majesty, I will deprive you of (tasting) the sweetness of remembering Me, and I will exclude you from My proximity and from getting pleasure through your supplication’.
(Mustadarak al-Wasa’il, Chapter 2, Tradition 9)

You promise to recite 5 SUBHANALLAH each time you have a significant distraction and you entertain the distracting thought for a few seconds. This debt has to be repeated as many times you get distracted and whenever you can pay the debt. All debts are to be paid ONLY in the state of Ruku’ (bending) or Sajdah (prostration).

For example, while reciting Surah al-Hamd, you get significantly distracted twice, then on your next Ruku’, you will pay your debt of 10 SUBHANALLAH first and then continue with the recitation normally assigned for Ruku’. If the distracting thought happens to occur whilst in Tashahhud or Salaam, then you will pay your debt as soon as you complete your Prayer.

Caution

The above debt and SUBHANALLAH forms part of your prayer and you should have that intention before and during your practice prayer. The debt should be paid ONLY in the state of bending (Ruku’) or prostration (Sajdah), the additions will otherwise make you Prayer NULL and VOID, even though your practice Prayer is lapsed and not a compulsory Prayer.

In any case, you have 4 Ruku’ (bending) and 8 Sujood (prostration) in the four unit Prayer to pay the debts you owe. Do not concentrate on how many times you get significantly distracted as you will be aware of this fact when it happens, and you will pay your debt in your next Ruku’ or Sajdah.

You will generalize this activity throughout your 4-unit Prayer. After you complete your act of worship, you will recall how many times you had to repeat the 5 SUBHANALLAH and how many debts you had to pay. Now you promise to recite 5 ASTAGHFIRULLAHA RABBI WA ATUBU ILAYH for every debt. If you had paid 10 debts during your Prayer that means you recite 50 ASTAGHFIRULLAHA RABBI WA ATUBU ILAYH as soon as you complete your Prayer.

You will now record in your chart the number of times you had to pay the debt during your Prayer, 5 or 10, may be 3.

This is the end of the WORKOUT.

Caution

The above exercise is ONLY a workout to increase your concentration and plays no role in your daily obligatory Prayer. Also, this workout is to be practiced passively during the Prayer and only active after your Prayer – meaning that if you concentrate too much on the debt, then you might distract yourself from the major objective.

Category Three: Self-Assessment

As soon as you complete your workout, the four units Prayer, you will rate the following in your personal chart – concentration, energy and motivation.

Concentration – your ability to focus and attend to Prayer.
Energy – strength or vigor; interest to perform Prayer
Motivation – an intervening process or an internal state that impels or drives you to Prayer. An energizer of behavior.

The number 10 is excellent and the best score you can give to yourself, zero is the least, the number 5 is average.

Rate you level of CONCENTRATION during the Prayer

1 5 10

________________________________________________________________________

Rate your level of ENERGY during the Prayer

1 5 10

________________________________________________________________________

Rate your level of MOTIVATION during the Prayer

1 5 10

________________________________________________________________________

Write down all the distracting thoughts that significantly affected you and how many times they recurred:

How many times you were significantly deviated in your Prayer?

Did you pay all your debts to Allah (SWT) as you promised (during and after your practice Prayer)? (Figure Four). You may now grade your charts accordingly. You have 4 Charts at the end of this Workout – Concentration, Energy, Motivation and Debts. (Figure Five)

Category Four: Exercises And Mental Workout Before Sleeping At Night 30 Days, 15 Minutes Each Night

Spend the first 3-5 minutes contemplating on the distracting thoughts that significantly distracted you from achieving a high level of concentration in your Prayer. Work them through and convince yourself that none of those thoughts play an important role in Prayer and neither are the thoughts solvable during Prayer.

Spend the next 3-5 minutes contemplating on the creation of Allah (SWT) and make sure you are not distracted by any thought – you can spend this time reading The Qur’an, recite invocations, or read a book, whatever suits you. You should not exceed 5 minutes.

Spend the last 3-5 minutes doing a meditation exercise. You can employ any other similar technique you are aware of. However, make sure it has a deep breathing element in it.

You may want to review your chart at this time.

Congratulations, you are done with Day 1 of this workout. Similarly, you may proceed with Day 2 until you reach Day 30. After 30 days, you may review your Charts and see if you have made any kind of improvement. Your goal is to get to a 10 with Concentration, Energy and Motivation, and a 0-2 with Debts.

For assistance on this workout, please contact the author at [email protected]

Figure Four

Rate your level of CONCENTRATION during the Prayer

1 5 10

________________________________________________________________________

Rate your level of ENERGY during the Prayer

1 5 10

________________________________________________________________________

Rate your level of MOTIVATION during the Prayer

1 5 10

________________________________________________________________________

Write down all the distracting thoughts that significanty affected you and how many times they recurred:
1)
2)
3)
How many times were you significantly deviated in your Prayer?
Did you pay all your debts to Allah as you promised (during and after your Practice Prayer)?

Make 30 copies of this page

www.al-islam.org

In today’s world, it’s harder than ever to focus and concentrate. Emails, texts, and the latest YouTube video sensation beckon. But learning to concentrate may be more important than ever to get and stay ahead at work or school. As pressure mounts, college students, entrepreneurs, and people in highly competitive jobs are turning more and more to smart drugs like piracetam, modafinil, and off-label use ADHD medications to help. But this is unfortunate because they come with a high price tag (literally), including a boat load of side effects and the possibility of addiction.

Fortunately, there are many natural ways — from food and supplements to mind-body healing techniques — that you can use to sharpen your concentration and focus.

prayer for focus and concentration

Eat berry well to aid concentration. Via: AGfoto | Shutterstock.

1. Eat Brain-Healthy Foods

Your brain is a high performance organ. And just as you wouldn’t put cheap gasoline in a sports car, you shouldn’t expect your brain to run smoothly when you feed it processed, artificial food. Dietary advice has gotten unnecessarily complicated. Michael Pollan, journalism professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of several blockbuster books on food, made diet advice simple when he famously said, “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” That’s good basic advice for maintaining health. It’s excellent advice for optimizing your brain power as well.

The experts can’t agree on what is the best diet to follow but there is one thing on which nearly everyone agrees — refined sugar is bad news. Sugar will give you a temporary mental boost but ultimately sends your blood sugar and your ability to concentrate on a roller coaster ride. Sugar negatively impacts your attention span, short-term memory, ability to learn, and mood. It actually changes your brainwave patterns, making it hard to think clearly.

The top brain-healthy foods to include in your diet are berries of all kinds, green leafy vegetables, nuts, cold-water fatty fish, coconut oil, dark chocolate, the herb rosemary, and the spice turmeric. They contain the vitamins, minerals, essential fats, antioxidants, and phytonutrients your brain needs to thrive.

prayer for focus and concentration

Green tea has less caffeine and contains relaxing compounds that smooth out caffeine’s rough edges. Via: bonchan | Shutterstock.

2. Use Caffeine Wisely

Caffeine is the most popular brain-altering substance in the world. Billions of people start the day with traditional caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and yerba mate. When used wisely, caffeine can definitely help you concentrate and focus and provide a temporary energy boost. Caffeine increases alertness, memory, focus, and productivity by increasing the levels of the brain chemical dopamine.

These drinks are loaded with antioxidants — in fact, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet! Yerba mate is said to give a more mellow lift than coffee without the caffeine crashes. It contains so many nutrients, it’s been said that you can live on it. And green tea contains less caffeine plus relaxing compounds like theanine and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) that smooth out caffeine’s rough edges.

But there’s an unfortunate trend for young adults, teens, and even kids to have caffeinated sodas or energy drinks for breakfast which gives them an unhealthy dose of sugar on the side. These drinks are chemical concoctions masquerading as food. They have no nutritive value and should be avoided.

For most people, a moderate amount of caffeine is an ideal way to increase concentration. But be careful not to overdo it and avoid caffeine entirely if you are prone to anxiety. Consuming too much caffeine can double your levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine causing caffeine-induced anxiety, insomnia, irritability, heart palpitations, and even full-blown panic attacks.

Pharmacist Suzy Cohen reveals in her book Drug Muggers: Which Medications Are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients — and Natural Ways to Restore Them that caffeine should not be mixed with many medications including antidepressants and ADHD medications. Surprisingly, caffeine actually reduces blood flow to the brain. So there is little point in taking brain-boosting supplements that work by increasing blood flow to the brain like ginkgo, citicoline, or curcumin if you regularly consume caffeine.

prayer for focus and concentration

Herbal healing tea made from bacopa. Via: Martina Osmy | Shutterstock.

3. Take Concentration-Enhancing Supplements

There are a handful of naturally-sourced supplements that offer many brain benefits, including increased concentration.

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is a highly esteemed Ayurvedic herb that’s been used for thousands of years as a brain tonic to enhance concentration, memory, and learning. It works by balancing neurotransmitters and hormones. It is a common ingredient found in many brain supplement formulas. Studies show that it can improve attention, memory, and the ability to learn in both seniors and children. It’s also useful for anxiety and depression.

Phosphatidylserine is a naturally occurring phospholipid found in high concentrations in the brain. It acts as the brain’s gatekeeper, regulating nutrients coming in and waste going out of the brain. It can improve concentration, memory, and the ability to learn. It’s been shown to be a safe and effective way to minimize symptoms of ADHD in children.

Citicoline is synthesized in the body from the choline found in eggs and meat. Study results have found the effect on concentration and learning to be overwhelmingly positive. One study found it improved concentration, focus and memory as well as piracetam, a popular “study” drug. Citicoline works by increasing acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter associated with memory and learning. It’s one of the few supplements considered potent enough for treating serious neurological disorders such as brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.

Huperzine A is a compound isolated from Chinese club moss (Huperzia serrata), a traditional Chinese herb. It is included in many brain supplements to improve concentration, focus, and memory. Huperzine A raises acetylcholine levels and shows promise in treating Alzheimer’s. It works by a similar mechanism as the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept.

prayer for focus and concentration

Yoga is a moving meditation that can help you reduce stress and increase concentration. Via: LeventeGyori | Shutterstock.

4. Unplug And Chill Out

If you are stressed out and trying to do a zillion things at once, it’s no wonder you can’t concentrate. In short bursts, stress can improve focus due to a burst of adrenaline. But over time, stress takes a toll on your mental powers, leading to reduced attention span, poor judgment, and memory impairment. Neuroscientists at the University of California have found that chronic stress triggers long-term changes in brain structure and function causing certain areas of the brain to literally shrink.

One of the worst things you can do for your concentration and focus is to multitask. Most people do this to try to be more productive, but it actually has the opposite effect. Some tasks are so habitual that they can be performed with essentially no conscious effort. For example, walking and talking simultaneously is easy. Once the tasks get more complicated or less common than that though, you are sacrificing the efficiency of one task for another. Multitasking requires your brain to quickly toggle back and forth between tasks and, according to the American Psychological Association, this can waste 40 percent of your productive time. The research firm Basex estimates that multitasking costs the U.S. economy an astounding $650 billion annually in wasted productivity.

Another concentration drain is clutter. Ridding clutter from your life can make you more focused, relaxed, and productive. Using MRIs and other diagnostic tools, research shows that clutter affects your ability to concentrate and process information. Conversely, uncluttered space increases your ability to concentrate and focus.

The ancient practice of meditation is one of the best ways to train your brain to focus and stay on task. Meditation alters your brainwave state to improve focus, inspire creativity, and enhance your ability to learn. Regular meditators experience greater productivity and increased focus and attention. They are less likely to ruminate or be distracted. Exercises like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are moving meditations and can be equally effective. Just one 20-minute session of yoga can significantly improve focus and working memory. According to Yoga.com, the top poses for better concentration include the prayer pose, eagle pose, crane pose, warrior 2, and seated forward bend.

Your brain needs a continual supply of oxygen, yet many people hold their breath while concentrating. A whopping 80 percent of people suffer from “email apnea” — a habit of holding your breath while checking emails or using electronics. Make a point of breathing with your diaphragm regularly throughout the day. Or give alternate nostril breathing, also called Nadi Shodhana, a try. This is a yoga breathing technique that can improve attention and other cognitive skills, and reduce stress and anxiety. You can find instructions on how to do this on Chopra.com.

Lastly, take breaks throughout the day to spend time outdoors. If that’s not possible, at least gaze outside through a window. A University of Melbourne study found that the simple act of glancing at a grassy green roof for only 40 seconds markedly increased participants’ concentration. And if you can’t do that, look at pictures of nature or have a plant on your desk. Taking mini-breaks as short as 30 seconds throughout the day can help you regain your focus.

prayer for focus and concentration

Photo: Clyde Beatty “taming” a lion with a chair. Via: Harvard Library.

5. Focus On One Thing

The writings of productivity and creativity expert James Clear have been covered by dozens of major media outlets like TIME, Entrepreneur, and Forbes. In one of his most popular blog posts, he compares the struggle of staying focused to that of a lion tamer. Clear observes that, “The classic image of a lion tamer is one of the entertainer holding a whip and a chair. The whip gets all of the attention, but it’s mostly for show. In reality, it’s the chair that does the important work. When a lion tamer holds a chair in front of the lion’s face, the lion tries to focus on all four legs of the chair at the same time. With its focus divided, the lion becomes confused and is unsure about what to do next. When faced with so many options, the lion chooses to freeze and wait instead of attacking the man holding the chair.”

Most of us can relate to the confused and overwhelmed lion when there are too many choices demanding our attention! Clear goes on to point out that, “Anytime you find the world waving a chair in your face, remember this: all you need to do is commit to one thing.” You can make this easier by removing distractions, such as turning off your mobile phone and email and text notifications, to give yourself a chance at focusing for set blocks of time.

My favorite concentration hack is the Pomodoro technique. It sounds almost too simple, but it really works. First, remove all distractions in your work space and get comfortable. Then, set a timer for 25 minutes and do your absolute best to concentrate on the task at hand for the entire 25 minutes. As in meditation, if you find your mind wandering, simply stop and get back on track. When the time is up, take a break. You can do as many 25-minute blocks of time as you want during the day.

I write several hours every day and do all of my writing this way. Not only are you increasing your concentration in the moment, but you are actually retraining your brain to focus for short bursts of time. I find this technique particularly helpful for tasks I really don’t want to do like doing my taxes. It will help you blast through procrastination and is highly motivating since you’ll almost certainly accomplish a surprising amount in a short time.

Putting it All Together: The Whole Enchilada

While you will benefit from doing just one or two of these concentration tips, your reward will be exponentially greater when you do more of them. Chris Bailey has been called “the most productive man you’d ever hope to meet.” When he got out of college, he turned down two lucrative job offers to pursue his passion of performing personal experiments in order to learn how to achieve maximum productivity. He records his results on his blog A Life of Productivity.

He ultimately came to realize that, “Sure, sipping a cup of coffee will make you focus better, but it likely won’t if you eat a ton of junk food along with it, or if the room you’re working in is a complete mess. What I’ve discovered is that you can’t just improve your focus by doing one or two things right, which is too bad, because that could save you and me a ton of time. To focus to the best of your ability, you have to be firing on all cylinders — eating well, meditating, working out, cleaning up, practicing self-honesty, and more.”

This article was brought to you by Deane Alban, a health information researcher, writer, and teacher for over 25 years. For more helpful articles about improving your cognitive and mental health, visit BeBrainFit.com today.

reset.me

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

prayer for focus and concentration


Question: Assalam alaykum,

I think I might be a hypocrite. Whenever I do an act of worship, I find it very difficult to think about Allah, and I nearly always end up thinking of something or someone else, and it feels like I am worshipping them. Am I committing major shirk?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

I pray that this message finds you well, insha’Allah.

Being Fearful of the State of one’s Worship

Having fear that one’s worship will not be accepted is not a sign of hypocrisy or shirk. It is, rather, a sign that a person recognizes the importance of worship, and is trying to fulfil them, while also recognizing their own shortcomings.

The Qur’an describes fear over one’s state as a sign of belief, not one of hypocrisy or shirk. It describes believers as “those who are fearful of the punishment of their Lord;” ; and “those who give what they have been given, while their hearts tremble at the thought that they will return to their Lord” ; and, “for those who fear standing before their Lord shall be two gardens” .

It is in this vein that ‘Umar b. al-Khattab (may God be pleased with him) is reported to have said, “Had I known that God had accepted one of my prostrations, or one silver coin in charity, nobody would have been more beloved to me than death.”

However, the proper way to deal with this fear is not to be paralyzed by it, but to take the steps towards beneficial action.

Difficulties in Focusing in Prayer

Building focus and concentration in prayer here is the desired goal, as prayer is truly beneficial when one’s heart and body work in concert, not when one is distracted by outside concerns. The Qur’an says, “Successful are believers; those who are attentive in their prayers” (Qur’an; 23.1-2).

However, while one should work on building this presence of mind, one should recognize that being distracted is a good sign that the devil is attempting to come between you and your Lord.
The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) said that “when the iqama is done, the devil approaches, to the point that he comes between a person and his soul, saying, ‘Remember this and remember that,’ about things that he hadn’t thought about prior, until a person can no longer remember how much he has prayed” .

Imam al-Shaʿrawi, in his exegesis, explains the verse, “Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and be on guard…” by saying that we are instructed here to be on guard because the devil cannot stand one obeying, and thus seeks to confuse a person or otherwise compromise their worship while they are doing so.

In this regard, al-Shaʿrawi relates a story that has been told about Imam Abu Hanifa (may God be pleased with him), who was approached by a man who had buried some money and could no longer find it. He instructed him to spend the night in prayer, and then come back and report to him. The man later came and told the Imam that while he was standing in prayer, he suddenly envisioned the precise location of his money. The Imam replied, ‘By God, I knew that the devil would not allow you to complete the night with your Lord.’

Achieving Presence of Mind in Prayer

Imam al-Ghazali, in his Ihya ʿUlum al-Din, puts forward various pieces of advice related to building concentration in prayer. He lists among them:

-Proper preparation for prayer, including thinking about the afterlife and standing before your Lord

-Pondering over the words and meanings that are recited during prayer

-Removing from one’s immediate surroundings anything that can distract during prayer

-Removing from one’s life things that distract during prayer

-Removing from one’s heart love of this world, that is a root cause for much distraction

-Immediately dragging one’s mind back to prayer when you catch it wandering

For further practical advice on how to achieve presence of heart in prayer, please see the following comments from a number of leading scholars: Presence of Heart in Prayer: A Reader

Please see also: How to Strengthen Faith in Allah and Return to Him? A Reader

Shuaib Ally

seekershub.org

Question:

I have recently become sick and disabled, which among other things also means that I have lots of time on my hands. I have taken this as a message that I should develop my prayer power. But this has never been easy for me — I have trouble being disciplined about it. I have started learning Psalms, but I really need to work on my concentration and focus. Can you suggest any strategies that might help me?

Answer:

From what you write it sounds like you have a very positive attitude. You are taking something that could be negative—sickness and disability—and are seeing in it a power for positive growth. What a wonderful perspective!

You write that you are learning the meaning of Psalms. I think that that is a wonderful and important first step—to learn the meaning of the prayers. In order for prayer to have more meaning, we have to understand the words that we utter.

Like with any physical exercise, spiritual exercises should be done carefully, building momentum slowly. Straining yourself too much, or taking on too much at one time will be counter-productive.

How to begin? As mentioned, it is important that you don’t focus on too much at once. Concentrate on one part of the prayers—for example the shema, or a section of the amidah. Start slowly, just expecting five minutes of real concentration. During these moments, focus on saying the words properly and thinking of their meaning. Don’t begin by expecting yourself to pray too much or too long with such concentration. But by working on small amounts, and not getting disappointed in yourself, you can build up your concentration and you may see some very nice changes to your prayer experience.

It is also important that you focus on saying the words correctly, pronouncing and focusing on the pronunciation of all the words. That, in addition, to thinking about the meaning of your prayers, is the best method for working on your concentration.

Wishing you blessings,

Chana Weisberg for Chabad.org

www.chabad.org

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