What are the meaning and merits of Prayer?
Prayer means du`aa’ (invocation) in the Arabic language (linguistically).
In Islamic terminology, prayer means to worship Allah through certain known and prescribed sayings and actions starting with takbeer (saying Allahu Akbar i.e. Allah is the Greater), and ending with tasleem (saying: As-Aalaamu `alaykum wa rahmatul-lahi wa barakatuh i.e. may Allah’s Peace, Mercy, and Blessings be upon you).
The Merits of Prayer
1- Prevents from Al-Fahsha’ (great sins of every kind, unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.) and Al-Munkar (disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed, etc.).
The Almighty Allah says:
…And establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater.(Al-`Ankabut 29:45)
2- The best of deeds after the Testimony of Faith
It is narrated on the authority of `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud that he observed. I asked the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) which deed was the best. He (the Prophet) replied: “Prayer at its appointed hour. I (again) said: Then what? He (the Prophet) replied: Kindness to the parents. I (again) said: Then what? He replied: Earnest endeavor (Jihad) in the cause of Allah. And I would have not ceased asking more questions but out of regard (for his feelings).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
3- Washes out sins
Jabir ibn `Abdullah reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The similitude of five prayers is like an overflowing river passing by the gate of one of you in which he washes five times daily Hasan said: No filthiness can remain on him.” (Muslim)
4- Expiates sins
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The five daily (prescribed) prayer, and Friday (prayer) to the next Friday (prayer), and the fasting of Ramadan to the next Ramadan, is expiation of the sins committed in between them, so long as major sins are avoided.” (Muslim)
5- A light for its adherent in this Life and in the Hereafter
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The prayer is light.” And he (the Prophet) said: “Whoever guards it (his prayers); it will be a light, a proof and a (means of) salvation for him on the Day of Judgement.” (Reported by Ahmad, Ibn Hibban and At-Tabarani)
6-Raises in rank and removes sins
Ma`dan ibn Abi Talhah reported: I met Thawban, the freed slave of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him), and asked him to tell me about an act for which, if I do it, Allah will admit me to Paradise, or I asked about the act which was loved most by Allah. He gave no reply. I again asked and he gave no reply. I asked him for the third time, and he said: I asked Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) about that and he said: Make frequent prostrations before Allah, for you will not make one prostration without raising you a degree because of it, and removing a sin from you, because of it.” (Muslim)
7-One of the greatest causes to enter Paradise with the company of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
Rabi`ah ibn Ka`b said: I was with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) one night and I brought him water and what he required. He said to me: Ask (anything you like). I said: I ask your company in Paradise. He (the Prophet) said: Or anything else besides it. I said: That is all (what I require). He said: Then help me to achieve this for you by devoting yourself often to prostration.” (Muslim)
8- Between each performance of prayer and the next performance, sins are pardoned
`Uthman ibn `Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “I heard Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying, “When the time for a prescribed prayer is due and a Muslim performs its Wudu’ and its acts of bowing and prostration properly, this prayer will be an expiation for his past sins, so long as he does not commit major sins, and this applies for ever.” (Muslim)
9- The angels will ask Allah for Blessings and Forgiveness upon the adherent in his place of prayers
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “The angels supplicate in favor of one of you so long as he remains in the place where he has performed prayer in a state of wudu’ (ablution). They (the angels) say: ‘O Allah! Forgive him, O Allah! Have mercy on him.”‘ (Al-Bukhari)
10- Waiting for the next prayer after performing a prayer is ribat (keeping oneself adhering and firm on acts of obedience)
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Shall I tell you the things by which Allah erases wrong actions and by which he raises ranks: “The complete and correct performance of ablution in adverse conditions, a great number of steps towards the mosque, and waiting after one prayer for the next prayer. That is the firm hold that is the firm hold that is the firm hold.” (Muslim)
Source: Quoted with modifications from Sheikh Saleh As-Saleh Salah (Prayers): Step by Step.