Allah has given people the means to seek help from and pray to Allah on all matters. And Allah has promised that He will definitely respond to His sincere servants’ prayers. That, for man, is a great blessing and grace of Allah.
However a great secret lies behind sincerity. A person may strongly want something to happen and pray very much to Allah for it to happen. But that is not the sincerity in prayer that is sought. The sincerity here is that focused on the object of desire. However the sincerity that really needs to be sought in prayer is the intense sincerity felt towards Allah. To love Allah deeply, to trust in Allah intensely, to believe in Allah’s words and promises without feeling any doubt about them, to know that Allah is omniscient and to be sure that Allah will create whatever is best...
If a person is properly able to appreciate Allah’s omnipotence and omniscience, His infinite affection and compassion, His infinite beneficence, His infinite forgiveness and the fact that He can create whatever He wishes, whenever He wishes, with no need of natural causes and harbors no doubts in his faith in these, only then that person is capable of sincere prayer.
There are a great many people in society, who do not believe in Allah as is due but who occasionally call upon Him, albeit in a skeptical manner (Surely Allah is beyond that). These people clearly reveal that they do not actually believe in Allah by not worshiping Him and by failing to live by the moral values of the Qur’an. However, when they see that they cannot achieve something they desire under the conditions of this world, or when they encounter problems such as troubles, difficulties or illness, then they start calling on the name of Allah. But that is not, of course, the sincerity desired. That turning to Allah is solely a temporary and superficial one intended as an escape from the weakness they are in.
Allah describes the behavior of such people in a number of verses of the Qur’an. People who never think of Allah under normal circumstances, who never remember Allah, who feel no need to give thanks to, worship or fear Allah (surely Allah is beyond that) only remember and seek help from Allah when they feel totally helpless :
Say: ‘Who rescues you from the darkness of the land and sea? You call on Him humbly and secretly: “If you rescue us from this, we will truly be among the thankful.”’
Say: ‘Allah rescues you from it, and from every plight. Then you associate others with Him.’ (Surat al-An’am: 63-64)
When harm occurs to you at sea, those you call on vanish – except for Him alone! But when He delivers you to dry land, you turn away. Man truly is ungrateful. (Surat al-Isra’: 67)
The people described in the verses immediately return to their lives of no faith or ascribing partners to Allah once the troubles facing them have been resolved through their prayers. Even though they clearly see the omnipotent nature of Allah’s creation and His closeness to and love and affection to His servants and the way He watches over and protects them, they still lack sincerity and do not believe in the genuine sense.
Other people believe in Allah and can clearly see the manifestations of His names throughout the course of the day. They are clearly aware of the great blessings bestowed by Allah, what a fine life He offers to believers, and the matchless blessings and rewards He gives to the faithful. However, they may still sometimes be unaware of these facts as they pray; they are unable to fully maintain ‘their belief that Allah will definitely respond to their prayers.’ They look at events from the point of view of worldly conditions, how they play out and technical realities, rather than of the omnipotence of Allah. They establish definitive conclusions about life and things that will happen in the light of their own minds and draw their own conclusions from them. For example, they make technical analyses along the lines of ‘2+2 absolutely certainly makes 4; and it is impossible for any other number to emerge from that two numbers.’ And they reflect their belief in these technical analyses in their prayers. In asking Allah for something they still effectively belief that it is impossible for it to come about under the conditions of this world.
(Surely Allah is beyond this) People who share such beliefs pray to Allah with a logic of ‘if only this could happen.’ They approach Allah as if to say, ‘I know how these events will work out, and the end result is certain, but I am still praying that they will work out otherwise.’ They are unaware that with these ideas they are actually praying for their own analyses to come true. Because what such a person actually believes in and supports is his own analysis. What is needed in order for what they desire to come about is the exact opposite. It is to pray to Allah in complete trust and hold a powerful belief that Allah can bring about whatever He wants...
One of the most essential preconditions for genuine belief and genuine prayer is to eliminate one’s own ideas that result from being taken in by the visible aspect of the life of this world. It is to know that in comparison to the omniscience of Allah, one’s own mind is very limited and superficial. And it is to see one’s own helplessness in the face of Allah’s absolute power to create what He wants. It is to appreciate the fact that that there is a difference between the externally visible aspect of events and the truths that lie behind them, and that only Allah can know this. It is to understand that analyses based on technical facts are generally deceptive and that Allah’s might far beyond these. It is not forgetting that if a person harbors a profound love of, trust in and submission to Allah in his heart then Allah can bring matters to a resolution in the best and most auspicious manner for him. It is to be sure that Allah’s mercy will enfold his sincere servant who is troubled and in need.
Allah shows in the Qur’an explicitly that everything is possible if He so desires. Allah extends His help to His servants from the most unexpected places even in situations in which there is apparently clear evidence that no way out exists. Allah can bestow victory on a very small community or on very few people when He so wishes. He provided a totally unexpected way out for the Prophet Moses and the People of Israel when they were trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s soldiers. Allah gave His prophet a child to preserve his line even though he was in his declining years and his wife in an age that she was no longer able to bear children. Allah created a means of escape for the prophet caught in the belly of a whale. Allah created a way out for the prophet abandoned at the bottom of a well where nobody could see him. The Qur’an contains many instances of Allah’s infinite creative power and of His help for His sincere servants. The wisdom behind all these examples is that they appreciated Allah’s infinite might and compassion and realized that His help can reach people in even the most unexpected situations.
Allah reveals in the Qur’an that He will respond all the prayers of all those who truly believe in Him and who trust Him unconditionally, harboring no doubts, with full submission to Him:
If My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that hopefully they will be rightly guided. (Surat al-Baqara, 186)
Your Lord says, ‘Call on Me and I will answer you. Those who who are too proud to worship Me will enter Hell abject.’ (Surah Ghafir, 60)
He Who responds to the oppressed when they call on Him and removes their distress, and has appointed you as khalifs on the earth. Is there another god besides Allah? How little you pay heed! (Surat an-Naml, 62)
Noah called out to Us and what an excellent Responder We are! (Surat as-Saffat, 75)
Call on your Lord humbly and secretly. He does not love those who overstep the limits. (Surat al-A’raf, 55)