Peace be upon those who follow guidance,
regarding staying focused, Muslims are supposed to use a sutra. a sutra is an item that you place just ahead of your place of prostration; you can use it as a focus point. it also informs others that you are indeed praying.
free style prayer more closely resemble what we call a du'a, although there ARE du'as straight from the Qur'an and Ahadith.
benefits of praying: we have 5 mandatory prayers, plus at least 3 others are highly recommended. they are
Tahajud - an odd number of rakahs, done before --->
2 rakahs done about 2 hours or and hour before sunrise---->
another 2 rakahs at least 30 minutes after sunrise---->
which some also call the midmorning prayer of 2 to 12 rakahs---->
- 4 rakahs just after noon----->
- 4 rakahs about mid afternoon----->
no prayers until----->
- 3 rakahs just after sunset and then----->
- 4 rakahs about 2 hours after Magrib, and then---->
Witr - an even number of rakahs just before you go to bed.
if you make wudu and go to the masjid for each of the 5 Fard
prayers, then you are spending close to 2 hours EVERDAY
in prayer! so you will find it a little bit harder to do things that you aren't supposed to as some of them can nullify your payers :scared: ; so sinning is kind of wasting your time!
in prayer, there are places where you CAN
make du'a; such as standing in Qiyama, whilst bowing in ruku, while in sujjud (prostration) - said to be the best time, or while sitting between sajdahs or at the end of prayer!
you may also make du'a outside of prayer and there are times that are consider better for them such as in the last third of the night, after the Azzan( the call for prayer) but before Iqama(when you actually line up for prayer) as some of the better times.
now, in EVERY rakah of Salat, we say the Surat Al Fatihah, which is in itself, part du'a! here's a little of the ibn Kathir Tafseer on the Surah:
(And indeed, We have bestowed upon you the seven Mathani) (seven repeatedly recited verses), (i.e. Surat Al-Fatihah) (15:87). Allah knows best.
Allah, the Exalted, said, `I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatihah) into two halves between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asks for.' If he says,
[الْحَمْدُ للَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَـلَمِينَ ]
(All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of existence.)
Allah says, `My servant has praised Me.' When the servant says,
[الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ ]
(The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.)
Allah says, `My servant has glorified Me.' When he says,
[مَـلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ ]
(The Owner of the Day of Recompense.) Allah says, `My servant has glorified Me,' or `My servant has related all matters to Me.' When he says,
[إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ ]
(You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help.) Allah says, `This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.' When he says,
[اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ - صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّآلِّينَ ]
(Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom You have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray), Allah says, `This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.').''
These are the words of An-Nasa'i, while both Muslim and An-Nasa'i collected the following wording, "A half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.
the blue parts are the English translation.
we are also encourage to learn the 99 names of Allah(swt) and use the one that has the meaning for the specific du'a we might be making.
also, because the standing, bowing, standing, prostrating, sitting and then prostrating of each rakah, ther is a benefit similar to yoga and the prostrating is said to clear the air out of the bottom of the lungs!
wudu, the ritual cleaning also has many benefits but i bet i already wrote more than you expected! :giggling: