The performance of prayer with earnestness and bringing together elements of love, fear, hope, awe and reverence, all of which are constituents of khushoo', is a necessary and vital matter. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله said,
"Two people pray in the same row, behind the same Imam - and the difference between the prayers of the two is like the distance between the heavens and the earth."
And this is because in one heart is khusoo' and in the other heart - which is dead and has found more pleasure in escaping to the valleys of the world - there is the darkness of heedlessness.
"And know that the prayer has actions which are pillars, actions which are obligatory and actions which are sunnah. The spirit of prayer is in the niyyah (intention), ikhlaas (sincerity), khushoo' (awe coupled with humility and submissiveness) and the presence of the heart. The prayer also contains remembrances, private conversations (with Allaah سبحانه و تعالى) and physical actions. When the heart is not present the desired goal is not obtained by the remembrances and private conversations with Allaah, the Exalted. Because speech, when it does not express the innermost feelings of what is in the heart, is (nothing but) absent-mindedness and folly.
Likewise the desired goal (from the prayer) is not obtained from the (mere performance of) actions. The purpose of the standing in prayer is service (to Allaah) and the purpose of the rukoo' and sujood is magnification of Allaah and humility to Him. If the heart is not present, the desired goal will not be reached. When an action is devoid of the purpose and intent behind it, nothing remains except a picture or an impression which has no value to it. Allaah, the Exalted, said:
"It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allaah, but it is piety from you that reaches Him. Thus have We made them subject to you that you may magnify Allaah for His Guidance to you. And give glad tidings (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) to the Muhsineen (doers of good). " (Soorah al-Hajj, 22:37)
The meaning here is that what reaches Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is the quality which has overtaken and is predominant in the heart, so that this same feeling is present when the requested acts of worship are performed. It is vital that the heart is present. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has, however, overlooked the unmindfulness which occurs unexpectedly in the prayer because the judgement for maintaining the presence of the heart at the beginning of the prayer continues for the rest of it.
The meanings by which life of the prayer is perfected are many.
The First: The presence of the heart as we have just mentioned. Its meaning is that the heart is empty and devoid of what is otherwise mixed with it. The cause of that is ambition and aspiration. When a matter is on your mind and concerns you, the heart will by necessity become engaged with it. There is nothing to cure this except to turn all your concerns towards the prayer (alone). A person's concerns in the prayer intensify and weaken in accordance with the strength of his eemaan in the Hereafter and the extent to which he holds the world in contempt. If you find that your heart is not present during the prayer then know that the reason for it is weak eemaan, so you must strive to strengthen it.
The Second: Understanding the meaning of the words and this is the matter which lies behind the presence of the heart. It may be that the heart is present with the pronunciation of the words but not with the meanings behind them. So it is desirable that the mind is turned towards perceiving their meanings by repelling other distracting thoughts and cutting of their roots because unless roots are cut off the thoughts continue to arise from them.
The root can be either external, such as what occupies the hearing and sight, or internal and this is stronger, like the one whose concerns for the world have multiplied and diversified. His thoughts are not restricted to one matter and even lowering his gaze does not protect him from this because whatever occurs in his heart is enough to keep him occupied.
If the root is external, the cure for it is to cut off what occupies the hearing and the seeing and this includes being close to the qiblah (i.e. sutrah), looking at the place of prostration, being careful of and avoiding places which are colourful or attractive and not leaving anything besides oneself which would occupy his perceptions and feelings. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), when he prayed in a shirt which had marks upon it, took it off and said, 'It has just diverted me from my prayer.'
If the root is internal, the way to treat it is to compel the soul to become occupied with what one is reciting in the prayer. He should prepare for that before entering the prayer by freeing himself from (thinking about all) other occupations, striving to empty his heart (from everything but the prayer), to renew the remembrance of the Hereafter in his soul, realise the seriousness of standing in front of Allaah, the Might and Majestic, and the terror of being examined. If these are not the thoughts present (in the prayer) then a person should know that (his heart) is reflecting about those things which produce aspirations and desires in him. Let him therefore leave those desires and cut off those attachments.
Know that when an illness sets in and becomes firm nothing but strong medicine can repel it. When an illness intensifies, it competes with the one who prays and the one who prayers competes with it until the prayer expires in this competition.
The example of this is a man who is sitting under a tree, trying to devote himself to thinking and reflecting, but then birds disturb and confuse him. So he tries to make them fly away with the stick which is in his hand. He then thinks and (deep thought) is not yet lodged into his mind when the birds come back. It is said to him, 'This thing cannot be prevented. If you want it to stop then cut down the tree.' This tree is the desire. When it becomes sick (corrupted) and its branches become numerous, thoughts and ideas are drawn towards it just like birds drawn towards a tree, and flies towards dirt and filth. So one's precious life is spent in repelling what cannot be repelled. The cause of this desire which brings about these thoughts and ideas is love of the world.
It was said to 'Aamir Ibn 'Abd Qais رحمه الله, 'Do you converse with your soul about anything from the matters of the world during prayer?' He said, 'That my teeth become twisted is better to me than that I find this.'
Know that cutting off the love of the world from the heart is a difficult matter and to completely prevent it is a mighty task. Let him then strive in whatever is possible and Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is the One Who gives support and aid.
The Third: Magnification of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and awe/reverence of Him. This occurs by two things: Cognition of the Majesty and Grandeur of Allaah, the Exalted, and cognition of the insignificance of the soul and the fact that it causes one to become enslaved. This cognition occurs by two things: Willing submission/yielding (Istikaanah) and awe couple with humility and submission (khushoo').
Included within this is hope, as it is an addition to one's fear. How many venerated kings are there who are feared because of their authority and influence just as hope is placed in them for their benevolence? It is desirable, therefore, for the worshipper to hope for reward for his prayer and to fear punishment for his negligence.
It is also desirable for the worshipper to make his heart present during all the matters which are related to the prayer. When he hears the call of the mu'adhdhin he should liken it to the call on the Day of Judgement and set out to answer it with vigour and determination. Let him consider (the reality of) what he is responding to and in what state his body comes to the prayer.
When he has covered himself (for the prayer) he should realise that the purpose it is to conceal the shamefulness of his body from the creation. Let him also realise his deficiencies and defects and the scandals and disgraces of his inner self which none can know except the Creator and which none cane cover or hide. Only remorse, modesty and fear can expiate for them.
When he faces the qiblah he has turned his face from all other directions to the direction of the House of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and yet turning his heart to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is more befitting than that. Just as he cannot face the qiblah without turning away from all else besides it, likewise the heart cannot turn to Allaah without turning away from all that is besides Him.
Then when you make the takbeer (i.e. say Allaahu Akbar), O worshipper, do not let your heart treat your tongue as having lied, because if there is something greater than Allaah سبحانه و تعالى in your heart then you have lied. Beware also that your whim and desire is greater (than Allaah سبحانه و تعالى) which would be proven by your preference to go along with it (rather) than to give obedience to Allaah, the Exalted.
When you seek refuge, know that seeking refuge means recourse to Allaah, the Sublime. When you do not seek refuge with your heart (as well), then your words are futile and ineffective.
Understand the meaning of what you recite. Make this understanding present with your heart when you say:
"All the praises and thanks be to Allaah, the Lord of the 'Aalameen (mankind, jinns and all that exists). "(Soorah al-Faatiha, 1:2)
Bring to mind His Benevolence when you say:
"The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful," (Soorah al-Faatiha, 1:3)
And His Might and Grandeur when you say:
"The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)," (Soorah al-Faatiha, 1:4)
And likewise (understand the meaning) of everything that you recite.
We have already reported about Zuraarah Ibn Abee 'Awfaa رحمه الله that when he recited in his prayer:
"Then, when the Trumpet is sounded (i.e. its second blowing);" (Soorah al-Muddaththir, 74:8)
he fell to the ground, dead. This did not occur except that he imagined and pictured that situation and it brought destruction upon him.
Try to feel modesty and your bowing and humility in your prostration because in such a position you have placed the soul in its proper place. In the prostration you have returned the limbs to their place of origin, upon the dust from which they were created. Understand also the meaning of the remembrances with inclination and zeal.
Know that performing the prayer with these internal conditions is a cause of the purity of the heart from adulteration and pollution, of obtaining the light by which the Might and Greatness if the One Who is worshipped is realised and of discovering His secrets. And none understands them except those grounded in knowledge (the scholars).
As for the one who is standing performing the external actions without knowing their significance or meanings, he will not realise or discover any of the above, rather he will reject its existence."
Sincerity of Purpose: "And this is that the reason behind the prayer and thing which calls to it, is the servant's aspiration for Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, his love of Him, his seeking His pleasure, nearness to Him, frequently calling upon Him and fulfilling His orders. Such that nothing from the shares of this world constitute a motive for the prayer, ever. Rather, a person comes to the prayer whilst seeking the Face of the Lord, the Most High, out of love for Him, fear of His punishment and hoping for His forgiveness and reward."
Truthfulness and Sincerity of Action: "This is when a person vacates his heart for Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and strives his utmost in turning towards Allaah سبحانه و تعالى during the prayer. That within the prayer he gathers his heart together for the prayer and performs it in the best of ways and the most perfect amongst them, both inwardly and outwardly. For the prayer has an outward appearance and an inner one:
Its outward appearance are the observable (physical) actions, motions and audible sounds
Its inner appearance is humility and submissiveness of the heart (khushoo'), carefully observing oneself, knowing that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is in fact observing the servant (muraaqabah), emptying the heart for Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, turning the heart wholly and fully towards Allaah سبحانه و تعالى during the prayer and not turning it away from Him to something else. All of these (inner appearances) are like a soul (for the prayer) and the outwards actions are like a body (for the prayer). Therefore, when the prayer is lacking a soul, its like a body without a soul.
Does the servant not feel ashamed then, that he faces his Master with the likes of this? Because of this the prayer is coiled and twisted like a shabby, worn-out garment, and the face of its owner (i.e. performer) s struck with it, and it says, 'May Allaah waste you as you have wasted me.'
The prayer whose outward and inner appearance has been perfected rises (to the heavens) while it has light and manifest proof, just like the light of the sun, until it is brought to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and He is pleased with it and accepts it, and it says, 'May Allaah guard you as you have guarded me.'"
Observing Ihsaan: "This is (observing) muraaqabah, which is that you worship Allaah سبحانه و تعالى as if you are seeing Him. This observance begins with and emanates from perfect faith in Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, His Names and His Attributes such that a person sees Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, free is He from all imperfection, the Most High, above His heavens, ascending His Throne, speaking with His commands and prohibitions, controlling the affairs of the whole creation, the command coming down from Him and ascending to Him, and actions and the souls (at the point of death) of the servants being presented to Him.
So he witnesses all of that with his heart. He witnesses His Names and His Attributes and witnesses al-Qayyoom (Self Sustainer and Protector of all that exists), al-Hayy (Ever-Living), as-Samee' (All-Hearer), al-Baseer (All-Seeing), al-'Azeez (Mighty), al-Hakeem (Most-Wise), One who commands and forbids, loves and hates, there being nothing hidden from Him of the actions of the servants, their statements or their inner condition and realities. Rather, He knows the deception of the eyes and what the hearts conceal.
And this level of Ihsaan is the foundation of all the actions of the heart, for it necessitates veneration and magnification (of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى), awe and love, repentance and reliance, submission to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, free is He from all imperfection, and humbling oneself to Him. It also cuts off the whisperings and murmurings of the soul and unites the heart and the concern (together) for Allaah سبحانه و تعالى.
Therefore, the servant's share of nearness to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is in accordance with his share of observing Ihsaan, and it is with respect to Ihsaan that the prayer (of each individual) differs, such that there may be a difference in excellence between the prayer of two men - the difference between their standing, bowing and prostrating being equivalent to the difference between the heavens and the earth."
The Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "There is no prayer after 'Asr prayer until the sun has set and there is no prayer after Fajr prayer until the sun has risen." (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The following times are considered Makruh to pray:
1. When Fajr time comes, it is makruh to pray any nafl prayers except the two rakaats emphasised sunnah of the Fajr prayer.
2. After one has performed the 2 fardh of Fajr it is also makhruh to pray any nafl prayers. However, one can pray Qadha Salahs in Fajr time before or after praying the two rakaats fardh.
3. It is makruh to pray any nafl prayers after praying the Asr prayer. One can however pray Qadha Salahs.
4. It is makruh to pray any salaah when the Imam is giving the khutbah for the Jummah. However if one is praying the four rakaats sunnah before then he should finish it quickly but calmly and not cut it short.
5. It is makruh to pray any nafl prayers once the Iqamah for the congregation of the Salah starts except if one has not yet prayed his two rakaats sunnah of Fajr, provided he does not fear missing the Fajr congregation completely. (Extracted from Nurul Idah p.57 - p.58)
However, 'Allama Qastalani (rahmatullahi alaih) relates in his commentary of Saheeh al-Bukhari, Irshad al-Sari, that Qadi Abu'l-Tayyib (rahmatullahi alaih) was of the opinion that it is undesirable (makrooh) to perform just one rak'ah for witr.
Was Hadhrat 'Allama Qastalani (rahmatullahi alaih) a Shafi'i?
The establishment of the prayers is essential for the purification of the soul. [Note that in Islaam, it is not simply a question of "praying." Instead, it is a matter of "establishing the prayer" (iqaamat as-salaah), which includes performing the prayer according to all of the rules and regulations stated in the Sharee'ah.] 
Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says,
"He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself. And mentions the name of his Lord and prays." [Soorah al-A'la, 87:14-15]
Ar-Raazi رحمه الله notes that the first step on the path of purification is the eradication of false beliefs from one's heart that is followed by knowing and having the correct beliefs about Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, thus remembering and mentioning Allaah سبحانه و تعالى properly. This is to be followed by then submitting to and worshipping Allaah سبحانه و تعالى properly, which is first and foremost found in the prayer.
Sayyiduna 'Abdullaah Ibn 'Abbaas رضي الله عنه�...ا has explained these two verses to mean that one frees oneself from shirk (associating partners with Allaah سبحانه و تعالى), takes Allaah سبحانه و تعالى to be only one and one alone and then prays to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى alone.
Allaah سبحانه و تعالى also says,
"And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And if a heavily laden soul calls [another] to [carry some of] its load, nothing of it will be carried, even if he should be a close relative. You can only warn those who fear their Lord unseen and have established prayer. And whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for [the benefit of] his soul. And to Allah is the [final] destination." [Soorah Faatir, 35:18]
A cursory reading of the Qur'aan will demonstrate that all of the previous prophets were also commanded to perform the prayers. 
Indeed, the prayers are so essential to a person's faith that they are similar to the role of one's beliefs and creed. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم stated, "Between a person and idolatry and disbelief is the leaving of the prayer." 
In fact, the believer is identified and characterised by his devotion and attentiveness to the prayer. Note the following verses from the Qur'aan describing the true believers:
"And this is a Book which We have sent down, blessed and confirming what was before it, that you may warn the Mother of Cities and those around it. Those who believe in the Hereafter believe in it, and they are maintaining their prayers." [Soorah al-An'aam, 6:92]
In Sooratul-Ma'aarij, Allaah describes those who are of balanced behaviour and in particular states those who pray and,
"Those who are constant in their prayer" [Soorah al-Ma'aarij, 70:23]
In the beginning of the Sooratul-Mu'minoon, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى lists a number of characteristics of the true believers. In that short passage, two of the verses are directly related to the believers and their prayers. In the second verse, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى states,
"Those who offer their prayers with all solemnity and full submissiveness." [Soorah al-Mu'minoon, 23:2]
Just a handful of verses later Allaah سبحانه و تعالى again describes the true believers with,
"And those who strictly guard their prayers (at their fixed stated hours). " [Soorah al-Mu'minoon, 23:9]
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has also described the prayer in its proper time as being the best deed. Imaam al-Bukhari رحمه الله and Imaam Muslim رحمه الله both record from Sayyiduna 'Abdullaah Ibn Mas'ood رضي الله عنه, "I asked the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, 'Which deed is the most beloved to Allaah?' He replied, 'The prayer in its proper time.' Then I asked him which [deed was next]. He said, 'Being righteous towards one's parents." Then I asked him which and he said, 'Jihaad for the sake of Allaah.' He told me about them and if I had asked him for more, he would have given me more."
Its importance and central role can also be noted in the fact that under no circumstances - except for loss of consciousness - is one excused from performing the prayer in its proper time, even if one can only perform it sitting or by motioning with one's hands and so forth.
Shaykh Sulaiman Nadwi رحمه الله has given the following comprehensive definition and description of the prayers,
"What is Salaat (Prayer)? It is the expression of devotedness by the created to his Creator with his whole being, i.e., heart, tongue, feet and hands; it is the remembrance of the Most Merciful and the Most Gracious; it is the thanksgiving for His limitless favours; it is the praise and adoration for the eternal beauty of His creation and acknowledgement of His Unity and Greatness; it is the communication of the soul with the Beloved Lord; it is the complete obeisance by body and soul to the Master; it is the dedication of one's internal feelings; it is the natural music of one's heart-string; it is the tie of relationship between the Creator and the created and the latter's strong bond of devoutness; it is the comfort for the agitated and uneasy mind; it is the solace for the restless soul; it is the remedy for the hopeless heart; it is the natural internal call of a receptive and sensitive mind; it is the purpose of life and the essence of existence."
Although some comments could be made about this passage (for example, the prayer is the comfort for the soul even when the soul is not agitated or uneasy), as a whole, it is a very moving and concise depiction of what occurs in the prayer. 
 Prophet Jesus عليه السلا�... is described in the Gospels as prostrating during prayer, In Matthew 26:39, the author describes an incident which took place when Jesus went with his disciples to Gethsemane: "And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Christians today kneel down, clasping their hands, in a posture which cannot be ascribed to Jesus عليه السلا�.... The method of prostration in prayer followed by Jesus عليه السلا�... was not of his own making. It was the mode of prayer of the prophets before him, In the Old Testament, Genesis 17:3, Prophet Abraham عليه السلا�... is recorded to have fallen on his face in prayer; in Numbers 16:22 & 20:6, both Moses عليه السلا�... and Aaron عليه السلا�... are recorded to have fallen on their faces in worship; in Joshua 5: 14 & 7:6, Joshua عليه السلا�... fell on his face to the earth and worshipped; in kings 18:42, Elijah عليه السلا�... bowed down on the ground and put his face between his knees. This was the way of the prophets (peace and blessings be upon them all) through whom God chose to convey His word to the world; and it is only by this way that those who claim to follow Jesus عليه السلا�... will gain the salvation which he preached in his Gospel. Chapter al-Insaan (76):25-6, is only one of many Qur'aanic examples of God's instructions to the believers to bow down in worship to Him. "Remember the Name of your Lord in the morning and evening, and prostrate to Him and glorify Him for a long time nightly." http://www.muftisays.com/forums/13-articles--stories--more/5670-the-way-of-prophet-jesus-isa--peace-be-upon-him.html
 Saheeh Muslim
 Purification of the Soul: Concept, Process & Means
The importance of the prayers for the purification of the soul is captured in the following important benefits:
(1) The prayer is a source of strength for the believers, as they turn towards the one and only true source of strength in the entire creation. The prayer thereby purifies the soul of many diseases, such as despair and cowardice. This powerful effect of the prayer is alluded to in the verse,
"And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah ]" [Sooratul-Baqarah, 2:45]
In fact, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has stated the first portion twice in the Qur'aan, as He has also said,
"O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient." [Sooratul Baqarah, 2:153]
(2) Besides being a source of strength, the prayer is also a joyous occasion and a chance for the soul to rest as it journeys in this world. It is a time for the soul and mind to completely and absolutely concentrate on the one matter that it knows is the only matter of extreme importance: its relationship with and proper worship of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى. The soul realises that in the act of prayer (when performed properly), the person is doing nothing other than getting closer to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and partially fuliflling the only purpose for which he was created. Hence, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم used to tell Sayyiduna Bilaal رضي الله عنه,
"O Bilaal, make the announcement for the prayer and give us rest by it."  
 Recorded by Imam Ahmad رحمه الله and Imam Abu Dawood رحمه الله. According to Shaykh al-Albaani رحمه الله, it is saheeh. See Saheeh al-Jaami', vol. 2, p. 1307
(3) When the prayers are performed in their proper manner and in their respective times, the effects on the person's character and behaviour are indeed great, freeing him of many of the diseases of the soul. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى points out to this fact in the following verses,
" Verily, man was created very impatient; Irritable when evil touches him; And niggardly when good touches him; Except those devoted to prayers. Those who remain constant in their prayers;" [Sooratul Ma'aarij, 70:19-23]
(4) In another verse, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى also shows that the prayers should have an obvious and clear effect in keeping the person from sinning and defiling his soul with impious deeds, those deeds that bring filth to the soul. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says,
"Recite, [O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prevents from Al-Fahsha' (i.e. great sins of every kind, unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.) and Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed, etc.), and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do." [Sooratul 'Ankaboot, 29:45]
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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