Alhamdulillah, I've recently had the opportunity to attend two excellent classes on salah--the first was AlMaghrib's Divine Link: Fiqh of Salah, and the second was Bayyinah's Meaningful Prayer: Vocabulary of Salah. So I've had the opportunity to go over salah from both fiqh and linguistic perspectives, something that has impacted my own prayer in a way that I cannot describe.
I want to keep the information fresh, which means I'll need to go over it a few more times, so inshaaAllaah I might be using my blog as a platform to do that.
The first and most powerful thing that I learned was the importance of qiyyam ul-layl prayers. Praying at night isn't something that I ever really did outside of Ramadan, except for an occasional witr. My excuse was always that I didn't know enough Qur'an, and that as I learned Qur'an I would start. Kind of a lame excuse, I guess. Shaykh Yaser Birjas recommended praying Qiyyam even if you only know Surah Ikhlaas, just repeat it over and over to make a long standing segment. Recite it beautifully, reflect upon it. So not knowing Qur'an shouldn't be a reason to abstain from Qiyyam.
We learned in the class that the Companions had to pray Qiyyam every night for a year, as an obligation--and for most of us I think it's a rare occurance, and we tire quickly. I remember my first Ramadan, praying taraweeh wore me out awfully--going just a few times a week seemed a burden, I couldn't concentrate, and I just wanted to sit down. My third Ramadan it actually surprised me how short each rak'ah was, since I expected it to be so long as to make me tired. It wasn't any shorter, I was just getting used to it. Alhamdulillah.
But praying Qiyyam--and I don't mean taraweeh exactly, but actually praying by yourself at night, in your home, in the quiet of the night--has benefits for the believer. It's like an institution, strengthening your iman. You should spend the time reciting the Qur'an and reflecting on it.
Shaykh Yaser even said that this is his advice for people with low iman. They complain that they can't wake up to pray, and so he tells them that this is the solution--praying Qiyyam. Especially waking up to pray it (tahajjud). And from my own experience, it can encourage you to learn even more Qur'an, so you have even more you can recite in Qiyyam (without repeating it.)
Now here's a bit of trivia: What's the difference between tahajjud and qiyyam ul-layl? Qiyyam ul-Layl is any prayer prayed at night after 'isha before fajr time, ideally with long standing (which is what qiyyam means.) Tahajjud is a kind of qiyyam ul-layl, which you pray after going to sleep, so you had to wake up to pray it. And this is best especially in the last third of the night. Taraweeh is also a kind of Qiyyam ul-Layl, which is prayed in Ramadan, with resting between the sets of four raka'at (the root word implies rest.)