[3:38-9]: At that (right there and then), Zechariah called upon his Lord, saying, "My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication." So the angels called him while he was standing in prayer (Qaimun Yussalli) in the chamber, "Indeed, Allah gives you good tidings of John, confirming a word from Allah and [who will be] honorable, abstaining [from women], and a prophet from among the righteous."
Answer: Whilst Zecharia was attending to his duties, fulfilling his commitments to Allah and his community, is a straightforward understanding of the verse you quoted.
Parwez, under Salat, s.l.w, says everything knows its DUTIES, same as Sam Gerrans.
Surah An-Noor says:
24:41 Have you not noticed that Allah is the one Who is being followed by whatever there is in (& on) the earth and the heavens, and birds with wings spread out, each one knows its salaat and tasbeeh اَلَمْ تَرَاَنَّ اللّٰهَ یُسِبِّحُ لَهُ مَنْ فِی السَّمٰوٰتِ وَالْاَرْضِ وَالطَّیْرُ صٰفّٰتٍ ۔ کُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِیْحَهٌ
This means that everything in the universe KNOWS ITS DUTIES very well as this is inbuilt within them. It knows which path it must traverse and what its destiny is. These things have been called their “صلوٰۃ” (salaah) and “تَسْبِیْحٌ” (tasbeeh). However in the case of human beings since we have a free will therefore we cannot be restrained through an inbuilt guidance for example like birds and animals. While our physical body follows the physical laws our self (consists of ‘I’, emotions, thoughts, memory – more details under N-F-S) being nonphysical does not follow these laws and needs external guidance as an option, which can be accepted through the use of our free volition. In other words to know our “صلوٰۃ” (salaah) and “تَسْبِیْحٌ” (tasbeeh), we need to first have a desire to explore the alternatives available to us as a guidance and then using our intellect and reasoning accept the permanent values given in the Quran. There is nothing inbuilt within us which can direct us to the Quran automatically as this goes against the free will. Since each human being is endowed with this self, he/she has to make a choice at some stage of their life if they wish to make a different choice or are quite happy and satisfied with their existing choice i.e. the choices of the society around them, The Quran has referred to this point at many places e.g. (74:37), (83:26), 78:39). The human self can only develop when it willingly makes a choice to live within the permanent values of the Quran.
As for your quote of 2:45, here is our mentors translation and where do you get the understanding of a physical namaz prayer in this. Sam wrong, I am wrong, Dr Shabbir wrong, Mulla Dawood right!
2:45 And seek help in patience and duty. And it is hard save for the humble.
When creating an ideal society those who have a duty, obligation, to use the Divine commands to do this should be patient until the results begin to show themselves.
Read Dr Shabbir in context:
2:41 And grace yourselves with belief in what I have revealed now confirming (the truth) in what you already have. Be not the first among those who will conceal the truth therein, and trade not My revelations for petty gains. Rather, be mindful of Me.
[‘Confirming the truth in’ (2:101). Petty gains = The false dogma of being the ‘chosen ones’ which is consistently rejected by the Qur’an. The only criterion of honor in the Sight of God is character (2:80-81, 10:69-70, 29:23, 49:13). Kufr = Opposing the truth = Denying the truth = Concealing the truth = Ingratitude = Rejection of truth = Choosing to live in darkness = Hiding or covering something = Closing eyes to light. Kaafir = One given to Kufr = One who adamantly denies the truth = One who opposes the truth = Commonly translated as ‘infidel’ = Derivatively and positively, a farmer who hides the seed under the soil (57:20). Therefore, Kufr or Kafir does not apply to the unaware, anyone to whom the message has not been conveyed or reached yet. Taqwa = Seeking to journey through life in security = Protect oneself from disintegration of the personality = Journeying in security = Being careful and observant = Getting empowered against evil = Avoid overstepping the laws = Exercising caution = Preserving oneself against deterioration = Good conduct = Building character = Live upright = Fear the consequences of violating Divine Commands = Being mindful of the Creator = Remaining conscious of the Divinely ordained Values = Taking precaution = Being watchful against error]
2:42 Do not confound the truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you are well aware of it. [2:159, 3:71]
2:43 Strive to establish the System of Salaat, and to set up the Just Economic Order in the society. And bow with others who bow to these commands. [System of Salaat = The System in which following the Divine commands is facilitated in the society]
2:44 Do you exhort people to make room for everyone's welfare and progress in the society, while you disregard practicing what you preach? And all the while you study the scripture! Will you not, then, use your sense?
[Using sense will tell that failing to practice what one preaches is but lying to one’s ‘self’ 2:10. Birr = Making room for everyone's welfare and progress in the society = Exponential growth of the ‘self’. 2:177]
2:45 If you wish to strengthen your own ‘self’ and promote the well-being of the society, then be patient and resolute in establishing the Divinely ordained System of Life. It is hard except for those who are humbly committed to a noble cause,
[2:153, 70:17-27, 90:10-18. You have become used to thriving on the fruit of others’ toil, such as devouring usury, and, therefore, economic equity and social equality strike at your selfish interests. 2:275. Khushoo’ = Being humbly compliant = Sincerely committed = Being devoted to a noble cause. Sabr = Patience = Facing adversity with courage = Steadfastness = Resolve = Determination in the face of affluence or adversity]