Daily Archives: January 28, 2008

Prayer Call

One thing that I never got accustomed to in Morocco was the call to prayer that took place several times each day. I especially found the prayer call in the middle of the night quite disturbing. In one town where we stayed for four nights, we lived near a small mosque. Every night just as I was getting into deep sleep, the loudspeaker would go off  calling Muslims to pray. I am not sure what time it was. But it was still dark outside.

Now, I am all for prayer. But does god really want you to get up during prime sleep time every night to pray. This would seem to be something that would render the worshipper worse off if done regularly. I thought that late night prayer is an optional thing for Muslims. As a non-Muslim, I don’t know much about the specifics of Islamic prayer practices. I wondered if the local imam was overly zealous or maybe he knew the Christians were in town and wanted to have some fun with us.

There are some things about Muslim prayer that I find interesting. I respect that Islam has orderly and scheduled prayer times. They tend to be much more disciplined in their prayer practices than most Christian traditions. Having established, memorized prayers provides consistency and a sense of unity since everyone is praying the same thing. At the same time, this seems limiting and could easily make prayers into a ritual that lose their personal significance to the worshipper. Christians can copy some of the benefits of established, communal prayers by praying Scripture or prescribed liturgy shared by a congregation. 

Prayer seems much more of a communal activity for Muslims than most Western Christians. Many American Christians view prayer as a private activity and not something to be done in public unless part of a worship service. Of course, there are exceptions, such as the charismatic wing of the evangelical movement. They tend to be known for corporate prayer opportunities that involves individualistic prayer experiences. There are both benefits and limitations to corporate prayer. It seems like a wide variety of prayer expressions would be the best way to fully encounter and glorify God. 

Muslim prayers involve a wide variety of motions and body postures to mimic the words being spoken. Their prayers are more sung than said. I think that Christians should consider some of these techniques, such as kneeling, lifting hands in the air, etc. Body posture can impact the individual since humans are three part beings (body, soul and spirit). If you have ever fallen asleep praying in a chair, you know what I mean about the importance of the right prayer posture. 

I don’t know that I would credit Islam with originally developing many of these things (prayer posture, corporate prayer, singing prayers, etc.). Many of them can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, which are much older than the Koran. But I do believe that Islam has promulgated them and made them common for many people throughout the world.

In Islam, the Salaat is the ritual public prayer that is done five times per day. There are other optional prayers. However, the Salaat is the primary prayer practice required to be a good Muslim. I wonder how many Muslims every say prayers other than the Salaat. 

My experience conversing with Muslims is that their attitude toward prayer is far different from mine. I view prayer as an opportunity to talk with and listen to my heavenly Father and Lord. It is an intimate interaction between man and God. This includes praise, listening prayer, making requests, praying Scripture, etc. As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit lives inside of me. I am free to express myself in complete honesty to God. Muslims tend to look at prayer as a more regulated, prescribed activity. They might view my approach as disrespectful or taking a cavalier attitude toward God. But that is far from my intention. My heart is to honor God by drawing close to Him.

While in Morocco, I did notice that there seem to be a lot of people who ignore the call to prayer. Much like in Christianity, there are many people who are Muslim in name only. They might go to Friday prayers. But they would not stop their normal life to make prayer a major priority. It gets down to commitment and priorities.

If you are a Christian, do you pray regularly? Or do you ignore the call to pray? For Christians, it is not the voice of a man over a loudspeaker but the sound of life around us proclaiming the majesty and glory of God.