The Prophet Muhammad taught that it is far better to pray with others than to pray alone, according to Asad Tarsin in his book, “Being Muslim: A Practical Guide” recommended by a dear Muslim friend whose life is full of what Christians call the “fruit of the Spirit” (i.e. love, joy, peace, self-control, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and gentleness).
He says that for this reason, “Muslims exert effort to pray in a congregation, whether by going to the mosque, meeting with other Muslims, or waiting for a fellow believer to come along.” I love that… “waiting for a fellow believer to come along…”
In Christian tradition, it is well-accepted that no one can authentically be Christian alone without community; that it is by intentionally choosing to participate in the challenges of being with others who are also seeking to align their lives with God’s Spirit that we mature in ways that make us more like Jesus the Christ. But this idea of reciting prayers together multiple times a day is fascinating to me because Protestant Christians normally pray silently throughout the day alone in their own minds and hearts—spontaneously. Which is perhaps why there is the perception by some Muslims that we do not pray.
Protestant Christians have only one short prayer (The Lord’s Prayer) that we recite together once during most worship services on Sunday mornings. Other worship services may or may not include it. But it is usually the follow-up prayer to a longer more spontaneous prayer led by one person or participated in “popcorn-style” by those gathered. It can be powerful, whether one is really thinking about the words or not when reciting them, to just be edified by hearing the collection of voices unified together.
It makes me remember a story I heard once from my pastor long ago about how as a young white man in the American South training for the ministry, he was assigned to visiting patients in a local hospital every day. There was one older woman there, African-American, who was obviously in a great deal of pain each day he entered her room. He explained the different ways he had tried to reach out to her to offer her comfort but felt helpless in crossing the chasm that pain—and race and gender—seemed to create.
Then one day he entered her room and when he sat down beside her, he simply began to pray The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name… He said that her face softened as her voice joined his, and together they communed in the peace of God together.
Today I used islamicfinder.org to find the direction of prayer and the 5 times of day that I’m offered the opportunity to join with my 1.8 billion companions in realigning my soul with the Great Spirit that is loving and sustaining us all. I was delighted to learn that I have a WINDOW of time to pray, so that when the app on my phone goes off as a call to prayer, I have sometimes several hours to finish what I’m doing and find a quiet place to kneel down in prayer.
But for someone who loves sleep, this is not an easy regimen of prayer! The last prayer (which is one of the longer 4 unit prayers) can begin anytime after 10:35pm, and the first prayer of the day for tomorrow begins at DAWN, which is traditionally when a person can tell the difference between a white thread and a black thread held up against the sky (or 4:30am!) And during Ramadan, if you want to pack on some protein for the day’s fast, you have to get it in before 4:30! Whew!
But I love the words that begin and end the The Prayer Call (Adhan): “God is greater! God is greater! God is greater! God is greater! There is nothing worthy of worship except God.” Sounds a lot like Christians beginning their recitation of the Our Father…
Amen. Amen. Amen.