3 Things Muslims Can Teach Christians About Prayer

Just because we believe differently doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention.

I knew I would love Afghanistan before I even arrived. As a student of arts, it is easy to romanticize the Middle East, drawn to its exotic mysticism, history and culture.

My first nights in Kabul were spent sleeplessly listening to the helicopters passing overhead, wondering what was happening and where they were going. At 4 a.m., the city would receive its wakeup, every Mosque sounding out the call to prayer, rousing Afghans and expat alike.

In each country, the call to prayer is slightly different, and while Afghanistan is far from the worst, I certainly didn’t welcome the local Muezzin intruding on my sleep.

But it didn’t take long for my body to tune out the nightly chorus of Kabul, much as those living near railways learn to adjust to the noise of passing trains. Ten months later, I now appreciate the intrusion of prayer time throughout my day as I have realized how much there is to learn about my own faith from my Muslim colleagues.

Christians and Muslims obviously have very different beliefs. As Christians, we need to be firm on that, and not compromise what we know to be true from the Bible. But there has to be a dedication to learning from our neighbor while holding true to our faith.

Think of Malala Yousafzai's recent statements to Jon Stewart on the importance of turning the other cheek. Or of Eboo Patel's tremendous work in the area of creating interfaith dialogue. These are Muslims who have lived out something that is beautifully true. And, as is often said, all truth is God's truth.

In that interest, I’ve seen three things Christians can learn from Muslims about Prayer:

Discipline

To me, to get up with the sun each day demonstrates an uncontainable excitement for God.


A majority of the Christians I know will spend the first part of their day in morning devotions, rising perhaps 30 minutes before the rush to get ready begins in order to spend time with God. But I’m not sure I know many how would wake at dawn, no matter how early it falls, in order to pray.

To me, to get up with the sun each day demonstrates an uncontainable excitement for God. There are far too many mornings where it is all too easy to hit the snooze button and simply relegate God to later in the day.

Utilizing the call to prayer as a reminder to take time out and invest in a relationship with God teaches a discipline that can often be lacking. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you must stop in order to read, worship or reflect. It puts God at the center of your life and physically demonstrates that He is more important than any other concerns you may have as they come second to Him.

Reverence

Seeing the preparations for prayer that Muslims go through can change the way in which we approach God. Removing their shoes and washing their hands, face and feet; they are making themselves clean.

While the blood of Christ has already done that for us, it is a poignant reminder that our God is a Holy God who we should come before with reverence. He may be our Father who loves us, but that does not mean we should come before Him lightly.

One of the beautiful things about the cross is it has removed the barriers between us and God, so that we can raise our voice to Him, sharing our needs and joy whenever it strikes us. But maybe we should also picture who God truly is when we talk to Him. He is the God of Moses who said “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) And the God of Revelation 4, who shines out from His throne like precious stones.

Community

Although Christians and Muslims obviously disagree about a lot of aspects of who God is ... there is much we can learn from each other.


Praying five times a day, whether at the Mosque, in the office or in the home creates a sense of unity amongst Muslims, whether they are literally together or spread throughout the world.

I was raised in an evangelical Baptist church, so it was not until I came to Afghanistan that I first experienced the liturgy. I was surprised by how much I enjoy it.

One friend who has recently been working her way through The Divine Hours explained how praying a prayer that you know someone else somewhere else will be taking up after you feeds into a community that represents the true body of Christ, regardless of denomination or location, creating “a cascade of praise before the throne of God,” as Phyllis Tickle says in her book The Divine Hours.

In some ways, it is easier to be a Christian in Afghanistan than it is in England. There is a value and worth placed on religion that is often dismissed within secular cultures. Although Christians and Muslims obviously disagree about a lot of aspects of who God is and how we relate to Him, there is much we can learn from each other.

8 Comments

Chris Simpson

1

Chris Simpson commented…

Perhaps we should be learning about Prayer from the Bible Not another religion. Our God teaches us everything we need to know in scripture !! Maybe more people need to read the Bible!!

Elizabeth Jensen

3

Elizabeth Jensen replied to Chris Simpson's comment

God uses more than just the Scriptures to teach us about Himself. He can use anything to help teach us things we need to know-- nature, people, music/ art... even people from other faiths. I know I've learned much about God through my Jewish friends in my life.

Eden Dukeman

5

Eden Dukeman replied to Elizabeth Jensen's comment

There are more ways to learn about God. People learn things differently and God can teach you about himself by using other people, religions, cultures, books, music, and other art forms. Chris Simpson, you are right that we need to be reading the Bible more, but it shouldn't be limiting God so much that he cannot use the people and community around us to teach us. Most of us learn by example and repitition, and Sofya Shahab has given us a great example of using the culture around you to learn about God. There's nothing wrong with that.

Gryphon Hall

17

Gryphon Hall replied to Eden Dukeman's comment

Christians used to pray like this (revived briefly during the Holiness movement). The Bible, in fact, tells us to pray at all times: how many Christians nowadays pray at least once nowadays? How many actually take the time to direct their communication to the God they claim to worship? If Christ can let us learn lessons from Samaritans, Romans and a Canaanite woman, surely learning lessons on prayer from another group who ostensibly worships the same God of Abraham is not off?

RocksCryOut

2

RocksCryOut replied to Gryphon Hall's comment

Muslims are doing these things in order to purchase their own way to heaven. As a Christian, having had my way to heaven purchased for me, I prefer not having to slavishly follow a checklist. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

Rengchongir Matheus Yuhlung

1

Rengchongir Matheus Yuhlung commented…

This is a very beautiful perspective. Thank you for sharing. God bless.

Ryan Palmer

1

Ryan Palmer commented…

Muslims believe they are earning their way to heaven though. If you took that away from them, I wonder if they would still have that same devotion? I'm not trying to say we shouldn't have this devotion in our own prayer lives. Just a thought.

Douglas Gentry

1

Douglas Gentry commented…

Thank you for sharing this. I'm reminded of Daniel who prayed three times a day while facing Jerusalem.

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