Even though Christians and Muslims disagree on a number of major issues, there are areas where we can learn from each other. As I have stressed elsewhere, just because two groups of people disagree, doesn’t mean they need to hate each other.
As a Christian, I have a great respect for my Muslim friends and I think there are at least 6 ways that the evangelical community can learn from Muslims in regards to prayer.
The second of the five pillars of Islam is called the Salat. It is a call for Muslims to pray 5 times a day: before sunrise, after the sun passes its highest, the late part of the afternoon, just after sunset, and between sunset and midnight. This ritual is to set the pattern of the day for a Muslims and is taught to them from childhood.
There are rituals/body movements that go along with the words of the prayers. In the Quran they are encouraged to pray with the right frame of mind. Assisting to get in this right frame of mind is accompanied by ritual washing called wudhu (associated with the idea of cleaning yourself before praying to God).
When Muslims pray, they are often worshiping and praising the sovereignty and glory of Allah. They praise different attributes of his character (sustainer, nourisher, etc.) They ask for blessings and forgiveness. To read more of the phrases that Muslims pray, read here
Now that we have established a vague general idea of prayers in Islam, what can we as Christians learn from them?
6 Lessons to Learn from Muslim Prayers
- Timely prayers. How often do you pray? Suppose that the Islamic god is a false god: why is it that Muslims can pray 5 times a day to a false god but many Christians struggle to pray to the True God once a day? In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says that we should, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We should be in prayer constantly, not merely 5 times a day (or once per day!). It doesn’t always have to be a long prayer, it could be a simple one-liner arrow prayer. This is an area where we have much to learn from Muslims.
- Prayers that set a rhythm. Do your prayers set the pattern of your day? We should, like Muslims, be taking time out of our day to pray (set a reminder on your phone if you have to!). We should be intentional with our prayers and making it more of a priority in our life than it probably currently is for most of us. Prayer should not be something you merely do because it is time to do so (i.e. before a meal, etc.); rather, it should be something we delight in doing often. If you feel the urge to pray for something, why not do it right then and there? Do not ignore that sudden impulse to pray which is given to you by the Holy Spirit. You should never be too busy to pray.
- Prayer posture. How do you pray? Do you think that if you pray on your knees then God will have to hear your prayers? If you sway back and forth does God listen more? Certainly, there are times when we need to pray on our knees or face down because we are physically showing humility before the Lord. However, it is also appropriate to pray in a comfortable position in a place that is familiar to you. In fact, Jesus encourages us to go into our metaphorical “prayer closet” and not stand showing off on the proverbial street corners so as to be seen by everyone. In this case, we may pray differently than the Muslim postures of prayer.
- Frame of mind. Do you pray dutifully? Is prayer something that you feel like you have to do when you wake up or go to sleep or before you have a meal? Muslims will often wash themselves to make themselves clean in order to come into the presence of God. Good news Christians! Jesus died and rose again so that we could be made spotless, perfectly clean in the presence of the Lord. You will never be able to clean yourself enough to speak to God. What a privilege to have assurance that Christians are presented as clean before the Lord so that we can come freely to Him at any time (not after we’ve cleaned ourselves up). If we can freely come to Him, we should freely come to Him in prayer!
- What you say. What you pray to God says a lot about you as a person. Do you just pray to God to get blessings from Him? Are your prayers structured like shopping lists of things you need/want God to give you or even someone else? If you’ve ever had a friend who was needy and only ever asked you for favours, you likely know what it is to feel like this person is only your friend to get things from you and doesn’t actually care about you for you. You feel taken advantage of if someone acts like that. Look at the Muslims prayers which mostly consist of declarations of Allah’s character and how good/sovereign/glorious he is. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask God for things, but we should love Him so much that we can’t help but to declare His glory, His sovereignty, His love, His grace and peace! We’re not praising Him to get things from Him, we’re praising Him to get Him and He’s enough! He sustains you, He nourishes you, He alone gives you grace and forgiveness of sins we desperately need.
- Personal prayers. Maybe you’re worried because you feel your prayers are inadequate, especially in light of the dedicated Muslim prayers. As a reaction to this, you may feel inclined to only pray the Lord’s prayer or even recite prayers from other great Christians in church history. There is nothing wrong with the Lord’s prayer and certainly there is some great theology in prayers from Christians throughout history; however, the problem is that they’re not from your heart. They’re not your words. Jesus said that when we pray we should not heap up empty phrases (Matthew 6:7). While these pre-written prayers may mean a lot to you, they’re not your personal prayers based out of your relationship to God. It would be even worse to further ignore Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:7 and think that only praying pre-written, super spiritual prayers with powerful words will make you more likely to be heard by God and respected by others. Please be real with God. Please be honest with Him no matter how good/bad you are feeling at that exact moment. If you are worried that you’re not going to know what to say, remember to speak to Him as you would to a loving Father. Speak from the heart and remember that the Holy Spirit will give you the words to pray (Romans 8:26).
So, Christians, we have lots to learn in regards to prayer from Muslims who take prayer very seriously. I can admit that I’ve looked at devout Muslims and wished I made prayer to our Heavenly Father as important in my life as it is in theirs.
We don’t need to pray the same way as they do, and I hope you’ve seen that I am here arguing that we ought to pray differently to them sometimes. However, I have a great respect for Muslims and their dedication to their daily prayers. I hope we can all learn from them in this regard.
– Tyson Bradley
Read Part 2 here