For the last three weeks on Thursday evenings Grace has welcomed Imam Saffet Catovic to speak to members of our congregation and interested folks from the neighborhood about Islam. Among the many things Saffet explained is the requirement that every Muslim pray five times a day, not only with their hearts and minds but in their bodies.
Each prayer includes ritual hand washing. If there isn’t water available which there usually isn’t in the desert where Islam was born, dirt will do. Then believers turns east towards Mecca, take off their shoes, get down on their knees, prostrate themselves on the ground and proclaim, “Allah 'akbar”: “God is great.”
Imagine beginning every prayer like this. Regardless of whether you’re having a good or a bad day, unaffected by the news you just landed your dream job or have lost everything, together with billions of believers on whatever continent and in whatever circumstances - a bombed out street in Aleppo or a penthouse in Paris- you affirm “God is great” five times every twenty-four hours.
Many different species of birds have iron crystals in their beaks that react to the gravitational pull of the earth, directing their migration patterns. Perhaps this kind of praying is like that.
Before communion in many Christian traditions including ours the priest, arms raised and hands open, launches a call and response dialogue with the assembled people. It includes the following lines millions know in their bodies as much as in their minds:
“Lift up your hearts”
“We lift them to the Lord.”
“Let us give thanks to the Lord.”
“It is right to give God thanks and praise.”
If you are lost, start again from here:
Unfold your hands, lift your head, touch the earth, open your arms or prostrate yourself on the ground remembering you are from there. Acknowledge you are so small that your existence almost defies belief. Let the great ocean of every beautiful and astonishing thing that has ever been; the butter cups, megalodons and dancing atoms, wash over and silence you.
Then offer your heart to the author of Life.