As I sat at my gate waiting to board my flight to Trabzon on Saturday night, I noticed a man in the corner. Standing. Kneeling. Praying.
This is not uncommon in an Islamic country, but something struck me about this that night…
When I stood up to get a closer look at the man, I noticed that he didn’t have a prayer rug. He was using a newspaper. At the end of his prayer, he delicately folded the paper back into place.
I respect this man. He has chosen to be true to his faith no matter the circumstance. His beautiful example made me ponder the quality of my own prayers.
How often have I skipped my prayers because I was out in public? How many times have I said a silent prayer while eating instead of reverently bowing my head and folding my arms before my meal, in fear of offending someone near me?
You see, as a Mormon, I was taught to pray each morning when I wake up, each night before I go to sleep, before each meal, and to keep a prayer in my heart throughout the day. That’s a lot of praying. Muslims are taught to pray five times a day. I view that as something we have in common. Sure, the style of our prayers is different, but either way, we are both people trying to commune with the same God.
When I pray in public, I may just look still for a minute or two… If that… When a Muslim prays in public, they are physically active. Quiet, but active. You know they’re praying. To me this shows that they are proud of their faith.
Yes, this man and I come from different cultures and different social norms. It’s normal to observe prayers in Turkey. It’s welcome. It’s not normal in America. Yet, when Americans travel to Islamic nations, they find the prayers charming, not offensive. Wouldn’t it be great if prayers were treated with such respect all around the world? I realize many people feel that acts of faith should be kept in the home and in churches, but if I’m keeping to myself, why should it bother anyone?
Another thing that I find fascinating is that those practicing Islam wash themselves to some extent or another before each prayer.
Think about it. You know when you see a Muslim pray that they didn’t just roll out of bed onto their knees the way many of us Mormons do. They physically prepared themselves to be clean and alert before God.
Now, I believe that God wants to hear my prayers no matter the time of day and no matter my physical state of cleanliness, but I find great beauty and wisdom in this practice even if I don’t completely agree with it.
Watching Muslims pray completely captivates me. If it’s considered rude to stare, I extend my sincere apologies, but I want the world to know that I stare because these people inspire me through their faith and good works.