Opinion

During Lent, a Christian tried praying 5 times a day

Muslim women bow during evening prayer at the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on the first day of the month of Ramadan on June 6, 2016. RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

(RNS) — While working in the Muslim community the past few years, I’ve grown to question why, as a Christian, I don’t pray more often.

For my Muslim friends, their five daily prayers, or salat, are about ritual and commitment, not about asking for specific things or finding comfort in difficult times. But for me, prayer is very often something I stumble into when I’m upset, happy, worried, aggravated or in need of a deep breath and regrounding. I certainly wouldn’t refer to it as a ritual, aside from when I’m in church or before meals growing up.

The more time I’ve spent around my Muslim friends, the more I’ve considered being more deliberate about my prayer life. So for Lent this year, I took a page from their (holy) book and prayed five times each day.

Is this Christian?

I know what many of you are thinking: Doesn’t this blur the lines between Christian practice and Islamic tradition?

As it turns out, Christians are supposed to pray multiple times a day anyway — at least three for most and up to seven for Catholics.

After speaking with two priests I admire, I decided to set up my daily schedule using a Muslim prayer time app in combination with the Book of Common Prayer, a guide for Anglicans (and by extension, Episcopalian Christians) originally published in 1549.

Within these time frames, this was my daily schedule:

  • Between 5:27 a.m. and sunrise: Daily Morning Prayer Rite One, BCP (an app on my phone changes the psalms and chapters so I don’t have to manually select them).
  • 12:20 p.m. until 3:30 p.m.: Noonday prayer, BCP.
  • 3:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.: Recite the Great Litany, BCP.
  • 6 p.m. until 7:15 p.m.: Evening Prayer Rite Two, BCP.
  • 7:15 p.m. until I go to bed: I read a Compline, either the New Zealand version or one on my app.

Most of these prayers take 10-20 minutes, which I only recently realized is much longer than my Muslim friends spend on each of their prayers.

I considered shortening each one, but I realized that my prayer is a lot less obvious than Muslim prayer — there’s less movement and my prayers are in English — and much easier to do in public than my Muslim counterparts’, so I can’t fully understand the commitment to prayer that they have in terms of public visibility. When I pray it can be quiet or even silent, and not once has anyone given me a strange look or asked me what I’m doing.

What I’ve experienced

This experience has made me more aware of my relationship with God throughout my day, and I believe has made me a more patient person, although you should ask my family, friends and co-workers to find out for sure.

It’s given me a much deeper appreciation for Muslim Americans who shape their day around their prayers, and how this practice leads them to wearing their faith on their sleeves.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

It also explains a lot about the patience and compassion I’ve found in the Muslim community, as this style and ritual of prayer challenges individuals to take pauses throughout the day to center their mind on God and scripture.

I’ve also learned that following this schedule is very, very hard. There were many days when I was out and about and completely forgot to pray, times I was tempted to rush or skip through prayer, and for a majority of days, I was late to finish each prayer.

It was a powerful opportunity to step outside of my world and into relationship with God, and the more I practiced this the more I felt God’s presence with me throughout my day.

Why others should try this, too

Anyone who wants to deepen their own relationship with God should try setting up a prayer cycle, or some variation. Episcopalians,  like me, are especially welcome to use my model, and those of other denominations or faiths I’m sure can cultivate their own practices.

And in terms of our relationships to each other across lines of difference, anyone hoping to learn more about Muslim Americans would benefit from this as well, as there’s no deeper empathy than through genuine practice and understanding.

(Kate Chance is the community engagement manager for Islamic Networks Group, a nonprofit organization with affiliates and partners around the country that are pursuing peace and countering all forms of bigotry. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

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