by melinda bak
many christians, many jews, many muslims
believe they are the only ones who pray to the one true God
Hands on hips and barely 8, I didn't think to pray before putting the playground bully on notice, "My Dad is bigger than your Dad!"
Now that we're older and more mature, we've upped the ante, "My God is bigger! My prayers are the ones God prefers! God loves my people more than your people!" And it may be true.
maybe our God is bigger
Bigger than the limits we set for Him. Bigger than the love we have for Him. Bigger than our prayers to Him. Bigger than our limits upon one another. What if, God is bigger?
Bigger perhaps than our own tribe, sect or denomination of believers? We've heard the belittling of others' faith; our friends, our family, speaking in smallish ways about others. Their primary critique is not the other monotheistic religions (Jews, Christians, Muslims) but our own people, the tributaries within our own stream: too unorthodox, foolish, too liberal, tradition without meaning, irrelevant, compromised, pandering, permissive, ideological, stringent, exclusive, out-of-touch.
And always the implication is that "our faith is better than theirs" and thus our prayers are more rightly prayed, more appreciated by the ONE TRUE GOD. How much greater then is our revulsion at the prayers of those who seem to believe nothing like we believe: Christian, Muslim, Jew?
why is it that we need others to be wrong
in order to be right
It is a matter of identity. It is a matter of culture, of faith, of familiarity.
It is a matter of honor. It is also a matter of economy and governance. We argue for "Our God" because everything rests upon our being right. This is more than an academic question and more than a question of theology.
It is a question of hope.
Ultimately, when we pray, we are asking God to be on "our side," to vindicate our cause above another's.
so who is God's favorite child
Is it the patriarch Abraham's son Isaac - through whom the Jews trace their lineage to the ONE TRUE GOD?
Or is it through the Prophet Abraham's first-born son Ishmael, whose very name means "God hears," through whom the Muslims trace their lineage to the ONE TRUE GOD?
Christians trace their lineage to the ONE TRUE GOD through Jesus, who is descended from David of the tribe of Judah, who is the child of Leah and Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham.
What if THE ONE TRUE GOD has always played favorites, and his favorite is Abraham?
What if the God who welcomed the prayers of Abraham - before there was a Synagogue, Church, or Mosque - still welcomed the prayers of all who humbly get on their knees and truly seek His Presence?
what if God's favorite "tribe"
is the tribe who does not malign the name of God in order to rationalize dishonorable acts in His name, the tribe that does not speak maligning words about their own or others?
What if God's favorite is those who honor His HOLY NAME by the way they honor not only those who think like them, but especially those who do not?
Each Holy Book commands that we love others not because of their worthiness, but because it is His greatest command. LOVE anyway.
We love one another because the ONE GOD has commanded it. We love one another because we dishonor God with our lives, our faith, our prayers if we do not.
theological difference that is not the enemy
of the God who loves
It is hate. The other tribe is not the enemy.
Hate is the enemy of God.
Those who LOVE as the ONE TRUE GOD commands, love even those who differ.
They love their crazy cousins from the other tribes of Abraham. They pray humble and not haughty prayers for one another.
And prayer changes us. Prayer makes us more willing to hear God.
But what if people pray in the wrong way, in the wrong name, pray with wrong belief?
Well, God hears.
God hears not because we understand Him, but because we seek Him. God hears.
And as we pray, our understanding deepens.
God changes us.
But God's nature is not altered by our rightly prayed or wrongly prayed prayers.
God is God.
Our different tribal identities (Isaac/Moses, Ishmael/Muhammad, Isaac/Jesus) are so strong that we often marginalize our biblical-cousins in order to vindicate our sense of worthiness. But God is God and will hear the prayers of His children, in spite of their differences.
whether we pray rightly or wrongly,
Prayers certain of our own spiritual-privilege may leave us feeling separate (and occasionally superior) to others, but they do not have the power to divide the ONE TRUE GOD.
The ONE TRUE GOD is not suddenly transformed into three Gods, one for each tribe, simply because our imaginations cannot grasp how God could hear the prayers of three people.
God is bigger than the smallness of our prayers.
God is bigger than our theological differences and bigger than our linguistic obstacles.
God hears when we pray G-D, Elohim, Eloi, Alaha, Allah, God, Dios.
When Moses (known to all the Abrahamic faiths) asked God, "Who shall I say sent me?" God answered, "say I AM sent you." It's a verbish name, (a first-person conjugation) from the verb TO BE. It's God saying, I AM existence (BEing) itself.
do Muslims, Christians, Jews
in the same God
to the same God
the tribal languages of Jews, Muslims, and Christians
share a Semitic origin, all finding their name for God in the cognate al-ilāh.
The language of Moses, Abraham and Jacob was Hebrew and called God 'Ēl in Canaanite, Elohim (and Eloi) in Hebrew. In the New Testament language of Jesus (Aramaic Greek), God was Elah (pronounced El-ah). In Arabic, also a Semitic language, God is called Allah (pronounced Al-lah). The word God was a pre-Germanic "Gott" (Proto-Indo-European) from the word ǵʰu-tó-m; the "hu" meaning idol to whom sacrifices were made. While the word "God" remains an apropos translation, it is the singular title with no direct origin in the Torah, the Bible, or the Quran. And still, God hears.
So, what if God's hearing is better than ours?
What if God can hear the people of our own faith who pray incorrectly? What if God can hear people who call to Him in other languages, using other names, even with really odd beliefs about God? What if God hears imperfect prayers?
we pray - imperfectly
Jews pray to the ONE G-D three times a day: morning (Shacharit), afternoon (Minchah) and at nightfall (Arvith or Maariv). This was the custom of the Patriarchs. Abraham introduced morning prayer, Isaac added prayer at noon and Jacob closed the day with the addition of evening prayer. In the Zohar (where the Torah is revealed) it is said that Abraham served with LOVE, Isaac with AWE, and Jacob with MERCY. Thus, Jewish prayers embody these three qualities, evidenced in love, awe and mercy for others.
Muslims pray to the ONE God, Allah five times a day, as a constant reminder to seek God's guidance and forgiveness. (Allah is the Arabic word for God and is the same name Arabic-speaking Christians use to call upon the ONE TRUE GOD.) Muslims pray at predawn (Fajir), noon (Dhuhr), late afternoon ('Asr), sunset (Maghrib), and before bed ('Isha). Muslims pray Allah (God) is Most Great. God is Most Great. God is Most Great. God is Most Great. I bear witness that there is none worthy of being worshiped except God. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Ash-hadu an la ilaha ill-Allah. Ash-hadu an la ilaha ill-Allah.
Christians, like Jews and Muslims, keep a holy day, a Sabbath dedicated to time with God and family. Christian tradition through the centuries has prayed three times a day (like Jews): at morning (The Third Hour/Acts 3:1), noon (The Sixth Hour/Acts 10:9), and night (The Ninth Hour/Acts 10:1-3) in keeping with the Jewish followers of Jesus in the first Century. Other Christians have taken the practice of "praying in the Spirit at all times" (Eph 6:18), believing (like Muslims) that we are to constantly seek God's guidance, forgiveness, and help. This practice has produced a people who pray dozens of times throughout the day rather than at specified hours.
we pray because God loves us
But, be warned: God will use our prayers to grow our love for the things God loves. Other tribes. Other people.
Our God is bigger.
What might happen if we prayed?
With one another?
& start a conversation
I have an editorial comment or found a mistake.