Learning About Prayer in a Foreign Land

Today’s post is from Doug Starr, a Radical Mentor, and longtime friend. He currently serves as EVP – Marketing at Allure – A Christie Company. He’s deeply in love with Jesus, his wife Wanda, his adult children and his five grandkids. Doug lives near Atlanta, GA.

A few years ago, I had the fortune of spending a couple years working with a Hasidic Jewish firm in New York. Their office was in an exclusively Jewish Orthodox community, where few outside their faith ventured. Because I’d no exposure to their culture, it was necessary for me to become part of their community and gain insight into the way they thought, operated, and navigated business challenges. So, I left the comfort of my home church and spent three weeks each month living in this seemingly foreign community, with their uncommon and archaic religious customs.

Recently, while working in Saudi Arabia, I have been reminded of this experience. While there are no Orthodox Jewish people here, they do have similar, curious religious customs. Both have a strong State-influenced form of religion that discourages, and at times punishes, those who violate their customs. But that’s not what I find interesting.

My Jewish partners had an afternoon prayer time where the building would empty each day, so the men could assemble with the local Rabbi to recite prayers and worship. I was left alone in my office to ponder what was really going on downstairs. In Saudi, each day there is a loud signal indicating it is time to run to the Mosque and pray with the Imam leading them over a loudspeaker.

In both environments, my initial reaction was to diminish what they were doing . . . praying to a God whose Son they had rejected or praying to a god that doesn’t exist. I wondered why they were so devoted to praying to God when nothing ever came of it. What’s the point?

Then the light came on.

Rather than questioning their efforts, why shouldn’t I join them in spirit wherever I was . . . by paying homage to and speaking with my God. Who listens. And speaks back. And longs for my attention. If they can do it, why can’t I?

So, I began . . . first in a cramped office in New York, and then again five times per day wherever I happened to be in a Muslim country. I prayed however I could without attempting to be a spectacle. If in my room, I found a way to emulate their efforts by getting on my knees and seriously approaching the Maker of the Universe. When in the office or public, I would bow my head and say a quick prayer, thanking God for the reminder to address Him and perhaps hear His voice in this chaotic environment.

While these Middle Eastern cultures may not have figured out who the true, living, and loving God is, they have figured out one thing. Committing to talk to God multiple times per day, when done sincerely, is a good reminder of who He really is.

Why not take a lesson from their commitment to reach out to God frequently? Take a break from the urgent to say hello to God, to seek His will, to worship, to let Him fill your cup. Do it often and do it with intention, even if just for a moment.

I know I’ll miss the reminders when I’m not here in the Region. But I’m developing the habit of thinking about and addressing Him more frequently each day. All of us should long for the day when no reminder is necessary, and we’re connected to Him more intentionally and continually. I believe He longs for that too.

Scripture: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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