I had never seen Friday prayers at a mosque before. On our way back from a trip to another city, we decided to stop and watch as the men assembled for worship.
It was a cold, cloudy afternoon, eerily quiet, the square almost void of people. A few minutes passed as I wandered around in front of the intricately decorated mosque, looking at the buildings and attempting but not succeeding to read the characters written on the walls. One by one, men in hats began making their way toward the mosque, passing through the arched passageway and into the courtyard. I watched the hats move toward the entrance, and sadness overcame me; it overtook my thoughts and I could think of nothing but the Lostness, so much Lostness. As more hats bobbed by, we decided to follow.
Entering that place had a strange effect on me. I love history, particularly the architecture of old or ancient peoples, so it’s often the case that when I see buildings – churches, temples, mosques – from older time periods, what comes to mind first are wonderings of what they were like when they were first built. But sometimes that wonderment conflicts with sadness at what some of these buildings represent. In this particular mosque, I did notice the colors, the ridged eaves, the curved roofs, the carvings, etc., but seeing those men file in before had made my heart ache.
As I slowly wandered, the amount of hats increased and the pairs of shoes removed and placed neatly outside the prayer hall grew – shoes on the ground, against walls, one pair even on a window sill. A range of ages were present, teenagers to old men, along with a few younger boys, one of whom decided to borrow my camera before the call to prayer sounded so he could take pictures of people and objects and the ground. (Yes, mischievous kids running around before-during-and-after service are universal.)
The call sounded, the reverberating voice bringing into the hall those still lingering outside and hurrying the steps of stragglers; the little boy quickly followed. As he went, I wondered if he really knew why he was there. I suppose this is much like churches I’m familiar with; it’s likely that younger ones don’t fully understand what’s going on and probably think more about what’s for lunch or the cool bug on the chair in front of them than the speaker’s message or the Gospel’s eternal significance.
This then made me wonder about the others in the room. Did they know? What were they hearing? Did they understand the meaning of the words they spoke or thought as they repeatedly stood, bent, lowered their faces to the ground? That train of thought continued on until it reached the question, “Do I know the answers to those questions as they apply to me?” Do I believe what I do because it’s what my parents believe, because it’s expected, it’s tradition – Or do I dig deep into the Words of the One who made me; am I prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks to give the reason for the hope that I have? (1 Peter 3:15) It can be easy to look at other beliefs and say their practices are only for the sake of tradition, but what about believers in Jesus Christ? Do we take faith for granted, or do we really yearn to know Him more, to understand His Word? Do we ask Him to make us more like Him, to show us our hidden sin, to help us joyfully obey Him to bring Him glory, not ourselves?
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
While this is a request for you to pray that Hui people will question what they believe and that they will seek the Truth, it’s also a call for you, me, for all believers in Jesus Christ to take some time to pray and think about our faith. Do we read the Bible because that’s what good Christians do, or because it’s His Word? When we bow our heads to pray, do we do so simply out of habit, or do we do so out of genuine thankfulness for what God has graciously provided, out of reverent obedience to the One who created us?