Thousands of people halt their activities at certain times throughout the day to turn toward their god and pray…unfortunately Muslims in Indonesia have been facing the wrong direction.
Last week, CNN reported that Muslims in that country had been mistakenly “directed” to face the wrong direction when praying toward Mecca. All those prayers were inadvertently being sent to Africa. Thank god (?) the mosques in Indonesia didn’t need to be torn down and rebuilt according to new coordinates. Worshippers only needed to “adjust their praying direction slightly.”
While as a follower of Christ I may feel chagrined at what I see as foolishness or, more so, a people in need of better directions, I appreciate the advice for believers to adjust their praying direction slightly. As Christians, we bow-lift our heads, fold-raise our hands, kneel-prostrate ourselves before our Lord. We know—as one Indonesian Muslim stated about his religion’s incident—that God hears our prayers whether we are sitting in church or crying out from the belly of a fish.
But from what direction do our prayers come? Are they focused too inwardly? Do our prayers begin with what we want and need? When I begin to pray, am I like the man who hates to stop at the gas station and ask for directions or the one who affectionately refers to his GPS as Doris?
Jesus gives us directions on how to pray. Although he knew he would eventually face a gruesome physical death and the weight of every human being’s sin pressing on a kingly crown of thorns, he began his example of prayer with his heart facing God:
“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name…” And it continues with half of his prayer praising and honoring God before any request is uttered.
But his prayer also comes from another direction. With his heart facing each of us: “Our Father…Give, Forgive, Lead, Deliver…us.”
The second half of the prayer invites us to kneel beside him as he prays, first in praise of God and second in the will of God. And always with our hearts in his direction.