A friendly study of the world's religions is a sacred duty
. -Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What makes the world go round

According to the US Center for World Mission about 54% of the world's population is either Jewish, Muslim or Christian. (That was in the year 2000 and surely the number has fluctuated somewhat since then.) More than half of the entire world is a member of one of these three religions. This first makes me think about how as humans, we must not be quite as different as we sometimes think! Judaism, Islam and Christianity have a handful of important, good, intriguing similarities and if more than half of the world believes in either Judaism, Islam or Christianity, then more than half of the humans in the world have a handful of important, good, intriguing similarities, too.

Of all the similarities these three grand religions share, one of the very most important and interesting to me would have to be that all three teach the importance, meaning, and indispensable nature of prayer to God. Jews pray to God silently and out loud, they sing and speak their prayers, they pray in private and in public. In the Torah, prayer is taught as being something from the heart, not just the mouth -- meaningful, genuine supplication and devotion to God is key.

Muslims pray five times a day and this daily prayer is part of their religious structure, the Five Pillars of Islam. However, it is not only required that Muslims physically pray these prayers, it is (just as it is for Jews) crucial that each prayer comes from the heart and that the one praying is in the right mindset for worshipping their one, true, omnipotent God. The "call to prayer" is what is sung or spoken five times each day, in places where it is permitted or required by law, in order to remind each Muslim that it's that time again. Here's a clip of a beautiful "call to prayer" that I found on YouTube, it's in Abu Dhabi (I hope my husband and I go there someday soon...).

Christians pray to God, too. They also pray to Mary and other saints, but I want to talk about how they pray to God, just like Jews and Muslims pray to God. Some Christian worshippers pray memorized prayers, prayers from the Bible, sometimes they, too, pray in private and sometimes in public. They say grace, that prayer right before you eat dinner, much like Jews and how Jewish Rabbis bless certain foods. I am a Christian. The children in my church, all around the world, are taught the importance of prayer when they're just tiny. Children All Over the World is one of many songs that the kids learn, every song teaching a different important principle. This one is about how we thank God in prayer. Christians thank God in prayer, they ask for things, and they even share with God their personal feelings of joy or sadness or concern or whatever else.

I'm so intrigued by the amazing way Jews, Muslims and Christians pray. All three love their God, all three feel the need to thank Him, all three recognize their own lowliness in God's sight, all recognize the need for God.

While it is fun and happy to note these wonderful similarities, I think it's important to remember that they all three have stark contrasts as well. Think about this: if all humans were the same then there'd only be one religion (or maybe there wouldn't be one at all?) and we'd all do the same thing in the same way, interpreting things the same and living out the same traditions as each other. The most important difference, I think, between these three religions is simply just that, that they're different. That's what makes the world go round.

No comments:

Post a Comment