Prayer: Christian and Muslim Perspectives

David Marshall
Lucinda Mosher
Afterword by Rowan Williams
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Prayer: Christian and Muslim Perspectivesis a rich collection of essays, scriptural texts, and personal reflections featuring leading scholars analyzing the meaning and function of prayer within their traditions. Drawn from the 2011 Building Bridges seminar in Doha, Qatar, the essays in this volume explore the devotional practices of each tradition and how these practices are taught and learned. Relevant texts are included, with commentary, as are personal reflections on prayer by each of the seminar participants. The volume also contains a Christian reflection on Islamic prayer and a Muslim reflection on Christian prayer. An extensive account of the informal conversations at the seminar conveys a vivid sense of the lively, penetrating, but respectful dialogue that took place.

    eISBN: 978-1-62616-024-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Participants and Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    This volume presents a record of the tenth Building Bridges seminar for Christian and Muslim scholars, on the theme of “Prayer,” convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and held at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, May 17–19, 2011.

    Following an established pattern, after an opening day of public lectures, the second and third days were spent in private sessions. This volume follows the structure of the seminar closely. The preface draws on comments made by Rowan Williams in introducing the seminar. After reviewing the development of the Building Bridges process to this...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    • Lived Prayer: Some Examples from the Christian Tradition
      (pp. 3-12)

      The Long Search, a world religions documentary series, included an episode focused on Christianity in which the host, Ronald Eyre, asked a Benedictine monk, Father Miguel, “What is prayer?” They were at the monastery of Montserrat, surrounded by pilgrims lighting candles, attending the services, singing hymns, and kissing the image of the Virgin Mary long revered there. The pilgrims were also laughing, enjoying the sun and picnic lunches outside the monastery church. The host observed that it seemed like a summer day at the beach or in a park: what did all this have to do with prayer? The monk...

    • A Qurʾānic Theology of Prayer
      (pp. 13-24)

      “He is the Living One. There is no God save Him. So pray unto Him, making religion purely (sincerely) for Him” (40:65).¹ This verse may be said to sum up the basic theological attitude toward prayer in Islam. Prayer directed to the one true God is the logical concomitant of the fundamental tenet of the faith, that oftawḥīd: there is no divinity but the one God,lā ilāha illā’ Llah. Praying to God and eschewing all other would-be partners is to make religion pure (ikhlāṣ), purifying it ofshirk, belief in and orientation to many gods, the idolatry flowing...

    • Muslim Prayer in Practice
      (pp. 25-40)

      Prayer in Islam is understood in at least three different ways, with each linked organically to the others: (1)ṣalāt(ritual prayer), (2)duʿāʾ (personal supplication), and (3)dhikr(prayer of the heart, recollection, or remembrance of God). All three forms and the manner in which Muslims have practiced them derive from the Qurʾān and the Sunna (the prophetic tradition).

      Essentially meaning to pray, glorify, and bless, ṣalāt occurs in the Qurʾān in at least four forms:

      1. All God’s creation in the heavens and the earth perform ṣalāt. God says in the Qurʾān:

      “Do you not see that all...

    • Christian Prayer in Practice
      (pp. 41-52)

      All forms of prayer necessarily involve particular practices, whether brief or extended, complex or simple, alone or in common. However, from a Christian perspective, practices only make sense, spiritually and theologically, as explicit realizations of something more fundamental—our relationship with God. For this reason I want to begin with a few theoretical remarks. There are different Christian traditions with distinctive emphases, but what I will say reflects my own Western Catholic tradition.

      How is the human relationship with God understood in Christianity? In brief, Christians believe that God, while the ultimate mystery, is nevertheless revealed to us as a...

    • A Muslim Response to Christian Prayer
      (pp. 53-64)

      I recall that on one occasion my mother, a pious Muslim who grew up in a town in central Anatolia in Turkey, asked her professor son the basic question, “Do Christians pray to Jesus?” with a tone of puzzlement and, it must be said, impending disapproval. Her difficulty stemmed from thinking about her own daily prayers and supplications to God—forehead on the ground or hands raised toward the heavens—and what it would be like to direct those prayers to Jesus. For any Muslim, the substance of prayer consists in gratitude for blessings bestowed, repentance for wrongs committed, petitions...

    • A Christian Perspective on Muslim Prayer
      (pp. 65-72)

      Whenever one talks about prayer, one is treading on holy ground, and that is particularly the case when one is speaking about others’ prayer. One has no access to that secret space in which God and the believer encounter one another most intimately, and there is certainly no question of making judgments. In this chapter I hope to share some observations about my experience as a friend and admirer of Muslims who pray, particularly the insights that have been prompted by them—observations about things that seem to me to be common to us as well as those that offer...

    • Response
      (pp. 73-76)

      After the great intellectual and spiritual nourishment of the day, it is a little difficult to boil things down into a few minutes at the end. But I have five words that I have picked up from today’s discussion, on each of which I shall offer some brief reflections.

      The first word isfriendship. The point was made this morning that our common ancestor in faith, Abraham, is called “God’s friend,” and that there is in all our reflection about prayer a crucial and central element of thinking about what it is to be a friend of God. In a...

    • The Lord’s Prayer
      (pp. 79-90)

      The Viennese philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s comments about language suggest thatwhatwords mean andhowthey mean can be abstracted from neither those who speak nor those who hear. This resistance to abstraction is surely true of the words of prayer in Jesus’s teaching; that teaching is embedded in his own life, and it directs us both to the lives of those who pray and to the faithfulness of God who hears.

      In the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s gospel (6:5–8), Jesus contrasts two ways of praying by comparing the assumptions embedded in them about what makes...

    • Al-Fātiḥa
      (pp. 91-98)

      One cannot speak about Sūrat al-Fātiḥa without speaking of prayer because the Fātiḥa is used in every act ofal-ṣalāt,the Muslim formal prayer. Every Muslim who recites her five daily prayers recites the Fātiḥa seventeen times a day. If one prays the Sunna or supererogatory prayers, the number of recitations may be even higher. The Arabic wordfātiḥameans “opening.” The Fātiḥa is an opening for the Qurʾān because it is the first of the Qurʾānicsūras. It is also an opening for the ṣalāt prayer because without the Fātiḥa the ṣalāt prayer is not valid. The Prophet Muhammad...

    • Prayer in the Spirit in Romans 8
      (pp. 99-114)

      Christian prayer derives from many sources: Jesus’s own prayer (“Abba, Father”), the prayer he gave the disciples (the Lord’s Prayer), his final prayer before his death in John 17 (the High-Priestly Prayer), and the hymns of praise in the book of Revelation, as well as many passages in the New Testament letters, quite apart from its immense debt to the Old Testament. I have chosen to examine chapter 8 in St Paul’s Letter to the Romans in order to explore how deeply Christian prayer is rooted in the relationship between Jesus, the Spirit, and the Father. I will first offer...

    • In Reverence of the Almighty: Understanding Prayer and Worship in Qurʾān 3:190–94 and 29:45
      (pp. 115-120)

      The passage that opens this essay (3:190–94) is among the most significant clusters of verses in the Qurʾān concerned with prayer and supplication in its various forms. The second passage (29:45) is another important verse on this theme, emphasizing different elements of establishing a personal relationship with God through worship and reflection. In this essay I discuss these verses, drawing selectively on exegetical and pious edificatory literature through the centuries.

      These verses occur in the third sūra, which was revealed during the early Medinan period, very likely during the third and fourth years after thehijra. This was a...

    • Learning to Pray with and in the Christian Tradition: Personal Reflections
      (pp. 123-134)

      As is to some extent reflected in the collection of personal reflections at the end of this volume, the Christian tradition offers several different accounts of prayer, and there are at least as many different approaches to learning or teaching to pray. In this chapter I do not attempt to provide a map of all of these or a detailed discussion of any of them. By way of introduction, I rehearse some of my formative memories and recollections of learning to pray not to privilege my own experience but in the hope that this might be more informative and palatable...

    • Learning to Pray as a Muslim: The Foundational Stage
      (pp. 135-140)

      In this brief essay I present my observations and experiences of learning and teaching prayer in Islam. As my focus is on the practical side of learning and teaching to pray at the foundational level, I will say little about the theology and philosophy of prayer in Islam. I will also make very limited use of the Qurʾān to support my observations, presenting my understanding of only a small sample of verses relevant to the subject of prayer.

      Most Muslims generally understand and approach prayer in two ways:ṣalātandduʿāʾ.Ṣalātrefers to the ritual prayers five times a...

    • Growing in Prayer as a Christian
      (pp. 141-146)

      For me, prayer is a love affair in which words, gestures, and memory all come into play. I have read many books on prayer; most of them offered me little help. Why? Not because their authors are insincere, nor because their authors have not had considerable experience, but because a love affair by definition is unique. My love affair will not be yours, nor yours mine. “Pray as you can, not as you ought” is a wise saying. I particularly like the phrase “love affair” because it emphasizes that this relationship is unique and special; its human equivalent is also...

    • Growing in Prayer as a Muslim: Reflections and Lessons of a Struggler
      (pp. 147-158)

      I often reflect that the prayer-related growth we most need within the Muslim community is like a hidden treasure buried beneath or within the religious obligation. I say “obligation” here because prayer is often presented and taught as a duty, as something we owe God, rather than as a way God—in the infinite mercy and love we believe God extends to us—has opened for us to approach and come close to the One who is the ultimate goal of all our longing and unrest. So in my community teaching and in my own self-coaching, I try to engender...

    • Conversations in Qatar
      (pp. 159-174)

      Building Bridges seminars are characterized by what Rowan Williams has called “appreciative conversation.” The size of these gatherings encourages collegiality; so does the methodology. Seminar participants are assigned to break-out groups. Because the membership of each group is consistent throughout the seminar, it is easy to continue a conversational thread from the previous day. A moderator ensures that everyone may contribute to these conversations; a scribe keeps a journal. So, while rich informal conversation takes place over meals, on the bus, and in the hotel lobby, more formal conversation results during the small-group sessions.

      This essay draws from the journals...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 175-178)

    Two themes seem to pervade a great deal of the rich material gathered here. The first is the inescapable recognition in both Christian and Muslim reflection on prayer that it is not enough to think of praying as something we do. A lot of the time we may speak of prayer as if it were a matter of human action directed toward a distant God, seeking his attention. Yet as soon as we remember what kind of God we are talking about, such a model breaks down completely; for this is a God who, for the Muslim, can be described...

  10. Personal Reflections on Prayer
    (pp. 179-200)

    Before the seminar each participant was asked to write a short personal reflection in response to this request: “Imagine someone who claims not to understand prayer asking you what prayer means to you. What are your first thoughts? What do you tell this person? Feel free to draw on your own experience.” This section consists of these reflections.

    To me, prayer (duʿāʾ—supplication), as the Prophet Muḥammad said, is the essence of worship. In the Qurʾān God encourages us to pray and promises us he will answer (40:60). We pray in obedience to Him and trust in His wisdom, power,...

  11. Index
    (pp. 201-210)