The rite of prayer is one of the most important acts of worship brought by heavenly laws. This is confirmed by the final message of Islam as stated in the Qur’an:
“And for all religion We have appointed a rite…”(22:34)
The Holy Qur’an does not give much details of such act worship as regards to previous nations (Jews and Christians). It, however, alludes to its existence in previous laws. God (Allah) ordered Mary to
“be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer]” (3:43),
and said about Ishmael (son of Prophet Abraham),
“And mention in the Book, Ishmael. Indeed, he was true to his promise, and he was a messenger and a prophet. And he used to enjoin on his people prayer and zakah and was to his Lord pleasing.” (19: 54- 55),
and says about Jesus son of Mary- peace be upon him-,
“[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive” (19 / 30-32)
Going through the Bible, one sees a great difference between the Bible’s texts and modern status quo of Christian liturgy as regards to prayer. This article aims at exploring the worship of prayer in the Bible and discussing it in light of the message of Islam.
Prayer is mentioned a lot by the Bible. It is almost mentioned in the context of the supplication to the Lord or asking Him for support:
2 Corinthians 1:11: “as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many..”.
However, the Islamic concept of prayer is more tenable in comparison to the Christian one. Islam distinguishes between the linguistic concept of prayer in the sense of supplication and prayer as a rite that aims to connect the creature with the Creator. The the Bible mixes between the two. As far the Bible is concerned, we miss the practical rituals of prayer. We only find such general practices that do not give a clear-cut view of such rite.
Biblical texts as regards to prayer show the sharp contrast between them and rituals approved by contemporary churches nowadays. There are some commonalities between the Bible and Islam as regards to the rite of prayer in Islam which are set aside by contemporary churches today:
Jesus prohibits showing-off in the rite of prayer and condemns stressing ritual manifestations of worship at the expense of spiritual aspects: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 6)
In the Bible we see prostration:
1 Timothy 2:8 “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.”
Revelation 7: 11 “All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.”
Revelation 14: 7 “He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Revelation 15: 4 “Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
Revelation 19:4 “The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”!
1 Corinthians 14:25 “as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”.
Matthew 26:39 “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”. “
We also see, in prayers, praises for God and invocation for His forgiveness:
Acts 16:25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them”.
Worship may, also, be done while standing:
Luke 11:18 “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector..
We see both: individual and collective prayers:
Luke 18:10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector..”
Mark 1:35 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
One may also go out to prayer:
Acts 16:16: “Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.”
We also read about prayers by day and night:
As for the evening prayer, the Christians performed it before they came to their beds. They thank God for the grace that He bestowed on them during the day:
The Book of Nehemiah: 1-6: “let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you…”
Luke 6:12 “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”
Psalm 42: 8 “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me– a prayer to the God of my life.”
One may raise hands while invoking God in prayer:
Isaiah 1:15 “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!.”
In fact, the New Testament requires Christians to follow the law of the Jews in their prayers. In the Bible Jesus is reported:
“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:21, 22).
Acts 16:13: “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there..”
Accordingly, why are ecclesiastical rituals of prayer nowadays not following the rituals of prayer as told by the Bible? Why should the prayers have been limited to certain days, and many Protestant churches have become free of their guests, while the book itself urges them to keep on prayers?:
According to the Epistle of Paul to the Colossians 4: 2
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful..”
Acts 10: 2 “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly..”
Churches have focused on the distinction between the prayers by common people and clergymen i.e. monks and priest who were ordered to perform many prayers. The first are required to perform two prayers only, one by day and one by night while monks in monasteries or in seclusion are required to establish seven monastic prayers, citing Paul’s letter to the Corinthians Which says:
“I pray with the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:15).
They moreover, claim that Jesus gave them the freedom to recite words of prayer of their own choice, provided they did not renounce the prayer that Jesus Christ taught them.
Did the monks retain the right of legislation in the rite of prayer? It seems that such rite has been influenced by heretic intervention with holy texts, especially at the hand of the ecclesiastical Council of Nicaea, which abolished many of the laws of Christianity for some purposes!
Establishing prayer, Christians neither completely followed the law of the Jews nor strictly followed their scripture. They introduced music in the place of worship while Jesus himself did not do so?. Why did all the prayers have been mixed with songs, which – in some cases – are devoid of meaningful meanings? Why did the Church set one day for this ritual while the Bible is full of texts referring to prayers by day and night?
It is quite strange that the Vatican Council continues to make many changes to the prayer rite throughout the Christian Catholic world. Establishing prayer, most of the Christians perform the following rites:
A priest enters the Church and the audience stands and salute him in a holy manner. He then says “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He then makes a dialogue between him and the congregation which revolves around the sanctification of God and praise for him. He then asks God for repentance to erase sins, forgive them through confession, then asks them to make invocation. He makes a Latin invocation and plead with the Lord Christ and the saints. The group says: “O Jesus Christ, have mercy on us”. The prayer is followed by the Lord’s Supper, and it is concluded with a short invocation.
Both the Protestant churches, the Methodist and the Anglican, participate in the Catholic prayer including confession, repentance and forgiveness, the renewal of faith, the confirmation of basic beliefs, praises and glorification, prayer and recitation of the Gospel. The formulation of all the rites vary according to different churches methodologies. There are features by which some churches abide by:
-Not using Latin language in prayer.
-Not using songs in prayer.
-Silence in invocation..
-Deletion of words the declaring Christ as a god.
Although many churches suggest seven prayers by day and night for Prayers for the Christians not all of the Christian societies abide by them. These include: individual and secret prayers, family prayer in the house, public prayer in the church, the most important of which is the Sunday prayer, where the priest recites some of the psalms-related texts or the Bible. At the end of each section invocation .
The Islamic religion as the eternal message to humanity came to rectify those matters and put them in their right place. In Islam, prayer is considered one of the most important pillars in which the Qur’an, which contains the stories of early prophets, including Jesus peace be upon him-is recited. Such a rite is not changed anyway as reported from the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) Unlike Christian rituals which have been subject to change and distortion.