For those folks unfamiliar with Islam, there are five “pillars” or duties that are required of Muslims:
1. Confessing that Allah is the one God and Muhammad is God’s messenger
2. Praying five times every day while facing Mecca
4. Giving alms to the poor
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca (this is required only for those who are able)
Muslims have been following these five pillars faithfully for well over a thousand years. As a result, the local Unit 4 school district has a policy of allowing Muslim students time to observe the second pillar of Islam during school hours. This has caused some of my more conservative Christian brothers and sisters to get all bent out of shape.
“Why don’t the Christian students get time to pray?” They screech at me in their whiny little voices.
Well, maybe it’s because we Christians have forsaken our disciplines.
In the first centuries of the Christian church, regular intervals of prayer throughout the day were well established. In fact, in monastic communities, they outdid the Muslims’ five daily prayer times by praying up to eight times a day. For example, in the early sixth century, Benedict established this prayer schedule:
Prime (shortly thereafter)
Terce (middle of the morning)
None (middle of the afternoon)
Vespers (at the end of the working day)
Compline (before bedtime)
Nocturns (middle of the night)
How many of today’s Christians still follow this pattern? How many Christians set their alarm clocks for three in the morning so they can get up and pray? That takes discipline, my friends. But we Christians today just don’t get it. A disciplined Christian today is one who gets up in the morning, reads the bible and prays, then prays again before going to bed. They also might say a very short prayer before they eat. But most Christians don’t have even this much discipline.
I am definitely an undisciplined Christian. I often go days without praying. But then, I don’t complain about it when the school district gives special prayer privileges to my more disciplined Muslim neighbors. Certain Muslims have shown that they have what it takes to pray multiple times daily and I applaud them. I am happy that they have been given special accommodations.
Maybe if we Christians would start putting our money where our big fat mouths are, the rest of society would take us seriously too.