When I first visited Indonesia in January 2013, I was told many different things in regards to what I should expect from life in a Muslim country. I remember being reminded about dressing more conservatively, and being told about the different cleanliness standards in regards to food and bathroom behavior. However, while I am sure it was mentioned at some point, I don’t ever remember being reminded about the reoccurring Call to Prayer.
From my apartment, I can easily see at least four mosques. One, below me, is part of the village and has no overt identifying markers from above. (The only reason I know that it exists is because I can hear the broadcast clearly, and because someone in my host family pointed out which structure it was when we were walking past.) The other three have minarets, raising just above the first line of sight, that shine silver in the sun throughout Jakarta’s twelve hours of daylight.
There have been rare moments when the call to prayer has intimidated me — it’s loud, it’s frequent, and it’s a constant reminder that I no longer live in a country that comes from a Christian background, even if it doesn’t live up to that standard. However, I have found that during the call to prayer, I find myself reflecting on my own prayers and relationship with God.
It’s no secret that the modern (American) Christian church isn’t very good at standards. We flip flop between values, and we want spiritual comfort and security without being willing to develop any sort of foundation or consistency in our own spiritual lives. We reject overt cultural reminders of our faith out of the fear that religion will make us look weak or less hip or bigoted or naïve. And, while I am not saying that public loudspeaker broadcasts of a prayer that people don’t even understand* is the way to create a more well-balanced American church, there is a lesson to be learned here, at least for my own life.
I started writing this blog post at 4 a.m. after waking up from a particularly jet-lagged night. Since then, I attended a church service where the pastor talked about prayer, and how prayer is a good barometer for your relationship with Christ. I know that there are nominal Muslims in Indonesia, just as there are nominal Christians in the states. However, I would imagine that if we, as Christians — even the in-name-only Christians —spoke with God even half the amount of times as the number and duration prescribed by Islamic law, our relationship with Him would improve. That’s a sad reality to reflect upon, but I really believe it’s true.
So, that’s what I have been reflecting upon for the past few weeks.
*The Call to Prayer is spoken and broadcasted in Arabic, which is not a widely spoken language in Indonesia. It’s a classic #religionproblem, really, of the people being attached to a religion that isn’t always presented in a manner meant to be fully understood.