Christianity and Islamic Teachings
As directed by their holy scripture, Christian and Islamic prayer traditions reveals how both believe prayer not only brings them in the presence of God, but also, that prayer is essential to living life that best honors Him. This scholarly enterprise looks at the historical comparison and contrast of prayer in Christianity, and Islam as the foundation of living a life honoring God.
Living the life best honoring God in both Christian and Islamic traditions in the correct act of supplication remains fundamental to their profession of faith in God and faith in the power of God helping the believer live a life worth living venerating God. Prayer for both Christian and Islamic traditions in living life honoring God draws on the Judeo belief Abraham brought monotheism to humanity as the friend of God and the father of the covenant between God and his chosen people. Prayer connected to the covenant with God from the inception of both Christianity and Islam.
Christianity’s New Testament directs prayer (1 Thess. 5:17 and Col. 3:17) and as Paul’s prayer for honoring God, “Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the undeserved favor of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:12). It is the very nature of Islam and the Holy Qur'an dictates the practice of prayer as fundamental to Islam as not just a practice of faith in God but also, a complete way of life. “ I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they MAY walk in the right way” (Q. 2:186 Shakir).
Patterns of prayer as part of a life honoring God exist in both Christian and Islamic daily practices. Christianity’s first church was Catholic. Praying three times, a day in this denomination proved the means for guidance for living a Christ-filled life honoring God through the Spirit. This provides a contemplative demeanor in facing the world through God’s presence resulting from prayer. The first three centuries of Christianity living a life honoring God meant prayer occurring intermittently on a daily basis either privately with the entire family, or in small groups of fellowship as believers.
The Old Testament from Judeo tradition recognized and integrated by both Christian and Islamic faiths provides how prayer directs life in honoring God as in Proverbs, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (3:6). Since the first Christians were predominantly Jewish converts, daily Christian lives honoring God took place in ritual practice of prayer remaining in the Judeo tradition. With the Roman Emperor Constantine conversion to Christianity, the religion spread throughout Europe over the centuries under the Holy Roman Catholic Church and the daily practice of prayer as a way of life honoring God continued.
The practice of three times a day centered around the dividing the time into morning, high noon, and evening – and other patterns according to the divisions of the work day led by the Bible directing, “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God” (Philippians 4:6). Until Martin Luther initiated the Reformation movement of the 14th century from the Catholic Church the act of prayer three times a day remained specifically occurring at the third hour, noon, and the last at the ninth hour as previously outlined.
The comparison of prayer as a means for living a life honoring God remains constant through Christian belief today but with Protestantism the similarity in prayer taking place at specific times of day similar to the five times a day of the Muslim adherence to the Five Pillars makes drastic changes. Prayer times a day changing with the Reformation became particularly a personal practice without the Catholic tradition of rosaries. Protestant Christian practice of prayer as part of a life honoring God initiating the traditional changes adhered to the scripture of the New Testament as the doctrine leading the call for prayer by believers. The ongoing analysis of the act of prayer framing a life for Christ and therefore, honoring God remains fundamental to the intellectualism of the religion.
Unlike the changes of ritual prayer on a daily basis at specific times of Christian practices with the Protestant Reformation movement under Martin Luther in the 14th century, Islamic ritual prayers remains intact as when the Prophet Muhammad directed specific times of day as the explicit act of living a life honoring God through worship. Of the five pillars of Islam of the Holy Qur’an, the second pillar dictates the practice of prayer five times a day as compulsory. First prayer is between first light and sunrise; the second after the sun has passed the middle of the sky, the third between mid-afternoon and sunset, the fourth between sunset and the final at the last light of the day (20:14). Fundamental to Islam remains the duty of prayer as a way of life honoring Allah (God) beginning after puberty whether male or female.
The division of the Qur’an into five parts called the five pillars as already mentioned shows the second pillar or second part of the Qur’an a complete directory of the ritual practice of prayer. Islam daily practice of prayer as a way of living honoring Allah (God) includes ritual but preferably actual washing as part of the fundamental precepts of the act of prayer in honoring Him. This purification practice showing overt honor to God means washing hands, head, nose, face, mouth, ears, arms, and feet and represents the outward sign of cleanliness in honoring God in prayer. Additionally, this prerequisite to the act of praying includes repentance of past sins as well as resolving sins taking place in the future. The Islamic daily practice as a way of life honoring God is the singularly most sacred of Muslim disciplined acts of worship both mentally and physically. Again, the second pillar of the five of the division of the Holy Qur’an dictates all action practiced in the ritual of prayer. Prayer means the Muslim humbles his/her self to God, praising, repenting, seeking God’s mercy, guidance, forgiveness while glorifying God. Prayer according to the second Pillar directs the intention of Muslim prayer as God’s tool keeping evil out of the daily lives of the believers. Prayer reminds the Muslim it is his or her responsibility to make prayer a part of their daily life in order to honor God using prayer as the means for keeping their actions from committing evil.
As affirmed in the introduction, this scholarly enterprise provided the historical comparison and contrast of prayer in Christianity, and Islam as the foundation of living a life honoring God. In comparison the Christian and Muslim act of prayer as worshipping and honoring God directly connects the believer to God helping him or her remember God and his commandments. Both the Christian and Islamic faiths provide distinct instruction in the correct manner of connecting to God in prayer adding to the similarities of the two in practicing their faith. The most evident contrast as discussed in this scholarly exercise is that Christians are not obliged to pray whereas Muslims are.