Mustafah the Tailor
“You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.” – Psalm 139:3
“Working is a lot more than economics,” affirmed the journalist Studs Terkel in his classic collection of interviews with workers from all walks of life, appropriately titled Working. Terkel continued, “It’s about a search for daily meaning as well as for daily bread, for recognition as well as cash; in short, for a sort of life, rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”
The Psalm for this Saturday before Labor Day also affirms that daily search for meaning. Whatever our work, I think we yearn for the One who knows, in the words of Psalm 139, “when we sit down and when we rise up.” The One who searches out our paths and is acquainted with all our ways, wherever we are and whatever work we’re doing.
In The Oxford Book of Prayer, an Arab Christian named Mustafah gives voice to that longing in his prayer about his work:
O God, I am Mustafah the tailor and I work in the shop of Muhammad Ali. The whole day long I sit and pull the needle and the thread through the cloth. O God, you are the needle and I am the thread. I am attached to you and I follow you. When the thread tries to slip away from the needle, it becomes tangled and must be cut so that it can be put back in the right place. O God, help me to follow you wherever you may lead me. For I am really only Mustafah the tailor and I work at the shop of Muhammad Ali on the great square.
Like Mustafah the tailor, may we know God’s presence wherever we work, and may we honor the work of all the Mustafahs of this world.
Help us, God, to trust that you are the needle and we are the thread, and that our true work is simply to follow you. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.