You Can Always Pray
It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night.
– Psalm 92:1-2
“You can always pray,” Khaled said as he drove from Amman to Petra. “Even if a person can’t fast, do Hajj or give charity, they can always pray.”
Khaled isn’t a professor or theologian, at least not officially. He’s a “tourist driver” whom I met on a trip to Jordan. Technically a Jordanian, Khaled’s ancestors were Circassians who lived in the Caucasus Mountains until the 1860s when the Russians drove them out, killing half a million people in the process. Khaled’s family ended up in Amman, Jordan’s capital. Khaled was born in East Jerusalem because his father was in the Jordanian army. When his father was killed during the Six Day War, his mother moved the family back to Amman. History is complicated.
Like most Jordanians, Khaled is Sunni Muslim. He prays five times a day. That’s Salat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The other four are:
• Shahada: reciting the Muslim profession of faith.
• Zakat: paying an alms tax to benefit the poor and the needy.
• Sawm: fasting during Ramadan.
• Hajj: making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Of the Five Pillars, “prayer is the most important,” Khaled said. “Not everyone can make Hajj to Mecca. Sometimes someone can’t fast because they’re sick. Some people don’t have money to give alms. If someone gets old or has an injury to their mind, they can’t remember Shahada.”
“But everyone can pray,” he said. “Day or night, you can always pray.” Whoever wrote Psalm 92 would agree. “It is good,” the Psalmist proclaimed, “to praise the Lord . . . to proclaim God’s love in the morning and God’s faithfulness at night.” In a word, you can always pray.
Wherever the journey leads, O God, help us remember the wisdom of a Muslim Circassian-Jordanian tourist-driver theologian. We can always pray. 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.