Five times a day loud-speakers broadcast the call to prayer. Earlier today at one of the prayer times I stopped to listen. It was good to be reminded of the presence of God, the Spirit in whom we live, move and have our being. What a good idea it is, to stop for a while five times a day and pray or commune with God in some way. How many of us manage to do that even just once a day? When I’m on my own, as I am here in Ramallah, I usually set aside breakfast-time for devotional reading. The moment of silence at the beginning of other meals is usually too short. But I guess I can change that.
I had a surprise visit this evening from Marlies and Sytse, a Dutch Quaker couple who arrived in Ramallah today and will be running a workshop tomorrow. They offer a combination of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project), and nonviolent communication skills. We met in somewhat inauspicious circumstances towards the end of last year. Now we happened to be in Ramallah at the same time. It was good to see them again and share news.
Marlies and Sytse came today from Gaza where they have run a workshop. At one stage when the participants were getting over-excited, they heard the call to prayer and suggested that everyone stop and listen. This had a suitably calming effect on those present, including those who were not in the habit of praying.
This land is much in need of prayer and prayerful people. Marlies and Sytse told me that they had heard an explosion close to where they were when the Israelis retaliated against the firing of two rockets from Gaza. And when they were entering Gaza at the Erez crossing from Israel there was an explosion only about 100 meters away. An Israeli soldier told them not to worry. I speculated as to whether perhaps the Israelis were blowing up a tunnel. The closure of tunnels by both the Egyptian and the Israeli military is putting a stranglehold on Gaza, where food prices are rising rapidly and construction work is grinding to a halt because of a shortage of building materials.
So the people of Gaza especially need our prayers at this time.
The trouble with prayer, real prayer, is that it tends to become a call to action. We may begin by calling on God to act. But if we open our hearts to God, we are likely to hear God calling on us to take action.
A long time ago I wrote (in an article in The Friend):
“We need both a deeper spirituality and a more outspoken witness. If our spirituality can reach the depths of authentic prayer, our lives will become an authentic witness for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation, a witness which becomes the context for our prayer. Out of the depths of authentic prayer comes a longing for peace and a passion for justice. And our response to violence and injustice is to pray more deeply, because only God can show us the way out of the mess that the world is in. And only God gives us the strength to follow that Way.”
I have discovered that when we make choices based on prayerful consideration, miracles can happen and apparently intractable situations can be transformed. Enemies can become friends both on a personal and on an international level as relationships are transformed by love. It is in our own interests to love our enemies. I pray that more and more people may discover this through prayer and action.