Learning from another faith to grow

I believe that being content is the weakness of man. I believe that the moment that we stop trying to improve ourselves, we have failed.

During my sophomore year, I reached a point in my spiritual life where I had stopped. I had noticed myself becoming a better person. Morally, I was growing; I was becoming more selfless and I believed I was doing exactly what the Bible instructed, but I still felt empty.

I had focused so much on trying to do what I thought God wanted me to that I had almost lost my relationship with him completely. I was good, but not in my Father’s name. I came to the conclusion that I needed to spend more time with the Lord.

I don’t recall the first time I entered the chapel, but I sure don’t regret it.

Leading up to my sophomore year, I had seen many older boys go into the chapel during their lunchtime. I really looked up to them, but I was always hesitant to go in myself.

Later that year, in religion class, we studied Islam. I learned about Salam, which is one of the five pillars of Islam; it is basically daily prayer averaging five times a day.

The prayer time that stuck out to me was the noontime prayer, called Salah al-zuhr. Before this time, I had never prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and was unfamiliar with a Catholic prayer schedule. So I thought I would try it out.

Every day since then, I have spent the last five to 10 minutes of my lunch in the chapel with Jesus. I can’t stop. It is a break from the busy day and allows me to focus on what ultimately matters. Although my education is very important, in the end, what will matter most is my relationship with God and how I decided to use my skills to serve him.

I often forget how much time I really need to spend with God. I have to remind myself that my relationship with him must come first. I think about how much time I spend with my classmates (a lot) and how much or little I really know about them.

Whenever I do this, I am hit with the reality that I spend more intentional time with my friends than I do with my God. And I desire to know my savior better than I know my classmates, and therefore I need to spend time with him.

I want to know my God better than just 10 minutes a day. As I have learned, a relationship takes time, and what started as only five minutes grew into 10, then 15 and has not stopped since. I don’t recall the first time I entered the chapel, but I sure don’t regret it.

There is a hymn sung during Advent called “People Look East” and almost every time I enter the chapel I think of this song.

I think of the people of Islam who are praying at noon, the same time that I go spend time with the Lord. When they pray, they face the Kaaba, which is to the east of us. When I hear this song, I think of “east” as the direction of the rising sun, the direction which many churches face, and the direction in Scripture from which Jesus will arrive. When I look east, I look at Jesus, I think of myself looking to the light from the darkness. Just as those praying Salah al-zuhr, I am laying myself down before my God.

I am truly dumbfounded whenever I think about someone else praying at the same time. Although he may use different words, perform different prayer positions or even look totally different than me, he and I are the same. Therefore we are united. We both look east.

I was challenged by another faith, and I was given the opportunity to grow in my own faith because of it. I am being called to enter that chapel every day. I am being called to spend time with my creator constantly. But I am not the only one being called. We all are.

Sam Ray is a senior at Catholic High School. He is a member of Christ the King Church in Little Rock.

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