Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A House of Prayer

There is a room on campus in the student center that is set aside for prayer and meditation. Upon walking in, there is a sign instructing visitors to remove their shoes. There are holy books from various faith traditions that people can read. There is a fountain that creates a peaceful ambient sound, the lights are dim, and there are places to sit. I usually prefer to sit on a cushion on the floor, but there are also benches and chairs.

I visit the room when I have a need to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of law school and re-center myself. Yesterday I had some heavy things weighing on my mind, so I went there to pray.

When I entered the room, it was empty. Every time I've gone there, I've been alone. I have often wondered whether anyone else took advantage of the space. (There is a guest book near the door, and many people have written in it, so obviously others use it, just not at the same time I do.)

After I had been there for a while, I heard the door open. I glanced up and saw a man enter the room and remove his shoes. He looked to be about my age and he was carrying a book bag, so I assume that, like me, he's a grad student who lives off campus and needed a place to pray on campus.

I noticed that he placed a rug on the ground. He took care to face a certain direction (which I assume was toward Mecca), and he began his silent prayer. I hoped that my presence was not disturbing his praying. This entire observation took only a few seconds and then I returned to my silent praying.

I consider prayer to be an extremely intimate encounter with God, so I thought that it would be uncomfortable to share a prayer room with someone else. It actually ended up being a very spiritual experience.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Matthew 18:20
We were each there for the same purpose - to commune with the God of Abraham. And God was there.

The other student finished his prayer and left. I noticed that he was taking extra care to put his shoes on quietly. Just as I had been concerned that I might be disturbing his praying, he appeared concerned that he might be disturbing mine.

I continued my prayer, and when I concluded, I was reminded of a scripture in Isaiah. "For mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." (Isaiah 56:7) At a Catholic university, a room was set aside where a Mormon woman and a Muslim man prayed side by side.

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