Raising our family in Africa means that our daughters have a very different “soundtrack” to their childhood than the one I grew up with. There are the animal noises (roosters, goats and bush babies), the cotton gin humming in the background, the mangoes dropping on our roof, and the termites chewing on our bamboo fence(!). But the sound that most often surprises our American guests is the call to prayer. We live in a predominantly Islamic area and have mosques a few blocks from our house in different directions. At least one of these mosques can be counted on to sound the call to prayer over loudspeakers and into our home five times each day.
I experience a range of different emotional responses to the call to prayer. I feel annoyance when it wakes me up just before dawn and sadness when I consider the potential impact that Christ’s call could have in people’s lives in its stead. Truthfully, though, I often ignore it. But sometimes, when I’m paying attention, I can let it serve as a call to prayer… for me. I can take advantage of this reminder to pray to ask for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We took a family vacation back in August and after being away from Mozambique for a few days, as I was tucking sweet seven-year-old Katie into bed, she sighed and said, “Dad, I kinda miss the call to prayer.” Surprised, I laughed and we talked for a bit about the sounds of home and why they matter. Turning off the light and leaving the bedroom I realized – the local mosque’s call to prayer is a part of the soundtrack of her childhood.
Part of discipling our kids as followers of Christ means helping them to hear and respond to a life full of potential “calls to prayer”: sitting around the dinner table, meeting someone who is sick, seeing beauty in creation, gathered together with the church. A variety of daily experiences can issue a call to prayer. The question is whether we are tuned in and ready to answer the call.
Lately, our family has been using “popcorn prayers” together at night to practice answering God’s call to prayer. As part of our devotionals we will open up a time for any of us to pop in and pray aloud a one-sentence prayer. Usually we have these short prayers start with the word “Thanks,” but sometimes we use different flavors of popcorn prayer and have them start with the words “Wow” (Adoration) or “Help” (Supplication). That has been a fun practice for encouraging all of us to participate in answering the call to pray.
Overall, my hope is that we can open our children’s ears to the “calls to prayer” in their lives and that they would be tuned in to those clear, recognizable notes in the soundtrack of their childhood. By God’s grace, they will be equipped to answer them well as those calls keep sounding and resonating, be it in a different style or key, through the rest of their lives.