Since the days of Solomon, when Jews pray, they pray facing towards Jerusalem. Hundreds of years before Islam adopted this same custom, Jews worldwide were already doing it. Many still do today. Does it mean that God hears prayers more from those who face towards Jerusalem than from those who don’t?
No. So why do it? Respect. You know, that little thing in such short supply in our world today. God deserves our respect and so much more. Is it asking too much that we give Him a little of what is rightfully due to Him?
Even Jonah understood that. Inside the fish, he had no idea where he was, or which direction the temple lay. He didn’t know if it was day or night, deep or in shallow water, if he was going to live or die. All he could do was pray respectfully to God, understanding that God heard him and might have mercy on him yet. He could pray HOPEFULLY to see the light again and turn towards Jerusalem out of respect for His creator.
So it is with us today. Even when we feel furthest away from God, He’s always close with us. If we feel distant, it isn’t because God is distant, because He isn’t. The Lord is always ever-present with us, even when we’re struggling the most. Even when we’re mired deep in our sins. Even when the world is hitting us hard.
That’s the best time to remember to go to God and open our hearts. Tell Him exactly what’s on our minds. Tell Him exactly what we’re feeling, what we’re going through, what has us fixated, anxious, or scared. Tell Him about that guilt we deny. Tell Him all about it and do it respectfully because, even when we’re angry, He’s God and we aren’t.
He wants our inmost thoughts and feelings, even with the bark off. When it gets hard to talk with Jesus about what bothers us most, maybe turn east (or whatever direction, depending on where you are) and remember that God once made His earthly home there. That He met with Abraham on that hill. That Jesus frequently walked it. That, as Twila sang, “out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.”
It worked for Jonah. When he realized he was completely at God’s mercy, he earnestly prayed. He prayed not knowing where he was or what would happen to him. The same should hold true for us.
For further reading: 1 Kings 8:48, Psalm 14:7, Psalm 31:22, Jeremiah 7:15, 1 John 1:9, Jonah 2:5
Lord Jesus, there is nowhere I can go where you aren’t already there. I turn to where Your house once stood so I might know You and ask for Your forgiveness and comfort.
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