It’s 5am. I’m in Albania. I should be asleep. Instead I’m being awakened by the unfamiliar sound of the imam and his call to prayer. I jump up in my little hotel bed and forget where I am for a moment. Someone is chanting, it’s dark, I’m by myself (a creepy feeling, I can assure you). I then look around and remember that I’m here in Albania and that there is a Muslim call to prayer every morning at 5. It’s something I’ve always known happens, but something I’ve never experienced myself.
At first I think it’s kind of cool, to experience something this foreign to me. And then I think it’s kind of annoying, to be woken up at 5 am by someone chanting for what seems like an awfully long time, especially when you can’t understand the words. And then I’m reminded of how important it is that my friend Zef is pastoring an evangelical church down the street. I am reminded of how much a country like this desperately needs the love of Jesus and the hope that he has to offer. And I know it’s important that I’m here, to bring life and encouragement and find out how we can serve. And then... then I’m struck with the notion that these people, 5 times a day, like clockwork are reminded to pray. And they do. They pray to a god who I don’t believe can redeem souls and bring peace.
Here I am. Laying in bed annoyed that I’ve been awakened by a call to prayer to Allah and it’s not until then that I’m truly awakened to the fact that these people have something I don’t. They are dedicated to praying to their God, 5 times per day, without fail and they call others to it and remind them to do it because they believe it matters. And me? Most of the time pray when I feel like it, when I’m afraid, when I need something, when someone else needs something. I don’t pray continuously nor to do I very often call others in my life to prayer.
So the second morning in Albania, something different happened. I was awakened by the imam’s call to prayer and I welcomed it. I laid in bed and I prayed, to a God I believe can change everything and answers prayers. I prayed for the Young Life banquet that happened to be going on at home at that exact moment. I prayed for the people God has put in my life. I prayed for the church here in Albania and the groundwork that Zef and Altin are trying to set. I prayed for people’s lives in Albania to be changed because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I prayed for the imam and others, that they might know Christ. I prayed for things I haven’t been reminded to pray for in years. And at that moment I was very grateful for 5am and for the imam calling me to prayer because prayer matters, especially when it’s prayer to a God who hears, receives and answers prayers. God is changing me, in ways I’d least expect. I’m humbled and thankful for this journey.