When you think of praying in a certain direction, you probably first think of the Islamic tradition of praying toward Mecca in the East, but actually, the Hebrew Bible tells of a more ancient “directional prayer.” 1 Kings 8 talks of people praying toward the newly built temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. But why? Even Solomon himself, the king who built the temple, knew that God is too great to be confined in a single place (“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”). So why pray facing it?
Perhaps facing a direction in prayer is a physical way of orienting our lives towards something other than ourselves. Facing the Temple was a bodily reminder that one’s life matters only in relation to God’s, like the long hand of a clock orbiting around a center point that gives it its rhythm and meaning; without which nothing makes sense.
I seem to need constant reminders that I am not the center. You’d think that being in ministry is a sure sign of a person’s life oriented toward God, but come to find out, it’s trickier than you’d think. In fact, ministry can all too easily become another means of orienting towards oneself—this happens when a person begins to love the talking more than the God one is talking about. It is a question I have to keep asking: What is the orientation of my life? What am I facing? What am I living for? What gives me purpose, meaning, and satisfaction?
Son, better learn early on that you are not the center. You are not the reason why all other things exist, but you know what, that’s actually good news. Life works best when you know that you exist only in relation to someone else. Like the lilies on our counter that move to face the sun throughout the day, I pray you too orient yourself toward the Source of Sustenance. My hope is for you to become a man who is directionally dependent on the Holy Presence of the Living God; that you aim your life wherever he is found.