Sitting inside a beautiful traditional red and green tent, having dinner on top of a riad in Marrakech, I am discussing the Call to Prayer with Jamal. Jamal is a shopkeeper who has offered to a few guests from Riad Maizie to his relative’s riad for dinner. He has lived in Marrakesh all his life, and taught himself impeccable English—Jamal was finally inspired to learn a foreign language when he met a woman who he described as “disorientingly beautiful”–and she spoke no Arabic, only English. Her beauty had worked its magic well with Jamal. He is extremely articulate in English.
Five times a day there is a call to prayer here, which sounds more primal and plaintiff than I had expected. I have almost a physical reaction to the amplified sound going out over the city, it sounds like a human air-raid, imploring the living to take refuge—in their Divine. I have been using the human alarm clock here to offer up my own private silent prayers whenever I hear the call. Now I press Jamal for details.
“We recognize two types of prayer: the private prayer between you and your god, and the prayers you offer with others, together.” Ah, yes, I see the distinction. “The prayers with others are more powerful because you are connected together. It is a different kind of prayer—bigger. The prayer you offer between just you and God is when you surprise God.”
Surprise God? I was totally stunned. This is a possibility that I had never considered, never thought to think could exist. I suspect that Jamal might have intended a different word, but that it also came out perfectly. I knew that I was often surprised _by_ God, by the devine, by life, but this was the first time in my life that I have ever contemplated surprising God. I mean, if He/She is all knowing, how can I sneak up and surprise a being that knows all? Perhaps if I asked permission to plan a surprise party, and asked Them not to peek? I certainly could see delighting God. Maybe that is a kind of surprise.
Since we have free will, perhaps that is the loophole. Today, I will see if I can find a way to surprise God. Perhaps even to surprise myself. And maybe to delight us both.