I can remember, when I was little, sitting in on a Sunday School class in my mother’s church and being amused at how they prayed; the churchgoers were seated on folding metal chairs that were arranged in a loose semi-circle. Some of them were half-way turned around for people who had been sharing their Bibles and needed to face another person. When it came time to pray, all of these people facing all different ways folded their arms over their stomachs and bowed their heads. It looked half-way between a traffic jam and a communal stomach-ache.
I suppose that Muslim prayer must look as unusual to a Christian as a Christian prayer looked unusual to me, but the direction we face does have a purpose. We’re praying to God and we face the Kabah as a point of unity. No matter what kind of Muslim you are, no matter where in the world you pray, you and millions of others are facing the same direction.
(What happens if you accidentally get turned around hunh? What if you have a horrible sense of direction and pray towards Australia instead. Do your prayers go to the wrong place?)
If our prayers shot out like bullets, they would go right past Australia and then circle around the world endlessly. The same would happen to the prayers of people in multi-story buildings because they were offered at the wrong altitude. That is, if our prayers were headed to some destination here on Earth. They’re not though, our prayers go to God regardless of our religious navigation skills. One simple example of this is the area around the Kabah itself where two or three balconies rise above it. At this altitude, the worshippers’ prayers miss the Kabah entirely, but fortunately, prayers don’t go forward, they go Superman. Up, up and away!