Praying for Muslims during Ramadan

The evening of May 15 marks the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month for all Muslims.  Every year, Muslims look forward to Ramadan with great excitement.  It’s a time characterized by religious zeal and deeper community with other Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst”.  It is expressive of the hunger and thirst Muslims feel while they fast from all food, drink and other physical desires from dawn to sunset for 30 days.  Muslims consider fasting as an act of faith and worship towards Allah and as atonement for sins.

A typical day starts with getting up early and sharing a meal together before the fast begins at dawn. Prayers are offered throughout the day until the fast is finally broken at sunset.  Then, participants will eat together and go to the Mosque, where a part of the Qur’an will be read and a final prayer offered.

The last ten days of Ramadan are particularly significant, especially the 27th night called the ‘Night of Power’ or the ‘Night of Destiny.’ This is when Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an.

Ramadan is a time for Muslims to purify the soul, refocus attention on God and practice self-discipline and sacrifice. Through fasting, a Muslim sympathizes with those who are hungry and have very little to eat every day. Through increased devotion, Muslims seek to draw closer to their Creator.  Through increased charity, Muslims foster generosity toward others.

For 12 years, Belpres has joined with Christians around the world in praying for Muslims during Ramadan using the “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” guide.  Each day, the guide introduces you to specific Muslim people and places where they live, like Cairo, Egypt.  You’ll read the stories of Muslims who have encountered Jesus during this holy month and learn specific things to pray.

“We are in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in 14 centuries of Muslim-Christian interaction.  More than 80% of all the Muslim movements to Christ in history have occurred in the past two to three decades, a time period that coincides with the modern prayer movement for Muslims.  At the heart of this modern prayer movement is 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World.” David Garrison, author of ‘A Wind in the House of Islam.’

 

Feel free to pick up a copy of the “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” on the info-walls around BelPres today or download a PDF version at www.30daysprayer.com.   Join the great movement of Christians who are praying throughout Ramadan. 

30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World

Several months ago, an arsonist set fire to the Bellevue Islamic Center.  In response, several churches, agencies, and leaders in Bellevue reached out to express their sympathy and offered help.  BelPres and our leadership were among those.  Since then, a few pastors and a similar number of Eastside Muslim leaders have been meeting regularly for religious conversation and relationship building.    Recently, a fellow pastor asked our Muslim friends about the notion of forgiveness in Islam.  Do Muslims believe God forgives?  How does one know that they are forgiven enough to receive eternal life? And must a Muslim forgive someone who sins against them?  Stereotypical pastor conversation, right?

In Islam, God is transcendent, meaning that God is free to do as God wills and is not bound in any way by physical laws like time and space.  Christians believe the same thing.  So God can be Creator without being created, and God can continually work in and outside of specific situations and events to accomplish God’s ultimate purposes.

For a Muslim, transcendence also means God is free to forgive whatever and whenever God wants.  A Muslim must be sincerely sorry for their sin. When they express their sincere remorse, then God forgives. Muslims must also practice good deeds during their lifetime, which are saved up in a sort of bank account of good deeds.  Good deeds are deposited, and bad deeds result in withdrawals.  For a Muslim to receive Eternal Life, their good deeds must outnumber their bad deeds.  When a Muslim sins against another Muslim, not only should that person ask for forgiveness, but the one who was sinned against gets to take some of that person’s good deeds and deposit them in their own bank account.  It is like a money transfer, transferring good deeds from one bank account to another.  So a Muslim hopes they have done enough good deeds to receive Eternal Life.  But they can never be certain.  Ultimately, God is transcendent and can choose to forgive or not to forgive.  “In Sha Allah,” if God wills.

This is very different than what the Bible tells us as Christians.  The Bible shows us that God is rich in mercy (Psalm 51:1-2; Micah 7:18.)  God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 86:15, Psalm 145:8).    But God is also just (Isaiah 61:8, Psalm 9:7-8).  God holds us all accountable for the way we live our lives.  Justice, the idea that people should not get away with the bad things they do, comes from God.

Justice and mercy appear to put God in conflict with God’s self.  God is just and holds us accountable for the things we do to one another but God is also merciful and desires to treat us better than we deserve.  God’s answer to the apparent dilemma is grace.   Grace means God can be both just and merciful at the same time.  The most powerful demonstration of God’s grace is what Jesus did for us on the cross.  There, Jesus met the full requirements of justice and mercy.  By dying for us, Jesus served the sentence justice requires.  By stepping in our place, Jesus unleashes God’s rich mercy on each of us.  We didn’t earn it.  We didn’t deserve it.  But God did it anyway.  That’s grace.  Grace means, we get what we do not deserve.  We get forgiveness, freedom, new life now, and new life forever.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” Romans 3:23-24. “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Eph 2:4-5.

May 27th to June 25th marks the 30 days of Ramadan.  For a Muslim, Ramadan is a time for getting closer to God.  Muslims will pray daily for God to reveal Himself to them and they will do things like fast from sunrise to sunset and give financially to the poor as spiritual practices to help them get closer to God.  I encourage you to join Christians all across the world in praying for Muslims during Ramadan.  Pray that the transcendent God will become close, personal, and intimate for Muslims.  Pray they will discover Jesus, the one who ensures our forgiveness and secures our salvation.  God is doing amazing things throughout the Middle East and Europe among Muslims, and they are discovering the love and hope found in Jesus.  It is a unique time in history.  You can become part of it through prayer.

Pick up a copy of “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” at BelPres located at the info-walls in sanctuary lobby, walkway, and upper campus lobby.  Or go online to 30daysprayer.com to participate. 

Praying for Muslims in Ramadan

Dome of the Rock (1)The evening of June 5 will mark the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month for followers of Islam all around the world.

Each year Muslims look forward to Ramadan with great excitement.  It’s a time characterized by religious zeal and deeper community with other Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst” and “sun-baked ground.” It is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who will spend from dawn to sunset in a complete fast, abstaining from all food, drink and other physical desires such as smoking, physical intimacy, etc. It also expresses the spiritual thirst for God. Muslims view fasting as an act of faith in, and worship of, Allah. Fasting allows the reverent to atone for sins and prepare to receive holy visions.

A typical day starts off by getting up early and sharing a meal together, before the fast begins at dawn. Prayers are offered throughout the day until the fast is finally broken at sunset.  Then, participants will eat together and go to the Mosque, where a part of the Qur’an will be read and a final prayer offered.

The last ten days of Ramadan are particularly significant, especially the 27th night, which is also called the ‘Night of Power’, or the ‘Night of Destiny’. This is when Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an.

Ramadan is a time for Muslims to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-discipline and sacrifice. Through fasting, the humbled follower sympathizes with those who are hungry and have very little to eat every day. Through increased devotion, the passionate seek to draw closer to their Creator.  Through increased charity, the faithful foster generosity toward others.

For ten years, BelPres has joined with Christians world-wide in praying for Muslims during Ramadan using the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World Guide.  The guide has great information about what Muslims believe, shares testimonies from Muslims who have encountered Jesus during this holy month, introduces specific Muslim people groups and provides specific things to pray for. Each day has a different focus.

Paul Filidis, north American coordinator of 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World points out that praying, “expands our ability to love. As you pray for people, you can’t help but get God’s perspective, and His heart for them, which is very different from the fear, anger or even hate that is so easily incited when only focusing on the actions of extremists.”

Since 2001, there have been 72 movements of at least one thousand Muslims turning towards Christ, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. This great awakening among Muslims has occurred at the same time as another great movement that has been taking place–the movement among Christians to pray for the Muslim world.   This is what the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World is all about.

God has given us a force that can call on all heaven and bring its power here on earth. It has been said that when we work, we work.  But when we pray, God works.  We will not impact Muslims through our arguments or by our shouting.  But we will impact them through our bold prayers in Jesus name.  Pick up a copy of the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (or download the .PDF) and join the great movement of Christians who are praying throughout Ramadan.

 

Christ In the Middle East

By Rich Leatherberry, Mission Pastor

Reports from the Middle East fill websites, newspapers and television news stations with bad news about terrorist groups and uprisings. Our own government rightly strategizes and builds coalitions to bring peace to the region and protect national interests. But true peace is not established through military dominance or economic sanctions. True peace is found in a person and His name is Jesus. Forgiveness and Reconciliation are only possible through a relationship with Him. This is the message of the Christian church today in places like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. These Christians trace their ancestry back to the first church born at Pentecost. Sadly, many are forced to flee their homes, neighborhoods and work places in order to find refuge in safer places. But some Christians are staying. They refuse to be enemies with those who persecute them. They choose to love rather than hate. They have faith that their Christian witness will point to the only one who can bring true peace. As hard as it is for us to imagine here, they believe that staying rather than leaving, enduring persecution and suffering, is what Jesus is asking them to do. It is the cross they are being called to carry.

On June 18, Muslims around the world will begin 30 days of fasting during a season called Ramadan. 23% of the World’s population is Muslim with 20% of those living in North Africa and the Middle East. This season creates a great opportunity for Christians in the West to join with Christians in the Middle East in solidarity and mission. Through prayer, we engage in an act of love for Muslim people, understanding their concerns, learning about their customs and praying they will discover Jesus as the true object of their devotion.

I invite you to pick up a copy of 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World in the lobby or at the Welcome desk. This guide will help you learn about Islam, what God is doing in the Muslim world and how you can pray for them. You can also find the guide and more information at www.30daysprayer.com. Our hope and our peace are in a person. Prayer is our most effective way of bringing change to the Middle East and supporting our Christian brothers and Sisters who are still living there.