Muslims fast for thirty days once a year during a period called Ramadan (or Ramazan). Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of the religion of Islam and one of their highest forms of worship. During these thirty days, Muslims around the world will fast from first light until sunset, not even drinking water. They will typically break fast to eat and drink in the evenings. In the Muslim culture, Ramadan marks a period of heightened religious sensitivity and is regarded by Muslims as an act of obedience and submission to God as well as a means of atoning for sin. They view their fasting during this time as a way to purify themselves and earn favor with God.
As followers of Christ, clearly we do not celebrate Ramadan as a holy month like so many Muslims do. However, the Islamic emphasis on earning favor with God though the fasting and abstinence during this season should call to mind at least two things for us:
1 – We should be humbled and grateful before God that we do not have to earn His favor. Jesus Christ atoned for our sins – no other atonement is sufficient or necessary (Romans 3:22-26). God has done that for us, a great gift of redemption that cannot be earned or achieved through our good works. It is God in His great love and mercy that makes us alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-9). Thus, we should be both immensely humbled and grateful. Mind you, our gratefulness shouldn’t be in the Pharisaical sense (“God, thank You that I am not like these other people…”) but with a sense of wonder that He should have mercy on sinners at all (Luke 18:9-18:14).
2 – We should be drawn in compassion toward those who do not know His gift of grace in Jesus. In the first chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul urges Christ-followers to comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from our Heavenly Father – the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1 Cor. 1:3-5). Muslims have no concept of God as Father, and without Christ, cannot know Him as such or be reconciled to Him. So for the Christian, the Muslim celebration of Ramadan is a special opportunity to pray that they might come to know the great and eternal comfort in Christ.
Why should we pray for Muslims during Ramadan? Our compassion for the lost should draw us – at a minimum – to prayer for them. Prayer for Muslims during Ramadan is a means by which Christians can missionally identify with Muslims for a fixed period of time and call for God’s sovereign intervention in the lives of Muslims during a time of the year when they are particularly religious.
We would certainly be clear that praying for Muslims during the month of Ramadan does not mean that we conform ourselves to the Muslim practices. As believers in Jesus Christ we do not hold to Islamic ideas, theology and practice. However, we can – and should – place an emphasis on God’s love for Muslims. All believers should cultivate a spirit of humility, love, respect and service toward Muslims, and the month of Ramadan is an entirely appropriate season to redeem for the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Though Muslims have been caricatured as “unreachable” with the Gospel, this simply is not true. About 20 years ago, the world had about 1.1 billion Muslims. Islam was a little-known religion in most Western nations, and efforts on the part of the Church to share their faith in Christ with Muslims were scarce. Today, efforts have increased ten-fold, and the technological advance of the past 20 years has transformed the way in which the Gospel is communicated to previously-unreached Muslim groups. For example, radio and satellite broadcasting throughout the Muslim world has resulted in millions of Muslims responding to the message of Christ. In the Arab world alone, one ministry, SAT 7, has a regular audience of 8.5 million. RBC supports a number of missionaries who are serving in Muslim communities around the world.
Many Christians are finding a new passion and commitment to see God’s kingdom come in Muslim nations, according to an article from Thirty Days Prayer Network.
In November 2012, 70,000 Christians from all denominations gathered in Cairo to pray for their nation. Others are finding increasing boldness as they lovingly reach out to their Muslim neighbours in new ways during these uncertain times.
Across the region there is an explosion of stories of Muslim people coming to faith in Christ and meeting together for support, encouragement and discipleship. Increasingly, however, these movements are finding themselves the targets of intimidation and persecution by their family, community or governments.
The challenges in reaching Muslims for Christ are great, but the power of the Gospel is greater. Our prayer is that Muslims will experience the love and grace of God the Father through the revelation of His Son, Jesus, to them as their Savior.
We encourage you to seek further information and gain a greater understanding reaching the Islamic world for Christ by viewing articles online at www.30-days.net. There, you can find daily prayer ideas though the month of Ramadan, as well as general articles and ministry ideas relating to Islam.
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Jason VanDorsten with Bill Hurley