As we prepare to pray for Muslims around the world this Ramadan, we should first prepare our own hearts. When we pray God does not look at our words, but at our attitudes, and any pride, apathy or self-centredness will hinder our intercession. In their place, let us ask God to fill us with faith, compassion and love.
Unbelief throttles prayer. When we look at the Muslim world it seems unshakeable, and Muslims seem so hard to reach with the gospel. There are so few believers from a Muslim background, and those few have such a difficult time because of persecution. Surely praying for Muslims to come to faith in Jesus is a waste of time!
These are lies to stop us praying! The truth is that our God is a mighty God, and He is powerfully working in the Muslim world today. When we went to Ankara in 1980, there were three known believers; there are now eight churches. When I was called to serve Muslims 50 years ago, there was a list of countries with no known believers; now there are no countries left without at least some house churches. The staggering truth is that more Muslims have come to faith in the last 30 years than in all of previous history. These are not just isolated believers, but in his book A Wind in the House of Islam, David Garrison demonstrated that there have been far more movements of Muslims to Christ since 1990 than up to that time. We have the privilege of living in a time of unprecedented openness and opportunity. This is not a time for doubt, but for faith!
Moreover, there is a powerful correlation between this recent acceleration in the number of Muslims coming to Christ and an upsurge in prayer. When George Verwer and his friends gathered for nights of prayer in 1957, they were profoundly challenged by the fact there were virtually no believers in Turkey; as a result of those prayers, Dale Rhoton and Roger Malstead arrived in Istanbul in 1961, starting the modern missions movement to that land. This annual month of prayer during Ramadan started in 1993, which is when we began to see the numbers of Muslims coming to faith increase. The outpouring of dreams and healings we are seeing among Muslims, and the rise of social media as a tool to reach the masses with the gospel, are the answer to our fervent prayers. So too are the chaos and suffering caused by the rise of radical Islamism, as it has resulted in many Muslims becoming disillusioned with their religion.
We pray for Muslims out of compassion. Many Muslims are suffering as a result of corrupt regimes, whose oppressive policies are causing injustice, poverty and chaos. The people of countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya cry out in pain because of their rulers, and the struggle of living in a failed state. It seems many of these places are being visited by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in Revelation 6, where the powers grasping for authority cause war, famine, disease and death. We cry out for God’s justice, His mercy, and His healing.
We also have compassion on those whose picture of God is a harsh, distant, uncaring tyrant who demands they abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk in order to seek his favour and gain merit. Iranian women believers have told us how they used to be afraid of a God who threatened to send them to hell because they allowed some hair to peek out from under their hijab.
We pray because God’s love fills our hearts. His loving kindness longs to reassure those who live in fear; His mercy reaches out to comfort the broken-hearted; His grace brings forgivenss and acceptance to those trying to placate Him with their good works. As He surveys Muslim hearts this month, His word is: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” -Matthew 11:28 (NIV).
May God’s love fill our hearts this Ramadan, taking away our prejudice, our apathy and our unbelief. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” – 1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV). Instead, may He fill us with persevering faith, to keep praying until we see mountains moved. May he fill us with compassion as we pour out our hearts before him. May our prayers this Ramadan shake the Muslim world!
OM Global Board member Julyan Lidstone has a Master’s degree in Theology from International Christian College, accredited by the University of Aberdeen, and met his wife, Lenna, at Bible School. Together they are the ambassadors for ministries amongst Muslim communities, training international teams in discipleship and church planting as well as helping with promoting and resourcing.