By a former missionary in the Middle East — On Monday, the majority of the Muslim world will start Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. Muslims revere these 30 days because they believe that during this month many years ago, Allah began revealing the Quran to the prophet Mohammed.
During this month, from before sunrise until after sunset, Muslims are supposed to abstain from food, drink, and other pleasures. More specifically, the fast runs from the time when you can tell the difference between a black thread and a white thread, until the time when you can’t tell them apart.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and it is something that all Muslims are supposed to do every year to earn the favor of God. Though there are supposed to be exceptions from fasting for those who are traveling, have a medical reason/condition, or are pregnant, elderly, or too young, there is pressure on everyone to fast.
Yet we have known many Muslims who never make it past the first or second week. Some people come right out and admit it, and others try to hide the fact that they are not keeping the fast. For the spiritually sensitive Muslim, this can create a fair amount of anxiety or disquiet in their hearts—to earn God’s favor, they have to keep the five pillars, yet they are not fasting.
You might compare this to keeping a New Year’s resolution; many people start off well-intentioned, but end up breaking their resolution in a week or 10 days! But this isn’t just about starting a good habit or stopping a bad one; this is about trying to secure salvation, so failure can produce feelings of guilt or fear. This situation can open the door to taking about our assurance of salvation in Jesus, not in what we have done to earn it, but in what he has done for us!
Indeed, this could be a great month to interact with Muslims and talk to them about why they fast and what God requires of them. You could talk about times you have fasted and about how God has led or spoken to you though his Word. However, let me also caution, if someone is truly fasting, during the day he or she will be very hungry and thirsty, and as a result, possibly not so patient or understanding, at least not until after the evening meal at sunset.
Praying during Ramadan
As you pray this coming month, I encourage you to use the 30 Days of Prayer guide. These guides offer helpful information about Muslim people groups (only 20 percent of which are Arab) and about Ramadan and Islam in general. Consider them a good investment, as they also can be used throughout the year to guide your prayers.
Please do not forget the 10/10 prayer initiative. As part of the 10/10 Prayer Initiative, 180 agencies have come together to ask God to draw to himself 10 percent of the world’s Muslims in the next 10 years. 10/10. Easy to remember, yet such an amazingly big task that only God can do it. Will you join us?
• Ramadan in countries that are hot and humid is very difficult and hardly any work gets done, especially in government offices. Pray for our workers to have wisdom and discernment during this month in all that they do and say.
• Pray that Christians around the world would seek to learn more about Muslims and love them more, too!
• Even though more Muslims have come to Christ in the past 30 years than in the previous 14 centuries, 80 percent of Muslims don’t know or have never met a Christian. Pray for more workers to go out and reach out to Muslims, both in North America and abroad.
• Pray for more workers to come from non-North American or Western countries. This will bring challenges in finding resources to support them, so pray for that, too!
• Several of our leaders from Muslim ministries/fields are taking much-needed rest and time back in their passport countries. Pray for restoration and renewal of strength and vision of what God has for them in the days ahead.