Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: Ramadan

Please be in prayer for our friends & neighbors this week (& month) who are not believers & are celebrating the Muslim holiday known as Ramadan. Ramadan is the yearly month of fasting that Muslims observe. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam & one of the highest forms of Islamic worship. As soon as the sun starts to peek out in the morning, Muslims begin to fast until the sun begins to set in the evening. They do this for one month as an act of faith & worship towards Allah while seeking his mercy & hoping to put another notch in their efforts to gain entry into paradise.

While we do not claim to be experts on Islam or Ramadan, we have noticed some things in the last 5 years of living here. First, many Muslims seem to be at a more heightened sense of their spiritual state than at any other time of the year. While they are working so hard & seeking to please their god, they are very aware of what all they are having to do to earn their salvation, so to speak. This is good for us in that they seem to be more open to hearing what we believe as Christians & it gives us a great segway into explaining that salvation is a free gift & not earned.

Many Muslims also believe that Christians do not fast because they never see us doing it or because we do not, as a whole, set aside a designated time to do it. During the month of Ramadan, they continually ask us if we are fasting & why we do not. This gives us a great opportunity to speak to them about what the Bible says about fasting.

What we have also noticed is that new Christians are very timid about breaking away from this tradition of Ramadan. For one, when they do not fast during this month because they are no longer Muslims, they stick out like a sore thumb.

Imagine if all your life you've celebrated Christmas with your family & many, many other families. And then you are told that it's not what the Bible says is right. So on Christmas morning, you stay in your room or go somewhere else. You do not open presents nor do you give presents. You do not eat Christmas dinner with your family & friends. Now what is your family going to think about you? What about everyone else who expects you to be there or expects a gift from you or maybe even bought a gift for you that you now refuse to accept? You would definitely stick out & be questioned or maybe even ridiculed about your new belief system.

For our brothers & sisters here, who are sometimes the ONLY believer in their family or their village, this has huge implications when they choose to not participate in what EVERYONE else says is right & pleasing to their god. It has even larger implications here in Africa than rejecting Christmas in America when community is at stake. In America, if you choose to reject Christmas, well ... most people think you're crazy & then think, "Well, that's more for me!" Here, if you reject what the rest of the community says is right, you risk losing the actual community ... which is your livelihood.

Community here would be like going to Wal-Mart in America & being told your money is no good or being refused service at Chik-Fil-A because of your faith or being kicked out of your house & no one, no where allows you to stay with them. That is community here & that's what's at stake not only when you place your faith in Christ in this country among these people but also when you make a blatant stand against your former faith by choosing not to participate in one its greatest & most revered holidays.

So while you are praying for our dear Muslim friends who have yet to accept Christ as their Savior & are desperately seeking a way to please God during this month, please also pray for those that have already chosen the narrow path. Pray that they would stand strong in their faith while everyone else around them shuns them or ridicules them for the decision they've made. Pray that God would supernaturally remind them of His acceptance of them & assurance of their faith. Pray that He would bless them above & beyond their imaginations as they daily count the cost to follow Him. Pray that they would be so bold in their witness, even during this month, to share the hope they have found & the salvation they have found in Christ.

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