As we cross over from March into April, those who practice Islam are in the midst of celebrating Ramadan. Named for the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan is considered holy to the Muslim people because it is the month they believe the Quran was sent to the lowest heaven and gradually revealed to the prophet Muhammad.
The Celebration Of Ramadan
Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate with fasting and extra prayers. Their fasting takes place from dawn to dusk and is considered one of the five pillars fo Islam. It includes, of course, a fasting from food but also from certain sins like lying and stealing. During one particular night of Ramadan, known as the night of power, many Muslims pray through the night. They believe that on this particular night their dedication to prayer will be rewarded as though they had prayed for an entire lifetime.
Why Muslims Fast
As we look at Ramadan from outside the Muslim faith, it’s interesting to consider the differences. While both Muslims and Christians are called to fast, the motivation is very different. Fasting during Ramadan is required of all healthy Muslim adults as an observance to one of the five pillars and an attempt to reinforce gratitude when compared with those less fortunate than themselves. There is no assurance from Allah, no relationship there, meaning that Muslim’s fast in hope to gain favor and never know whether or not their attempts were successful. While the Bible certainly assumes Christians will fast, it is never set out as a requirement in the New Testament.
Why Christians Fast
Christian fasting has a variety of motivations from drawing closer to God, developing spiritual strength, seeking His direction, or reminding ourselves of our dependence on Him. However, one thing is always true: fasting is a part of a two way relationship between redeemed man and a loving God where we have full assurance, confidently approaching the throne of grace and knowing that we will be heard and are already saved and loved (Heb 4:16).
Whenever a Christian fasts it’s always a loving response to God, never a required chore. In fact, the Bible actually condemns fasting as a religious obligation, pointing to the Pharisees who fasted simply to be seen fasting. God loves the individual quietly forsaking something to seek Him, denying the flesh in a posture of desire, not in a desperate or fear motivated begging. He is a personal God, moved by our sacrifice and drawing close to us as we seek Him- fulfilling His promises that if we seek Him we will find Him (Jer 29:13).
We Know God Hears Us
Additionally, when we look at the Muslim commitment to prayer during Ramdan, we see again the differences in the God that we serve. While Muslims pray through the night to hopefully be heard more and have more prayers counted to their credit, Christians are actually encouraged to keep our prayers short and clear (Matthew 6). God is near, loving and personal- He hears our every prayer: even the simple, desperate groans too deep for words.
If we choose to pray through the night, it is a love response with the assurance that He has heard us and not an attempt to be recognized as one who prays. In contrast, Allah is distant and unpredictable. His heart is not tender towards or moved by humanity. Imagine the frustration and fear Muslim’s live in: dutifully participating in religious action after religious action, never sure if they have done enough to be accepted let alone loved.
Pray and Fast
As the Islamic world prepares to celebrate Ramadan, it’s the perfect time to consider our own faith and the loving, personal God that we serve. Like those Paul observed in Romans 10, we can admire the zeal that they carry while recognizing that their need for Jesus and the truth of the gospel is desperate. What would it look like if we committed to spending Ramadan fighting in prayer for the lost of the Muslim world- with fasting and late night prayers that come not from obligation, but from love for the lost and assurance that the God of the universe hears us?
Pray with Us
Take action this Ramadan season by joining our prayer team as we faithfully pray over the course of the holiday. Below are some prayer points that you can join in intercession with today.
Lord, we praise You and thank You that we have been blessed to come to know You as the One and Only, True and Living God. Above You there is no other. Thank You Abba Father for sending Your only begotten Son to die for our sins to be forgiven so that we can enter into Your presence at any time and enjoy a deep and intimate relationship with You while still living in this earthly realm. “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere” Lord (Psalms 84:10)
Jesus You died so that all should know You as Lord and Savior, and that none should perish. We lift up the people of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa as the 2023 Ramadan season is about to begin. Lord have mercy on them as they worship other gods. They have been deceived into believing false teachings that are leading them away from You.
We ask You to honor the fact that many, in their hearts, truly do want to know God and to purify themselves of sin. Draw them to Jesus by the power of Your Spirit Lord; prepare their hearts, even now as we pray, to receive the Good News of the Gospel and open up the eyes of their understanding that they may know the Truth and the Truth will set them free!
Give them a holy discontent with their current beliefs and lifestyles; may they come to feel these are empty and meaningless and do not satisfy. Give them a hunger and a thirst for You God, and only You!
Holy Spirit have Your way in the hearts and minds of the people of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa as they observe Ramadan these next few weeks! Visit them in dreams and visions. Stir their hearts in ways that only You can! Give them a new vision we pray!
We know that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Luke 10:2). Lord, we bless and give great thanks for Your laborers in these nations; we ask for a very powerful anointing upon them and that many signs and wonders will be performed in Your Name! Send more workers into the harvest Lord!
Oh that men would praise You Lord! Oh that Jesus You will receive the glorious and bountiful inheritance that You died at Calvary to receive. We love You Lord. Maranatha.