Editorial Note: In this post, Pastor Jason Read equips us to pray in fervent and informed ways for our Muslim neighbors and for Muslims among the Riau Melayu during the month of Ramadan. The Riau Melayu are the strategic focus of our prayers and labor as a church for God’s name among the nations. In 2023, Ramadan takes place from Wednesday, March 22, through Friday, April 21.
According to Muslim tradition, in the year 610 Allah began a twenty-three year process of dictating the Quran to Muhammad. The essence of the story is that Muhammad, in his quest for knowledge of Allah, repeatedly visited a cave near the city of Mecca for times of solitude. During one of those visits, Allah sent an angel to begin the dictation. That first visit came in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan.
Within the revelations from Allah came the five core pillars, or principles, of Islam: Shahada (faith), Salah (prayer), Zakat (almsgiving), Sawm (fasting), and Hajj (pilgrimage). Each practice must be completed by all Muslims throughout their lifetime. During the month of Ramadan, in commemoration of the giving of the Quran, Muslims fast as a means of devotion to Allah and to gain self-control over their human desires.
Ramadan moves each year because the Islamic calendar is based on cycles of the moon, rather than movement of the sun. Beginning with the sighting of the new moon, Muslims will fast from food and drink, among other things, during the sunlight hours. The fast ends each evening with an iftar, the fast-breaking evening meal. This is generally a very social meal, with Muslims inviting one another into their homes for a communal meal. During the month, many people will attempt to read through the entire Quran. The goal of this piety and self-restraint is a greater consciousness of Allah (taqwa).
In adherence to Islam, the Riau Melayu, some two million people spread across thousands of islands, will likewise be fasting in hopes of gaining favor with Allah. In 2021, the members of Heritage committed together to focus our global missions efforts in the direction of the Riau Melayu. We’re praying that Riau Melayu Muslims would become Riau Melayu Christians. We’re praying that God would establish local churches with indigenous leaders, gathering those believers according to his Word for the sake of his glory.
Praying for Muslims During Ramadan
During the month of Ramadan, would you consider praying each day for the Riau Melayu or a Muslim you might know? As they focus their attention on obedience to Allah, let’s pray that the Word of God would increase, multiplying the number of disciples obedient to the true faith (Acts 6:7). Below are a few prompts to get you started.
- Read Psalm 63. Pray that God would create in them a hunger and thirst to know the true God.
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:21. Pray that God would reveal to them their sin and their need for the righteousness found in Christ alone.
- Read Hebrews 1:1-4. Pray they would know the supremacy of Christ who is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.
- Read 1 Peter 2:24. Pray they would soon know the truth, that Christ bore our sins in his body on the cross.
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. Pray for our missionaries among the Riau Melayu. Ask God to give opportunities for conversations about God and the Bible.
- Read Luke 24:27. Pray that Riau Melayu Muslims would read the Bible with our missionaries and discover the truth of Christ.
- Read Acts 1:8. Pray that God would embolden us by the power of the Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our Muslim friends.
- Read Revelation 5:9-14. Praise God for the work he is doing to gather for himself worshippers too numerous to count from every tribe, language, people and nation.
Learning About Islam During Ramadan
Ramadan might also be a time during which you intentionally learn more about God’s global mission or the challenge of reaching Muslims with the gospel. Below are a few book ideas for reading during Ramadan.
- Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global, by Andy Johnson
- When Everything is Missions, by Denny Spitters and Matthew Ellison
- The Mission of the Triune God: A Theology of Acts, by Patrick Schreiner
- A Concise Guide to the Quran: Answering Thirty Critical Questions, by Ayman S. Ibrahim
- Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi
- No God But One: Allah or Jesus?: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity, by Nabeel Qureshi
Many of us have Muslim neighbors and co-workers right here in Greenville. The month of Ramadan presents an easy opportunity for you to ask them about their faith and practices. Ask what Ramadan means to them. Ask about family history or traditions. They might even invite you to join them for an iftar. Some of those conversations are great moments to ask, “May I share with you what I believe about Jesus?” Remember, you are an “ambassador for Christ” (2Cor. 5:20), so love your neighbor well by building a friendship and seeking opportunities to proclaim the hope of Christ.
Good News From a Good God
In Acts 4, the religious leaders were “greatly annoyed because [John and Peter] were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). It’s no small thing to be an ambassador for Christ. Rather than shrink back at the enormity of the task or the threat of persecution, John and Peter delighted in God’s promises and they prayed. Out of their prayers, the Spirit empowered them to “speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
Praying for Muslims to know Christ and seeking opportunities to speak truth may seem too large of a task for you. Perhaps you don’t know enough to make a winsome appeal. Perhaps you’re worried about having all the right answers. Like the Apostles, remember God’s promises and pray for boldness. There is good news from our good God for the humble ambassador. “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2Cor. 5:20). God is the one making the appeal. Christ is the one who redeems. The Spirit is the one who gives new life. The impossible burden of conversion does not rest upon your shoulders. Rather, God makes his appeal, through us, as we boldly pray and proclaim the hope of our Savior.