This year I am once again using the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World to guide my prayers for my Muslim neighbors during Ramadan. It is available from WorldChristian.com, and this year focuses prayer on family life--"the place where most people first learn about faith, where our values are formed, and where we are influenced in more ways than we realize" (pg. 1, from the guide).
Last year, the publishers estimate one million Christians around the world used this guide to pray for Muslims. Given that I live in a community of around 63,000 people that also has an estimated 10,000+ Somali Muslim refugees among us, this is a golden opportunity for God to increase my love and compassion for this beautiful people who does not yet know Jesus as the Savior of the world. I would encourage you to use this resource to plead with our Father to give us bigger hearts to reach this particular people that make up those who still remain in darkness.
An additional resource to inform your thinking, evangelism, and praying comes by way of Joe Carter over at The Gospel Coalition, entitled "Nine Things You Should Know About Ramadan." I've attached it below for your perusal.
May God use us -- a people who have received mercy -- to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus to those still in darkness and apart from the light.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 2:9–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)
Because Muslims account for 1.6 billion of our global neighbors, Christians need to become more aware of Ramadan and Islamic practices. Here are nine things you should know about Islam’s holiest month.
1. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Because it’s based on the lunar calendar, the beginning and end dates vary from year to year. This year in the United State Ramadan began on the evening of Friday, May 26, and ends on Saturday, June 24.
2. The Qur’an claims that it was during the month of Ramadan that Mohammed received his revelation from Allah:
The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey—then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for your ease and does not intend for your hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.
3. Islamic tradition holds that three of the religion’s other holy texts were also revealed during Ramadan: The Scriptures of Ibrahim on the first night of Ramadan, the Torah on the sixth of Ramadan, the Gospel on the 13th of Ramadan. (Note: The Islamic “gospel” is not the same as the four Gospels of Christianity. The Islamic view of the Bible is based on the belief that the Torah, Psalms, and Gospels were revelation from Allah that became distorted or corrupted. Muslims believe that Jesus was a Muslim prophet [a messenger of Allah], and that he was not the son of God.)
4. The Qur’an claims, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” As the BBC notes, “Muslims believe that their good actions bring a greater reward during this month than at any other time of year, because this month has been blessed by Allah. They also believe that it is easier to do good in this month because the devils have been chained in hell, and so can't tempt believers. This doesn't mean that Muslims will not behave badly, but that any evil that they do comes from within themselves, without additional encouragement from Satan.”
5. Fasting during Ramadan, known as “sawm,” is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the basic religious duties for Muslims. The other four pillars are Shahadah (declaring there is no god except Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger); Salat (ritual prayer five times a day); Zakat (compulsory charity for the poor, assessed at 2.5 percent of capital assets); and the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if he or she is able; the hajj takes place during the last ten days of the 12th lunar month).
6. Fasting during Ramadan begins 20 minutes before dawn (fajr) and ends at sundown (maghrib). All able-bodied adults are expected to participate in the fast. Children are exempt, as are the elderly, the ill, travelers, and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating.
7. The day’s fast is considered invalidated if the Muslim participates in any of the following activities from sunrise to sundown: eating or drinking, sexual activity, telling lies “about Allah and/or His Messenger,” immersing the entire head in water, deliberate inhalation of smoke, taking injections whereby nourishing liquids reach the stomach, deliberate vomiting, intentionally passing an object through the throat or any other natural opening (including chewing gum).
8. If Muslims miss or invalidate their fast they must make up the missed fast days before the next Ramadan begins. The missed days can be made up any time during this period, on consecutive days or separately.
9. In some Muslim countries, failing to fast during Ramadan can bring civil penalties. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, where the Qur’an is considered a constitutional document, all people including foreigners and tourists of other faiths are required to fast when in public. In 2013, Saudi officials warned, “Those who are caught will be examined and will face legal action commensurate with their violation. Punishment could be a prison term or lashes or both while foreigners could, in addition, be deported from the kingdom.”
If you’ve been reading along in this little series—congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the first week. As a reward to both of us, you the reader, and myself as the writer, I’ve decided to make Sundays a “Grace Day.”
Day Five: Be Attentive To Wisdom
While it is hard to nail down a precise figure (I looked at a number of studies), one large study pulling together a number of other studies reports: “To conclude, a close analysis of [the] Infidelity rate and its growth pattern clearly indicates that nearly one half of all married men and women are involved in extramarital affairs.”
Day Four: Orienteering
Many who know me are quite aware that I am indoorsy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going for a run, a bike ride, or even a hike through the woods or in the mountains. It’s just that I don’t want to sleep out there. I believe God inspired us to create hotels and houses for a very good reason: to return to, enjoy, and sleep in. It’s a very important part of what separates us from the animals.
Day Three: A Heart of Wisdom
When we baptize someone at our church, we always remind our people that baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality. This picture of being lowered fully into the water and rising up again that happens on the outside for all to see, is a window into the soul of the baptized, revealing a heart cleansed, purified, and surrendered to Jesus, and thus saved, transformed, and made a part of the family.
Day Two: Our God Will Supply
It’s important we pause for a moment and look at the simple structure of Solomon’s book of Proverbs. The first nine chapters are extended descriptions of wisdom, largely in story form with instructions from a parent to a child, using at times images of “Lady Wisdom” and “Woman Folly.” They are there to explain two pathways, one that leads to a wise and good life, and one that leads to destruction. And these first nine chapters are there to help us see why we should care about chapters ten through thirty-one, which contain all the individual sayings of wisdom for which the book is famous.
Day One: The Fear of Yahweh
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7, English Standard Version) I argued in yesterday’s post how God has hardwired wisdom into all of creation, and that wisdom is an applied skill in working with the grain of his design, and not against it, so that we may have a good life. An immediate question arises: if this is true, wouldn’t that mean a good life is available to all who recognize and pursue this, whether or not they believe in God?
Yesterday I preached the twenty-sixth sermon in The Whole Story sermon series, on the book of Proverbs. One of the main points of the sermon—because it is one of the main points of the book of Proverbs—is how wisdom is this thing that helps you see the way the world truly is, the way it works, so that you can live well inside of it. This is because wisdom is expertise and competence, it is applied skill, seen in the ways the Bible uses the word for craftsmen (Exodus 35:31), goldsmiths (Jeremiah 10:9), and sailors (Psalm 107:27).
This last Sunday, we made our way back into our Whole Story sermon series after a powerful four weeks taking a look at how we can help people ‘move to the right’, out of and away from the kingdom of darkness, and into the kingdom of the beloved Son. The sermon also served the purpose of kicking off our entry into the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, with the story of Job as our first step in that journey.