Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, meaning it's precise dates change each year. During the month, Muslims all over the world abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours. It is seen as a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice, meaning Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking. (Click here to read a brief explanation of the month from a Muslim perspective.)
At Christianity Today, Jerry Rankin, who used to serve in a large Muslim nation, has offered some thoughts about how Christians should respond to Ramadan. Here are some highlights, though it is worth reading the original article here.
During Ramadan, we found our Muslim friends were more open to talking about spiritual things. We would ask them about their practice, why they were fasting, and what they hoped to gain by it. It was surprising to them when we shared our own practice of fasting from time to time to seek God. We do not fast to get something from God but out of a desire for God himself that exceeds our desire for food. Wonderfully, God does meet our needs and answer our prayers, but we should not fast presuming by our piety we are obligating God to do something for us.
While most Muslims observe the fast because they are commanded to and believe there is merit to be gained, many do it as a perfunctory obligation. Some want to avoid the condemnation from more pious family members. However, for the devout, the Muslim month of fasting is actually for the same purpose that we as Christians may occasionally fast: the desire to know God in a deeper more intimate relationship.
Fasting during Ramadan is intended to be a time to seek God, and many sincerely do. While recognizing the futility of seeking to please God by one’s own piety and works, we avoided expressing disrespect in conversation with Muslim friends. We shared our common desire to know God. It was an opportunity to bear witness to the futility of our own efforts and how we discovered the unmerited grace of God through Jesus Christ.
What if Christians fervently prayed during the month of Ramadan that God would reveal himself to Muslims in this time of seeking? What if we covered millions of fasting Muslims with 30 days of intense intercession that something would happen in their spiritual search? Believing in the power of prayer, could we not expect God to respond to our heartfelt burden for the lost millions of the world?
It is tragic that we should be so wrapped up in our self-interests and worldview that we would be indifferent to more than a billion followers of Islam in the world that are dying without Christ, but this month are seeking what only he can provide. We are repulsed by a religion that seems to justify terrorism and suicide bombers committed to the destruction of life, but don’t we realize that Jesus is the answer? Rather than hardening our hearts and dismissing their lostness to the judgment of God as something they deserve, we should plead for their hearts to be open to God revealing himself.
Join me this month in praying for Muslims in our own communities as well as those around the world. Pray that they would truly seek God and be open to revelation that would lead them to the truth. In seeking Allah, an impersonal deity that is aloof and cannot be known, may they find a loving, compassionate God who revealed himself through Jesus Christ and died for their sins.
If you are interested in joining Christians across the world who are praying for Muslims during Ramadan, visit 30daysprayer.com. There you will find a prayer guide for each day of Ramadan, giving you ideas of what you can be praying for.