Half of the nineteen countries in the Middle East/North Africa region still have over ninety percent of their population least-reached; this is spread throughout more than 380 people groups. Jesus Christ was born in this region, but he is only honored as a prophet (not as Lord) by the Sunni Muslims who are the majority here. Although Berbers are more prominent as one moves further west in North Africa, Arabs and Bedouins make up the bulk of the population. Israel has the largest number of least-reached peoples per country—forty-one people groups! Israel wavers between Orthodox and secular forms of Judaism, while Messianic Jews try to influence God’s chosen people.
- Heart Hunger. Pray for real heart hunger in every individual throughout these least-reached peoples, that they would long to know the truth and be set free; pray they find true freedom in Jesus.
- Reconciliation. Hundreds of years of offense and strife have gendered bitter hostility between Christians, Jews and Arabs. Pray for God to soften the hearts of these, to heal the hurts and to break down every dividing wall—making of them unified in Jesus Christ.
- Creative Access. Ask God to make a way where there seems to be no way to share his love and truth with those living in restricted access environments.
- Models. Just as Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us so that we could know God, pray for believers who are willing to live incarnational lives among these groups, no matter what the challenges may be.
- Students. Young people are seeking answers for deep questions of life. Pray that God directs them to those who can give them the answers.
- Resources to pray and to mobilize prayer and outreach
- Discover Middle East/North Africa’s least-reached peoples
- Pray for the peoples of Middle East/North Africa region
- Obtain daily prayer guides for peoples of this region
(Prepared by Keith Carey, managing editor of the Global Prayer Digest)
This month we will pray for people who live in a sea of monotheistic religions. Some would say that the God of the Bible and Allah of the Koran are the same god, while others would disagree. I will not go there since that would take us away from our purpose—which is to pray for those who do not follow Christ. But there is one thing upon which Christians, Jews and Muslims can agree: There is but one god. This is one step toward the cross.
Ironically, we often get more resistance in reaching out to Muslims and Jews than we do when we reach out to Hindus and Buddhists who may worship many gods. Have you ever wondered if it really has to be this way? Using the words of Jesus to endear the Savior to our Muslim neighbors may be the second step needed for Muslims to eventually embrace Christ as their Savior.
The Sermon on the Mount is for Muslims!
(Prepared by Dr. Patricia Depew)
Did you know that Mohammad, the founder of Islam, is so esteemed by Muslims that a common expression among all of them is to utter the blessing “peace be upon him” after his name is spoken?
Mohammad was born in AD 570 at Mecca in Arabia. At that time Mecca was a prosperous city whose wealth and influence were based on the caravan trade and on the Kabah, a shrine and a place of pilgrimage which housed hundreds of pagan idols that the Arabs worshipped. Muslims believe that in AD 610 Mohammed had a vision of the archangel Gabriel who told him that Allah is the only true God. Disturbed by the vision, Mohammed almost took his life until his wife reassured him that God had revealed to her that he would become the “Prophet to the Arabs.” This experience not only changed his life; it also changed the history of a large part of the world. Muslims believe that over several years Mohammad received the text of the Koran (the Muslim holy book) in a series of revelations; because he could not write, he later dictated these revelations to scribes. Mohammad’s message of giving allegiance to one God, Allah, was rejected by the leaders of Mecca. In AD 622, they forced Mohammad and his followers to emigrate north to the oasis town of Yathrib, and Mohammad changed the name of the city to “Medina,” meaning “City of the Prophet.” This is known as the “Hijra” “or “emigration” and marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. In AD 630 Mohammad and his followers fought and overtook the ruling Quaraish tribe in Mecca. Upon his return to Mecca, one of Mohammad’s first acts was to “cleanse” the Kabah of its idols and dedicate the shrine to Allah.
Muslims believe that Jesus is one of a long line of prophets. He is no greater than Mohammad, who is the “Seal of the Prophets.”
When Mohammad died in AD 632 there was no agreed upon system for succession of the leadership of Islam. Abu-Bakr, the father of Mohammad’s wife, became the leader of one group, the Sunnis. Ali, Mohammad’s son-in-law, was accepted by the other group to be the successor. This group became the Shi’ites. There continued to be serious divisions and killings among the two main sectors of Islam, some of which have continued for the last 1,400 years. Much of this is politically motivated.
One thing Shi’ites, Sunnis and even members of offshoot religions like the Druze and Alawites agree upon is that there is only one God. Although they have put their faith in the prophesies of Mohammed, they also have a degree of reverence for Jesus, who they call Isa. Muslims believe that Jesus is one of a long line of prophets. He is no greater than Mohammad, who is the “Seal of the Prophets.” Jesus ranks as a great prophet who was born of a virgin and was without a father. He performed great miracles. But these do not justify making him a God. They reason that a human being cannot be God and that God would not let his prophet die on a cross. God could not have suffered and died. Despite the obstacles, some Christians have found ways to reach the Muslim’s heart by encouraging them to read the Gospels. These may not bring them to full faith in Christ, but they can help Muslims take steps in that direction.
Taking Steps toward Reaching Muslims for Jesus
Because Jesus gave many prophecies during his ministry, Christians believe that one of the roles he took is that of a prophet. Muslims also believe that Jesus was a prophet. Christians need to encourage Muslims to diligently study and believe the things that he taught and commanded in the Bible. Most Muslims have only known of Jesus through the Koran and Islamic teaching. Unfortunately, they have little or no knowledge of the wonderful teachings of Jesus that could change their lives. It is very important for Christians to tell them of the specific teachings Jesus gave which are not mentioned in their Koran. The more they read the Bible, the more they are likely to embrace the Savior.
Muslims are especially receptive to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). When they hear these commandments, many express their excitement over receiving such “beautiful” directions from Jesus to guide their lives. Muslims reading the Sermon on the Mount also realize that Jesus gave a particular pattern for praying to the Father (God) in Heaven (The Lord’s Prayer). They immediately realize that this prayer is considerably different (and perhaps more powerful) than their daily ritual prayers. They understand that the requests in the prayer are for other people, not just themselves. Muslims recognize that “asking for daily bread” indicates that the prayer is to be made each day. They willingly ask the Father to forgive them of their sins as they forgive others who sin against them. They understand that if everyone forgave one another, the world would be ruled by forgiveness rather than revenge. Some Muslims are even calling God their “Father,” a concept from Christianity that can potentially help them to understand God’s true nature.
Imagine being in a mosque and hearing a teacher telling Muslims that they should read the Sermon on the Mount and pray the Lord’s Prayer! This is actually happening in some places. This is occurring because some Christian workers have faithfully prayed, attended Islamic meetings and personally talked to Muslims. The Holy Spirit is quietly and steadily leading Muslims in this way to Jesus and changing their lives.
Christians need to be aware of the questions that Muslims ask and how to carefully and prayerfully answer them. Often Muslims will reject Christian responses; however, believers need to be patient and steadfast. Muslims also ask questions in Internet chat rooms and on Islamic websites. This provides a great opportunity for Christians to study such questions and prepare themselves for answers. It is also an opportunity to respond personally to these questions online.
Knowing answers to Muslims’ spiritual questions is very important. However, it is essential to be their friend! There are many ways that this can be done: showing hospitality, attending by invitation their social gatherings and helping Muslim immigrants with English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. Muslims may argue that the Bible has been corrupted, but they cannot argue with the supernatural love that comes only from the Holy Spirit. Genuine Christian love leads Muslims closer to understanding the nature of Jesus.
Pray for many Christians to have a love for Muslims that will lead them to reach out with the gospel message. Pray that more Christians will study and be trained in appropriate ways to answer questions Muslims have regarding the Bible and Christianity. Pray that Muslims who have the Bible will read it and that the Holy Spirit will touch their hearts. Pray that millions of Muslims who believe that Jesus is a prophet will study his sermons and commandments and decide to follow him. Pray that Muslim background believers will not become discouraged or fearful, but instead proceed with love, courage and perseverance.