If you google ‘prayer London’, the first page of results isn’t a list of church prayer meetings, but rather a list of Muslim prayer times in mosques across the city.
As far as Google is concerned, it seems, the main prayer going on in London is prayer, not to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but to Allah. In fact, now, during Ramadan, not only is there much prayer, but there is prayer and fasting amongst the over one million Muslims living in our city. How will God’s people respond to this? The challenge to pray is a very significant one for God’s people.
Of course, we don’t pray in order to compete with another religion. But the reality of Muslim praying and fasting stands as a big challenge to God’s church in our city. After all, if a false religion motivates so many people to such an intense spirituality, how much more should we be motivated by the grace of God in the gospel? If the Qu’ran will move a Muslim to pray and fast, how will Jesus Christ impact us?
Yet, Ramadan and the intensity of Muslim prayer isn’t simply a challenge to pray in and of itself; it is also a challenge to pray for our Muslim neighbours. The impact of Islam in our city should awaken our compassion for our Muslim neighbours. Indeed, do we see them as Jesus sees them?
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)
When we see local mosques, do we respond like Paul in Athens?
"While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there." (Acts 17:16-17)
Compassion and spiritual distress for our friends and neighbours. will naturally lead us to pray.
The Necessity of Prayer
Indeed, we know that reaching the Muslim world and prayer are inextricably linked. In fact, the expansion of Jesus’s kingdom is bound to prayer. It’s striking to read how many times the great missionary Paul, with all his extraordinary gifts and spiritual power, expresses a simple dependence on the prayers of God’s people:
"As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you." (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
"‘I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there." (Romans 15:30-31)
For Paul, there is vital partnership between the missionary and God’s people. They work together in reaching the lost. This isn’t to say that prayer replaces the preaching of God’s word, nor that prayer is, in and of itself, mission. But it is clear that God’s Word is wielded by the power of prayer (cf. Ephesians 6:17-18 and Colossians 4:2-4). Prayer empowers the preaching and gives it impact. John Piper uses the powerful image of prayer being like a walkie talkie that is used to bring in divine air power in a spiritual battle. It is very clear that Paul did not think that he could engage in planting churches, reaching the lost or evangelising the Mediterranean without the prayers of God’s people.
So, reaching the Muslim world needs more than the presence of missionaries and gospel preaching - it needs the prayers of God’s people. Indeed, this isn’t just a necessity for us, but it is our great privilege.
The 18th century pastor and revival leader, Jonathan Edwards, said this:
"When God is about to give some great blessing to his church, it is often his way, so to order things in his providence, as to show his church their great need of it. And he brings them into distress for lack of it. And so he makes them cry earnestly to him for it…..
…There is no way that Christians in a private capacity can do so much to promote the work of God, and advance the kingdom of Christ, as by prayer. By this, even the lowliest may have a public influence. Let persons in other respects be weak and unimportant but, if they have much of the spirit of…supplication…they may have power with him who is infinite in power, and who has the government of the whole world. A poor man in his cottage may have a blessed influence all over the world. God is, if I may so say, at the command of the prayer of faith; and in this respect he is, as it were, under the power of his people. As princes, they have power with God, and prevail."
Every believer, no matter their experience, knowledge or gifting, has the opportunity to be involved in a great work of God in reaching the world. Adults, children, the rich, the poor, the sick, the suffering, the successful can all be involved in a mighty work. We just need to get on our knees and seek God for the Muslims of our city and the world.
Confidence in Prayer
And, as we do this, we can be sure that we’re not ‘whistling in the wind’ or ‘talking to the ceiling’ because God has given us great promises to strengthen us in our praying. Indeed, we can have confidence that God will do his work because he has already promised us that the nations belong to him:
‘God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet,
Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin,
on Edom I toss my sandal;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
"Our God is in the heavens. He does all that pleases him" (Psalm 115:3).
Strikingly, the Father has promised the nations to his Son:
"Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession." (Psalm 2:8)
This should fill us with great boldness, as we can be absolutely certain that the Father always keeps his promises to his Son.
All of this must therefore mean that Tooting, East Ham, Shoreditch and Brick Lane all belong to the one true God. It must also mean that Jordan, Oman, Saudia Arabia and Indonesia are the Lord’s. We may wonder how these areas and countries can be reached, but God doesn’t; he owns them! We may see all the obstacles and impossibilities, but no such things are problems for the Lord. Our God is sovereign over all and he is infallibly fulfilling his purposes and promises to draw the nations to him. We have a God who is invincible and all-conquering. That should give us very good reasons to pray and seek him for the Muslims of our world.
So what can we do?
It’s ironic that the mission prayer meeting is often the most poorly-attended meeting in most churches, as this is one of the most strategic and exciting things to be involved with! Why not make a commitment to be involved? Here are four ways you can consider praying for Muslims in your daily life.
Make a commitment to pray through Ramadan for the Muslims of London - Open Doors have helpfully provided a booklet to guide us through this, that many Co-Mission churches have been using. Then, keep going (!) and have a special regular focus in prayer on the Muslim areas of London. Get a map of London and pray for areas where you know there are lots of Muslims.
Get hold of the Open Doors monthly prayer card (you can order it online). You will end up praying for Muslims regularly if you follow it.
pray while commutingWhen you drive past your local mosque/prayer room, pray for it. When you see a Muslim walk past you, quietly pray for them.
FAMILY PRAYER TIME
Teach your children to pray for the Muslim world - it will imbibe in them a heart for world mission at a young age.