by A.S. - Gateway Go Team Member
It was just before sundown that I found myself looking out at the Grand Husseini Mosque. The streets of downtown Amman, usually bustling with shoppers, taxis and kids playing in the street, were eerily quiet. I looked around. I was the only person in sight. In the distance, the sound of one car speeding toward home got my attention. For a culture that isn’t known for its timeliness, no one wanted to be late for dinner this month! I hoped the driver would make it, but if he didn’t, he was sure to find some generous people standing on the corner ready to hand out water and dates to anyone still on the street when the mu’addin gave the call to prayer.
As I continued on down the street, the dust kicked up and I coughed. I reached for my water bottle, but stopped short of taking it out of my bag. It would be illegal for me to drink it in public before sundown. I would need to wait about 15 more minutes and then I could take a sip, at the same moment that about 95% of the people in this nation would also quench the thirst they’d had since waking up that morning. That thought reminded me why I was out walking…. to pray. To cover my neighborhood in prayer. To ask Jesus aloud, as I walked by each apartment building to visit the families there in their dreams that night. To ask Him in a mix of English and Arabic to bring healing to the sick and hope to the depressed. To bring freedom for the oppressed. To protect the women and children from those in their own house who might do them harm and most powerfully to pray that salvation would come to that entire household.
By now the sky had grown darker and from open windows, I began to hear the sounds of platters and silverware being placed on tables. Then, suddenly came a sound, echoing from every mosque in the country each to its own neighborhood, reflecting off of all the sandstone buildings, the ‘adhan’ (call to prayer) which starts with the now either revered or feared words, الله أكبر “Allahu Akbar” “God is the Greatest.” At that moment, my neighbors along with every other Muslim in the country, broke their fast, beginning with a date and a drink of water, followed by a multi-course meal. The hardship of going the entire day without food or drink was suddenly a memory and the joy of a Ramadan night began. People crowded into the empty streets to visit family and friends, to go shopping or to take a midnight stroll. Then, before long, it was time for another small meal before sunup and a few hours of sleep before work or the school day started. For 30 days every year, this is life in a Muslim country.
As a foreign Christian living in an Islamic society, I experienced both the beauty and heartache of Ramadan. I admired the eager anticipation my friends, neighbors and students expressed in the days leading up to Ramadan. Many people used just one word to describe it: beautiful. I admired the self-control and self-denial it took for my 2nd graders to come in from recess and choose not to drink water because they, too, wanted to please God. For most Muslims that I met, fasting is a joyous event, as hard as it is. I chose to fast from food many days during Ramadan in order to pray for them. But, there were a few occasions that I fasted alongside them without anything to eat or drink. Being thirsty all day is hard! No gum, no candy, no toothpaste, no chapstick. Nothing can touch any part inside or outside of the mouth. And yet, from sunrise to sunset for 30 days they willingly fast! About the only time people here fast from food and drink is for medical procedures.
Even for American Christians, the spiritual discipline of fasting is not regularly practiced, though it is mentioned again and again throughout Scripture. In Matthew 6, Jesus follows his teaching on prayer by teaching how to fast. He prefaces each topic with, “when you….” “When you pray….” “When you fast…” This implies that praying and fasting would be a part of his followers’ lifestyle. One mention of the early church participating in this spiritual discipline is in Acts 13:2-3 when the church at Antioch commissioned Saul (Paul) and Barnabas. Divine wisdom was given during a time of fasting.
Now, imagine that all the members of Gateway joined together for 30 days of prayer and fasting. We would hunger and thirst for God like never before. We would depend on Him in a new way. We would align ourselves with His plans and see His will powerfully unfold in our lives. Let’s think beyond Gateway; what if all Christians in Ohio fasted and prayed? What about all North American Christians? What if all 2.5 billion Christians around the world had 30 days of prayer and fasting like Muslims do? It’s mind blowing to imagine what God would do in and through us. You and I can have a taste of that next month as believers from around the world join together in praying for Muslims as they fast. My heart breaks knowing that they fast in order to earn something that we already have. It’s something that they could also have, but don’t know it yet. They fast in hopes that it will please God and earn them salvation. They need the power of our prayers and fasting so that the chains of Islam will be broken and the truth of Jesus, the Messiah, will be revealed. You and I have the privilege of going before God’s throne on their behalf and pleading with our Father. We have the relationship with Him that they long for. Will you intercede for them through prayer or fasting so that during this month their eyes and hearts will be open to spiritual truth and ready to receive it? Please visit our Ramadan webpage to find out how you can join Gateway in covering Muslims in prayer from April 2- May 2.
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