Muslims and prayer

A ReachAcross worker reflects on a recent but not uncommon encounter...

“How can you claim to love God? You never pray to him! I have never seen you pray!” my Muslim friend exclaimed. He had been watching me for a long time and deduced that Christians evidently never prayed. For him, as a devout Muslim, the five daily prayers, salat, were self-evident and a reflection of his love for Allah. Although there are different types of prayer in Islam, the most important and obligatory one is once a week in church. Some ask why we do not pray five times a day and are subsequently surprised when we say that five times a day would not be enough and that we talk to God all the time. If we share our lives with Muslims, our conversations will inevitably turn to prayer. When we tell Muslims what prayer means to us, they are often deeply moved: I often have heard the words “When you Christians pray, God hears!”

As friendships develop, the question may arise as to whether Christians and Muslims can pray together. Since Muslims and Christians have a fundamentally different understanding of God’s nature, character and His revelation, praying together is not truly possible. Jesus taught that we can address God as “Father” which is not possible in Muslim theology. Furthermore, in the Bible God gives us promises we can depend on, but according to Muslims, this would restrict Allah’s omnipotence and sovereignty and be a blasphemous idea.

However, we can offer to pray for Muslims in their presence. It is rare for this offer to be refused - Muslims are usually pleased by our compassionate concern to bring their issues before God. We can also explain that we pray “in the name of Jesus”, as we can approach God with confidence and trust because Jesus made it possible for us. It may be helpful to explain habits we form when praying: for example, Muslims will not associate, for example, folded hands and closed eyes with prayer if this is your custom.

Prayer is not a strategy to convey an idea to people, but a natural expression of our relationship with God and a way to bring other people’s needs before Him. Muslims are often deeply impacted by seeing us speak so freely and confidently with God and are touched by our prayers for them. They can also appreciate it when we thank God for the food before having a meal together.

Sometimes I have wondered if it would be risky to bring concrete concerns from Muslims before God, in their presence, and how it would affect them if our prayers were not answered. What would happen, for example, if I pray that God gives a childless couple a child? He may have completely other plans for them.

God promises that He will answer our prayer, but that does not mean he promises to make our wishes come true. I find it helpful to remember this so that I can pray for the childless couple knowing that either God will give them a child, or carry them through their lack and need with His loving care.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 edition of ReachAcross News and is used with permission. ReachAcross is an Affinity Associate Member and exists to share the gospel with Muslims and serve them in practical ways throughout the world: in the traditional heartlands of Islam, in the west, and wherever they may be found. For more information visit https://uk.reachacross.net


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