The surge of violence in large swaths of the Muslim world seems to get worse by the week. We can hardly begin to comprehend the suffering of people living in war torn areas, let alone know how to pray for them. Though conditions are almost more than they can bear, Jesus is alive. There is hope. Remembering how God worked in Croatia, Vietnam, Sudan and China gives us a roadmap on how to pray for Muslims in places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
1. Pray that war will reveal Islam’s inability to save. When life is routine and predictable, people ponder eternity less. But when things fall apart they begin to sincerely seek God. During wartime in Sudan, many Dinka, long resistant to the Gospel, realized their tribal god could not come to their aid. This sparked a movement to Christ. Such movements are beginning to take place among Muslims but we must pray for more. We need to pray that millions of Muslims will acknowledge Jesus as the Prince of Peace and their only Savior.
2. Pray for new openness to the Gospel in resistant hearts. Missiologists have noted that war softens the hardest of hearts. In 1946, missionaries who had fled China were stunned to hear reports that members of the educated class, who had always opposed them, were suddenly coming to Jesus. In another context, as dust settled on the battlefield, Croatians embraced Christ, despite having formerly rejected Him. Brokenness can lead to wholeness. Under the weight of war, Muslims are hurting, so pray for healing through Christ.
3. Pray that national believers will be emboldened. It is also known in mission circles that outside workers must allow for indigenous expressions of the Gospel. But it is often hard for missionaries to discern where Western thought ends and eternal truth begins. During wartime outsiders flee, leaving national believers to assume leadership, and this naturally gives indigenous expression to the Gospel. As peace returned to China, the first thing returning missionaries found were bold,, albeit war-weary, ambassadors of Christ. When westerners have to evacuate they worry about the weakness of national believers left behind; but the same Spirit Who emboldened Paul, Timothy and martyrs in the early church is living and active today in the Muslim world. We must pray that Christians living among Muslims will have courage and strength.
4. Pray for the Gospel to go where it has never gone before. Like persecution, geopolitical turmoil scatters Christians to far-flung corners of the earth. Villages in wartime Vietnam, Sudan, and China suddenly had Gospel-bearers who had previously remained in urban areas. When Paul found Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth, they were a refugee a couple who had fled their home due to conflict between Rome and the Jews; but God use their flight to expand His Kingdom. Pray for prepared soil as Christians from the Middle East take the Gospel to places it has never yet been.
5. Pray for unity among believers. Who needs an example of brotherly love more than Sunnis, Shi’ites, Druze, Alawites, Turkmen and a host of others? Some Christians in Muslim countries have given up meeting together for fear of persecution, while others get together more than ever. In times of war, pray that Jesus-followers would be able to worship in safety. Most of all pray that Muslims will recognize Christians by their love for one another.
6. Pray for opportunities to demonstrate love and forgiveness. Arab television showed a ten-year-old Christian Iraqi girl, forced out of Mosul, forgiving her ISIS persecutors. The video went viral. An Iraqi Muslim woman who had fled her homeland during the Iraq war told an American Christian in Texas, “When we fled our homes in Iraq, it was Iraqi Christians who helped us get to safety in Syria. Then, it was the Syrian church who fed and housed us until we could resettle in Texas. And now it is Texan Christians who are helping us get a home, food and jobs. The Muslims have not helped us. No one from the Mosque has visited us. Only the Christians really love us. Please pray for me.”
As chaos spreads in Syria, Jordanian Christians are doing their utmost to care for Syrian refugees. There will be fruit from such love and service. Church growth studies in Croatia list humanitarian aid offered by the Croatian Baptists as key for new openness. Pray for ways open doors for Christians to care for Muslims. A candle shines brightest in the darkest hour.
7. Pray that outside workers will use the time wisely. When thousands of missionaries were expelled from China it provided opportunities for reflection. J.W. Decker, a missionary to China in the ‘40s, wrote that being outside the country united them and gave time for agencies to consider the most pressing leadership needs. War’s destructive path has a crystallizing effect about what is important in the eternal scheme. Decker said, “The war has served to make clearer the fundamental importance of the Christian community as a group of men, women and children who worship, witness and serve together, mutually sustaining each other. Such a community is not so fragile in time of storm. . . .” Pray that God will foster greater unity among missionaries to Muslims and give clarity about the role of outsiders in supporting the local church.
Muslims are wounded and broken, but God is a merciful and faithful healer. He is patiently leading them to repentance. War destroys; God rebuilds. Missionaries have pulled out, and communications have been cut, but God is at work as never before. Jesus is present in the midst of their pain and suffering. His kingdom is growing like leaven in dough, changing the future of those who find Him in their war-torn hovels. Will we commit to pray for the Muslim world with diligence and understanding?