Ramadan: Praying for a Precious Sense of Emptiness

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

How do the words of Jesus guide us in praying for Muslims during Ramadan (August 1–29)? One of the aims of fasting during Ramadan is that Muslims aim to bring greater focus to their worship of Allah.

A Question With Two Meanings

One of the questions that followers of Jesus often ask is, Are Muslims truly worshiping the same God we worship? That question can have two meanings. One focuses on the word “worship” and the other focuses on the phrase “same God.”

The second meaning of the question boils down to the definition of “same.” Some say that if you can list enough similar propositions about deities, then they are the same. They say, That is what “same” means. For example, “he is sovereign;” “he is all-wise;” “he is all-knowing;” “he is infinitely good;” “he is merciful;” “he is holy.”

If enough of these statements can be said truly of two deities, then they are the “same” deity. Which of course is true if that is the way one defines “same.”

The Focus Is on the Second Meaning

But it is far more personally important to answer clearly the second meaning of the question. “Do Muslims and Christians truly worship the one true God?” The focus is on worship, not sameness.

On this question, Jesus speaks repeatedly and unequivocally. First, he identifies himself:

  • He said he would die. “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him” (Mark 9:31).
  • He said he would die as a ransom for many. “Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
  • He said he would rise from the dead. “And when [the Son of Man] is killed, after three days he will rise” (Mark 9:31).
  • He said he was the Messiah, the Son of God. “‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?' And Jesus said, ‘I am’” (Mark 14:61–62).
  • He said he was God. “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (John 8:58).

Traditional Muslims deny all of these truths about Jesus: that he died; that he ransomed sinners by his death; that he rose from the dead; that he is the Son of God; that he is God.

Seven Things About Those Who Deny Jesus

Jesus speaks clearly about people (of whatever religion) who deny him in this way. He says seven things about them:

  1. They do not “know” the true God. “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19; see also 7:28; 14:7).
  2. They do not “honor” the true God. “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23).
  3. They do not “love” the true God. “I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me” (John 5:42–43).
  4. The true God is not their “Father.” “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here” (John 8:42; see also 2 John 1:9).
  5. They do not “have” the true God. “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).
  6. They have not “heard” or “learned” from the true God. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45).
  7. They “reject” the true God. “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).

Jesus’ answer to the question is No. Neither Muslims nor anyone else truly worships the true God if they reject Jesus as he really is in the Gospels. Whatever we are doing, we are not worshiping the one we do not know, honor, love, and accept.

Suited to Be Loved

Therefore, Muslims in particular (along with Jewish people and others who reject Jesus as he offers himself in the Gospels) are especially suited to be loved by Christians. Jesus came into the world to awaken and save those who rejected him (Mark 2:17) — like we once did.

It seems to me, therefore, that the way Jesus calls us to pray during Ramadan is that God would reveal to Muslims the emptiness of their worship. Jesus says they are not connecting with the true God. This is tragic. And it is more tragic when they think they are. Awakening to this emptiness would be a precious awakening.

And, of course, Muslims are not the only ones who are not connecting with the true God in their outward acts of worship. Any person who rejects the Jesus of the Gospels, whatever their religion (including professing Christians), is worshiping “in vain” (Matthew 15:9).

Pray and Speak

So pray that all such people would realize this. Pray for a precious sense of emptiness for every non-worshiping worshiper (in churches, synagogues, and mosques). Pray that millions would sense profoundly the need for a Mediator, a Redeemer, a Messiah who “was wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5).

And every chance you get, open your mouth and offer Christ crucified and risen. The prayers of millions of Christians may have made a way of faith that you never dreamed.