Today as we enter the month of Ramadan, we turn our attention to the Muslim world and over the next few weeks, we will be posting some devotionals to help us understand a bit more about the Five Pillars of Islam and how we can pray more effectively.

Because Islam follows the Lunar calendar, Ramadan moves forward by around 11 days each year, so it is not associated with any particular season in our Western calendar. At sundown this evening, devout Muslims all over the world will begin a month of fasting. Known by the Arabic word “Sawm”, fasting is the 4th Pillar of Islam and it is expected of all adult Muslims who are healthy and well.

During daylight hours from this evening until sundown on Saturday 23rd May, Muslims will abstain from food and drink of any kind and also refrain from other practises including smoking and sexual relations. It is important to remember that Islam, like many other religions, is based on good works where followers are encouraged to perform certain religious activities in order to earn merit. 

What a contrast then, when we consider the subject of fasting in the New Testament. Growing from the seeds of grace, not works, fasting is an expression of our hunger for God and alongside prayer, it articulates our desperate longing for Him to act. John Piper captures the correct motive for biblical fasting in his book “A Hunger for God” where he states, Between the dangers of self-denial and self-indulgence is this path of pleasant pain called fasting”.

When was the last time you were so burdened or concerned about someone that your longing for God to intervene in their life was stronger than your desire for food? In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, Jesus taught the disciples assuming that fasting would regularly feature in their discipleship, alongside prayer. When we think of the millions of unreached people in the Islamic nations, perhaps during this month of Ramadan, we could consider setting aside some time to fast and pray for the Muslim world.

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