May 12, 2009

praying for a muslim friend

this post is really more of a "how to" than a testimony, however its based on hundreds of encounters praying for and with muslims in many different countries.

this week I encouraged a friend to consider praying for a muslim neighbor who was going through a difficult time. the said that the idea was really "scary". i think what makes it so difficult is that we somehow think of how a typical westerner might respond/react if we asked if we could lay hands on them and pray for them. of course, the fact is that most people, even very secular westerners, respond very positively when we pray for them - and many have some encounter that they can't explain.

however, muslims are very different. i can say that in hundreds of situations over many years that I can count on one hand the times that a muslim hasn't greatly appreciated it when we prayed for them. obviously there are cultural sensitivity issues that need to be considered - i.e. women laying hands on women and men laying hands on men for prayer.

Here are some practical things to do/remember:

1) explain what you are going to do - when muslims pray, they are thinking 'ritual'. I simply say that I will put my hand on them and just ask God to come and bless, heal, etc. (whatever the need is)

2) if in public, pray with your eyes open. people are self-conscious and I simply explain that it will look like we are talking. However, when in a private setting, I will often ask my friend to close their eyes and open their hands as if to receive a gift. One of the key things we have learned is that many have actually had a "vision" when we prayed (remember Acts 2 said God will pour out His Spirit on ALL FLESH!)

3) ask the Holy Spirit to come - muslims have not had an encounter with the God of Love - some have had spiritual experiences, but they are generally fear-related. remember how much we have been given - the Holy Spirit lives inside of us and we can ask Him to come and bring His presence.

4) use the Lord's prayer - more often than not, I will use some form or aspects of the Lord's prayer - especially when praying for healing - i.e. "your will be done, in mohammad's lower back as it is in heaven". since I don't have the range of expression in Arabic as I do in English, this is a very helpful, practical way to pray for healing.

5) muslims WILL BE blessed in a way that they have never been blessed before - remember that almost no muslim will have ever received prayer like yours. the way they pray is very formal, often very impersonal. even their 'informal' prayers are largely memorized. in years of workings amongst muslims, I have only come across a handful that talk to God like a friend (and such things would be considered heretical by the islamic establishment)

6) since muslims generally have a worldview that is far closer to the Biblical worldview than the majority of westerners (Christians included), what you are offering isn't something strange to them. whereas it is true that many muslims who live in the west become more and more secular over time, many seem to maintain their supernatural worldview far better than other immigrants. for those who have recently come from a muslim country, they will not think your request strange at all.

7) what if they refuse to let me pray? this can and does happen, but it is usually those who are more influenced by fundamentalist islam that would be this way. in the same way that I would never allow a follower of a false religion to lay hands on me and pray for me (or for my family), I am not put off by those who refuse to let me pray. I understand their concern, but I will usually throw out a few healing testimonies just to really get them to regret what they will be missing out on. that being said, this happens so infrequently that I only mention it to help someone overcome any apprehension they may have if this were to occur.

8) expect that they will have an encounter with God - for years, we focused our praying for muslims on some kind of need for healing. however, what happens if a muslim friend doesn't have a need for healing? we have so much more to offer. we can 'bless' them, their families, their businesses, etc. we can also ask God to let them "feel His love". be sure to ask your friend after you are done praying - "what did you feel while I was praying"? you will be amazed at how often they will have had a 'unexplainable' encounter with the living God. this question is more for you than them! the Kingdom of God is WITHIN you and you have been given AUTHORITY to release it wherever you go.

Here's the bottom line - when a Spirit-filled follower of Christ lays his/her hand on a follower of a false religion and asks God to come and bring His Kingdom, SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN! The Lord is far more interested in reaching your friend than you are - He loves them far more than you do and He is going to do something - it may not always be what we expect, but He will do something!!!