Monday, August 1, 2011

Submitting to God

Today is the first day of Ramadan in the Muslim culture. For one month, Muslims in my town and all across the world will fast and pray during the daylight hours. They do this as a discipline of submission to God. In fact, the word "Muslim" means "submitted to God."

During my time at training, we had an opportunity to visit a Mosque during Friday afternoon prayers. The ladies in our group respectfully wrapped our heads and covered our arms, and we sat in the back to observe. There was a sermon, given in English, but a strange thing happened... I could not understand it. I could hear the words and recognize them as English, but in a way that was like recognizing that words are French yet not comprehending their meaning. I strained to listen and focus and understand, but nothing stuck in my mind. I am not sure if that was the Holy Spirit or an evil spirit causing such confusion in me, but either way I do not remember a single thing in the sermon... it may as well have been in Arabic.

After the service, we had a woman who presented the pillars of Islam to us and had a question and answer session. During that time a few people referred to the sermon, and I picked up that it had been partially about preparing for Ramadan.

Christians do not celebrate Ramadan, but we are still called to submit to God:

"Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you double-minded...
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
~ James 4:7-8, 10

What a beautiful promise... if we submit to God and come to Him, He comes near to us and lifts us up. He actively loves us and reaches out to us and restores us. It's like the father in the parable of the lost son... His forgiveness and mercy are forever, his compassions do not fail. He longs for relationship with us even more than we desire to know and be known by Him.

My prayer for this Ramadan season is that as my Muslim friends fast and pray and work towards true submission, that they will find the open arms of a loving and merciful Father waiting for them. I pray they will know Him, see Him, hear Him, experience Him personally and deeply... that they will find in Him all the peace and hope and freedom He has to offer.

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