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On the other side of the wall not a hundred yards away rises a minaret, the tall tower at a mosque from which the azan–the Musl*m call to prayer– goes out five times a day from giant loudspeakers. Five times a day, the Musl*m world stops as people stop for prayer following a very specific pattern: 

The Musl*m Pattern of Prayer

1. They must be completely cleansed from impurities. Any bodily functions since the last session of prayer would require ritual purification. Other “defiling” acts, including falling asleep lying down, leaning against something, bleeding significantly, and a whole list of other things, also require ritual purification. 

2. On a prayer mat (to further insulate from being defiled), the person turns to face the Qibla (Mecca). Musl*ms around the world all face Mecca when they pray. In hotels in Musl*m countries, if you open the desk drawer in the room, there is a sticker there with an arrow that points in the direction of Mecca. On airlines in Islam*c countries, the moving map display on the inflight entertainment has an arrow pointing constantly to the direction one would face to pray (salat).

3. Beginning standing, the persons praying make their intentions known, usually silently. 

4. Still standing, the persons praying raise their hands to face level, palms facing out while saying “Alla–Akbar,” (Which means, “God is great.” 

5. With the right hand over the left hand (which is over the navel) eyes must stay focused on the place where the person is standing so as not to be distracted. 

6. The person then bends down, with flat palms below the knees while repeating “Allah – Akbar,” then, “Glorified is my Lord, the most great.” 

7. Standing back up, the persons recite a prayer that basically says, “I’m a rebel.” While saying this, they bring their hands to their ears. Then the hands are lowered while the persons say, “Allah hears those who praise Him. O our Lord, and all praise is to you.” 

8. The persons then kneel, with knees, palms, and forehead on the ground.  This position is called “sajdah.” The prayer admitting rebellion is repeated, then the persons stand again. The whole process is repeated three or more times. 

9. The posture is then transitioned from “sajdah” to sitting on the knees. The left foot from ball to heel is on the floor. The right foot has only toes on the floor, and they pray, “Lord forgive me.” 

10. They then rise from sajda and say “Allah- Akbar.” This completes one cycle or “rakaat.” 

Rakaats are repeated. 

11. At the end of praying, the persons praying finish by looking to the right from their knees, saying, “ The angel who records good deeds is to this side.” They turn to the left and say, “The angel who records wrongful deeds is to this side.”  

 

Our Side of the Wall

 That is what has been happening on the other side of the wall over these last days. The wall is one of those tall ones–really high, with broken glass all across the top to keep people from climbing over. On our side of the wall were twenty-four people with whom I would spend most of the week teaching and praying. They were all believers, leaders, and eager to grow. For some reason, I thought we should start off with some music, so I pulled out my iPad and some little tiny but really powerful speakers I bought from duty-free on a plane. They brightened up instantly, most with eyes closed with open palms worshipping the Lord. It was powerful and sweet. 

Our first session was about the Gospel. I shared with them how to find ways that the Gospel is revealed in Scriptures. Of course, there are types and shadows in the Old Testament. One of the people I love hearing talk about this is Alan Wright. He is a Pastor in North Carolina and the author of a wonderful book called Shame Off You. Alan is a friend. He is also one of the greatest preachers in the USA. In his book, he lays out a trail of breadcrumbs to help people start applying “Gospel thinking” instead of “Shame-based thinking.” 

A New Look at David and Goliath

I shared one of Alan’s insights with the people with whom I was meeting. Going through the story of David and Goliath, the normal pattern from us preachers is to explain the narrative by urging people to “ Be like David!”

 We have all heard sermons with points like:

         • Recognize the problem!

         • Crystalize the reward!

         • Remember God’s past faithfulness!

         • Don’t be distracted by “other people’s armor”!

         • Find your “five smooth stones”

         • Go confidently praying that God will help you in the battle

 

Be more and more like David!

Instead, Alan suggests that the key to understanding the importance of David’s slingshot victory over Goliath is in what happened when his cowardly brothers and their fellow soldiers saw David holding up the head of the slain Goliath: they were suddenly inspired with a great shout. Because David was victorious over the great enemy, they run with confidence to chase and plunder the lesser army, which is still a substantial threat. 

Therefore, David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath, killed him, and cut off his head with it.  And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.   Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron.   Then the children of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their tents. (I Samuel 17:51-53)

Instead of having people identify with David and telling them to be more courageous in facing opposition, Alan suggests that it’s OK to admit we are really like David’s cowardly brothers. David’s slaying of Goliath is like Jesus’ overcoming evil, hell, and death. When we see His resurrection and how He welcomes us into His victory, a shout of joy should rise to our lips. 

 “The key is not how strong or good you are as you come up against evil, challenges, and sin,” I told the twenty-four who gathered with me behind the wall. “We shouldn’t lament that we are not enough like David. It’s OK to say that we are actually a lot more like David’s cowardly brothers. When we see the victory of Jesus over evil, it means that we are being invited to come into the victory celebration and join in the party. We don’t have to agonize over how we will face the giant or the battle. We just have to apply the victory of the Cross and Resurrection to the battle at hand!” 

Overcoming Prayer

As they were seeing this great picture, excitement broke out around the room, and they began to clap and shout “Hallelujah!” Just then, the loudspeakers from the mosque scratchily spit out the mid-day call to prayer like it was a challenge.

Coursing with Gospel victory, the whole room turned in prayer towards the sound from the minaret with everyone praying powerfully prayers like, “Victorious Jesus, we thank You for the power of the Cross! Come with power. Come with signs and wonders! Subdue this message of darkness from the speakers! Turn the hearts to You, Lord Jesus! Draw them to salvation, to the one true God!”  Others prayed, “Send dreams and visions! Show the truth! Let light overwhelm the darkness!”


It was thrilling. This tiny group of believers who had been courageously following Christ but had been discouraged and burdened by the magnitude of witnessing for Christ in the midst of a population in which there is a huge Musl*m majority, suddenly saw that the greatness of Jesus Christ in the power of His resurrection could penetrate the darkness, and they could go with Him as He did. 

The azan, call to prayer can also be spelled adhan because the Arabic alphabet doesn’t exactly match ours. Often there are a variety of spellings for Arabic words when we try to render them in an English alphabet. It is often hard to render the words properly. It is also hard to reach out into the Musl*m world with the Gospel. What was happening in this wonderful prayer time was a new insight and surety of how the Gospel can penetrate. 

After the azan died down and our prayers did as well, one of my students said very wisely, “We do not have to be afraid to face the big battle of dealing with Isl*m. Jesus has already won the victory. We just need to get on board with His plan!” 

Of the prayers that stood out for me, from those that were prayed during the time of spontaneous prayer we had just experienced during the azan, was, “Lord send them dreams and visions. Send them revelations of Yourself!” That was wonderful because it is the way that most Musl*ms are coming to faith in Christ. I have heard that as many as two thirds of converts to Christ have come to Him because of a dream or a vision. 

More Power of the Holy Spirit

As we took a break after an invigorating time of prayer, one of the men came to me and said, “I was a Musl*m. Not a good one though. I was a drunkard. One night as I was drinking, Jesus spoke to me and said, “You have two choices. Either come to Me or die.” He said that he had been drinking a lot, and he had walked outside to relieve himself. As he stood over a steep ledge, his foot slipped and he went headlong into the night. He said he would have gone headfirst into the rocks below except for a root from a banana tree that stuck out and caught him. There he hung, with the upper part of his body over the edge and his feet still up over the crest. Hearing the commotion, his friends came out from the bar and pulled him up by his feet. From there, he believed the word that Jesus had given him. He found Christians and asked to be baptized. Now well discipled, he was looking for even more. 

 He said, “I want to have more of the Power of the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel with my people.” 

When the group gathered again, we looked at this passage: 

 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”   Luke 11:9-13

“Would you like to have more Holy Spirit power in your life?” I asked the group. Immediately, they all answered and nodded. 

“This passage is clear. To receive more power of the Holy Spirit, you simply have to ask.” We also talked about how the Holy Spirit works in Baptism, Confirmation, Conversion, gifts, and fruit. Everyone wanted to ask, so I invited them to gather in prayer triplets, praying for more Holy Spirit power. 

By this time, hours had passed since our earlier prayer time. As the small groups prayed, the afternoon call to prayer went out over the nearby loudspeakers. Their quiet prayers for each other changed and became more emphatic. Some with arms outstretched toward the chanted song prayed with great urgency. As they prayed for a new Pentecost, many began to pray differently, some more quietly and reflectively. Just like the first Pentecost, many began to pray in a new language given from heaven to glorify God, and, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14) to “edify their Spirit.”

The days were full. They were tiring but wonderful. Every day, each time we heard the azan, we would turn from what we were doing and pray for light to overwhelm darkness, for Jesus to be revealed.

Farewell

As we finished and I was about to get in the car to leave, they came over. One, a very sharp young woman, spoke for the group. She said, “Daddy. Thank you for what you have brought. We are different. We are not going to be looking at Goliath. We are going to be looking at Jesus’ victory over him. Watch for us. We are going to go and plunder the Philistines.” 

May it be so, please, God!