The date was October 29, 1974. My brother and I were in Houston's Astrodome along with 50,000 others, there to watch a closed circuit telecast of Muhammad Ali's fight with George Foreman. Even though Houston was Foreman's hometown, ninety percent of the crowd chanted "Ali! Ali! Ali!" through the entire fight.
Such was the global celebrity of Muhammad Ali. As the world knows, Ali died last Friday at the age of 74. Testimonials about his life and significance made global headlines across the weekend. Born Cassius Clay, he converted to the Nation of Islam in the early 1960s and to Sunni Islam in 1975. He was perhaps the most famous American convert to Islam in our nation's history. (For more on Ali, see Nick Pitts's The Fight and Faith of Muhammad Ali.)
As many as 20,000 Americans convert to Islam every year. However, it is estimated that seventy-five percent of new Muslim converts in the U.S. leave Islam within five years. Meanwhile, more Muslims are coming to Christ than ever before, many after seeing visions and dreams of Jesus. (For more, see my friend Tom Doyle's excellent book, Dreams and Visions.)
Muslim authorities in Indonesia are warning that two million Muslims in their country convert to Christianity every year. At this rate, the world's largest Muslim nation will be mostly Christian by 2035. Over six million Muslims in Africa convert to Christianity every year. More Muslims around the world have become Christians in the last fifteen years than in the previous fifteen centuries.
Here's how you can help.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, began last night. According to Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad received the first of his revelations from the angel Gabriel on the seventeenth day of this month in the year AD 610.
As a result, observant Muslims mark this event each year by fasting during the entire month. From sunup to sundown, they abstain from food, drink, smoking, and sexual relations. They believe that spiritual rewards for good deeds are multiplied during this month, so they are especially focusing on prayer and worship.
That's where we come in.
It is imperative that Christians pray for Muslims during these days when they are most open to God. Missionaries to the Muslim world report miraculous movements of God's Spirit during these weeks.
That's why I urge you to join me in praying every day this month for Muslims to encounter Christ in visions and dreams. (The 30 Days of Prayer guide is an excellent resource.) Ask God to help you build relationships with Muslims in your community so you can show them his love in yours. Pray for those on the front lines of Muslim evangelism around the world and for the protection and spiritual growth of Muslims who have come to Christ.
Our Father wants us not to fear Muslims but to love them and to intercede for them every day. He intends for the world to be "filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). His Spirit is working powerfully to bring Muslims to Jesus.
Will you partner with him in prayer today?