We held our monthly Muslim-Christian dialogue evening last Friday. As usual, we chose a topic and heard a presentation from a Muslim perspective, one from a Christian perspective and followed up with a panel Q&A. After this, we ate together and tried to continue talking with one another about the things discussed over food.
To give you an idea of how we approach the topic from the Christian side, here are more PowerPoint notes from our last meeting at which the focus was prayer.
What is prayer?
- In its simplest form, prayer is talking to God.
- We believe that God has spoken to us generally through nature (we know God exists by what we can see) and specifically through the Bible. As we read the Bible, we believe God is speaking to us; when we pray in response, we speak to God.
- The 17th Century Baptist preacher, John Bunyan, said prayer is pouring our heart out to God ‘for such things as He has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God’.
- In prayer we are seeking the good gifts God has promised us, or wants to give us, and it is an attempt to align our will with God’s will.
- God commands us to pray
- ‘They ought always to pray and not lose heart.’ (Luke 18:1)
- ‘Pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- God responds to the prayers of his people:
- ‘You must also help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many’ (1 Corinthians 1:11)
- ‘You do not have because you do not ask’ (James 4:2)
- ‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”’ (Luke 11:13)
- It shows us that we really love God
- JC Ryle – ‘A person may preach from false motives. A person may write books and make fine speeches and seem diligent in good works, and yet be a Judas Iscariot. But a person seldom goes into their closet and pours out their soul before God in secret, unless they are in earnest.’
- Why pray to God we don’t believe in? Why pray to a God who can’t change anything?
- Because we have a relationship with God
- ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.’ (Revelation 3:20)
- ‘Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’ (James 4:8)
- ‘I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.’ (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
God calls us into relationship
- God wants to bring us into relationship with himself
- “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)
- The way we enter into relationship with God is through Jesus
- “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6)
- Jesus work on the cross is the grounds for our prayer being heard
- “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)
- We are to pray for all
- “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
- ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44)
Given the context into which we are speaking, we always try to make the discussion evangelistically focused. We aim to make the gospel clear in each presentation through the prism of our particular topic.
You will also notice that the context means there are certain emphases that are important. For example, in the above, you will notice an emphasis on relationship. That is because Yahweh is a knowable God; Allah is essentially unknowable. Yahweh wants to invite us into his Trinitarian relationship he enjoyed before the world began; Allah hs no real relationship to offer. You will notice Trinitarian conceptions of prayer – such as Jesus being the mediator between God and man qua God and man – are important emphases.