I am sitting in Jakarta drinking coffee as the call to prayer booms throughout the area on this first day of the month of Ramadan. This is not what I expected at all. Most of what I hear about Muslims is their devotion. Most of what I see on television is pure religion. But on this day, at this coffee shop, in the largest city, in the most populated Muslim country, in the world, the call to prayer is simply "background noise." Traffic is stuck in a massive traffic jam. Scooters work their way through the traffic, trying to get somewhere as quickly as possible. Food shops are open for business as usual. People sit on street corners talking. People stumble through various shops seeking products to purchase. Peddlers try to offer bargain prices for their goods. The noise of the "world" drowns out the noise of the call to prayer, making it "background noise."
The locals tell me that during this month Muslims will be the most earnest in seeking their god. There will be a heightened spiritual awareness. Even in the local paper (Jakarta Post, July 28, 2011, front page of the business section) I read about the massive number of Korans that sell in the last few weeks as people prepare for this holy month. The people here also tell me that, in the villages throughout the country, there is a heightened devotion to the Islamic faith. Yet, all around me, people scurry about as the call to prayer is simply background noise.
For the past several years, my church has joined in praying for the Muslim world during their holy month of Ramadan. Our prayers are focused on praying that, during this time of heightened spiritual awareness, many Muslims would meet Jesus for the first time. They are seeking in vain as they pursue the god of their faith. So we pray that God would move, that the gospel would be proclaimed, and that light would shine in their hearts, bringing them into the kingdom.
Oftentimes in my prayers, I thought "What would be the odds of such devoted people turning to Christ as Lord and Savior?" But now, as I sit in this Starbucks coffee shop, hear the "background noise" of the call to prayer, and see so many lost souls running around with hopes that possibly being more religious for a month might be their salvation, I realize that our prayers carry much more weight than I previously imagined. At least for Jakarta, we are not praying against pure religious devotion, we are praying for God to move in the midst of a vacuum. Allah does not have a tight grip on the souls of the people in this city. They are simply searching in hopes of finding...something, anything.
I am not seeking to minimize in any way the intense devotion that many Muslims might have in different parts of the world or even in this country. I do not want to minimize in any way the spiritual darkness that exists because of the tight grip that Islam has on the many who need Jesus. I simply offer this viewpoint from this coffee shop in Jakarta. My goal is to stir in us a renewed sense of the power of the gospel and to encourage our prayers for those who need Jesus so desperately.
May the Lord stir our hearts to prayer. May the Lord move in the midst of this city. May those who know the Lord boldly proclaim. May missionaries have wisdom and be strengthened. And may this month of Ramadan result in many finding Jesus as Lord and Savior.
"Lord, please move in the midst of Jakarta. In your mercy, may you draw many to yourself. May Christ be exalted in the lives of many. May the Holy Spirit move in ways not seen before as your gospel is proclaimed. In the matchless name of Jesus I pray, Amen."