I live in Napoli in the South of Italy because the Lord has put a burden and a passion in my heart; to reach the Muslim migrants with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
With the two missionaries I work with we have been going to the migrant center in our neighbourhood on a regular basis. It has been a year that we have shared the gospel with many Muslim migrants and through various means; Bible studies, movie nights or informal conversations.
Sometime this year we met Mohammed, a young man from Senegal. He is Muslim, brought up in a Muslim country, in a Muslim community and in a Muslim family.
Today we sat down with Mohammed to have a chat, and asked him if he’s been thinking about what we shared with him at various times. He said to us that he’s been thinking about what we said to him, and often he’s not slept at night thinking about it. He says he often has conversations with himself in the middle of the night thinking about his religion and about the Jesus we tell him about.
We’ve asked him what he thinks he’s the biggest difference between Islam and Christianity according to what he’s understood so far.
He said to us that for him the biggest difference is prayer. At first we didn’t understand why he would mention prayer as THE difference between Islam and Christianity but he then explained.
For him prayer is what he has to do to be forgiven of his sins. As a Muslim he has to pray five times a day and he sees that as how he compensates for the sins he does, has done and will do. So for him prayer is a mean to be saved. He says if he doesn’t pray he believes the wrath of God remains on him. He sees prayer as the atonement.
But he said that what he’s understood about Christianity is that Jesus has already done it all. That our sins are already forgiven because of what Jesus has done. The way he explains it he says is that Jesus has already prayed our prayers. Jesus has lived the prefect life that we couldn’t live and for him that means Jesus has prayed all the prayers he could never have faithfully prayed each day.
His reflection struck me to be the best way for him where he’s at in his religion to understand what Christ has done for him.
1) Prayer for him means the sacrifice God demands
2) Prayer for him means living faithfully before God
So 1) Jesus has paid the sacrifice already, by his death once and for all, there are no more sacrifice needed and 2) he lived the perfect life for us and transferred that perfect life to us. So he prayed our prayers.
The same day today another Muslim young man at the migrant center here in Napoli in our neighbourhood has spoken to us about prayer. And that is a question that often comes back. “But do you Christians pray?”
I don’t think we can understand as Christians how prayer is such an important part of the life of a practicing Muslim. To pray five times a day stops and interrupts their activities and their rest. What’s more now in Europe the rest of society does not stop with them to pray.
It’s only today that I’ve considered how prayer must be such a burden for Muslims because of Mohammed’s reflection. Jesus offers us rest, not more burdens. Jesus’ yoke is easy and light, his commandments are not burdensome.
And so prayer shouldn’t be a burden for us as Christians, because they don’t save us. We pray because we’ve already been forgiven and saved and we have now this loving relationship with God flowing out of Grace.
The biggest difference in the end between Islam and Christianity, as Mohammed has rightly understood, is the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.