RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–God descended on a Muslim village in Algeria one night.
On that evening in 1983, villagers later testified, the Holy Spirit moved from house to house, revealing himself through dreams, visions and angelic visitations. Some 450 Muslims in the village eventually became believers in Christ as their Savior.
Christians had nothing to do with the incident — or so they thought. But when mission workers began asking how such a miracle could have occurred, they discovered this: More than six centuries ago, Spanish missionary Raymond Lull was stoned to death by Muslims for preaching where the village now stands.
Lull wrote before his death that Islamic strongholds would be conquered not by force, but only “by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood.”
Today, the gospel continues to spread among Muslims across rural Algeria, despite the deadly conflict raging between Muslim militants and government forces, and documented persecution of Christian converts. Elsewhere in the Muslim world, Christian workers report an increasing openness and turning to Christ — often preceded by dreams or visions of him among potential converts.
Several examples of such phenomena were detailed last year by National & International Religion Report:
— Thousands of North African Muslims wrote to a Christian radio service asking for information. Many reported a similar dream: Jesus appears and tells them, “I am the way.”
— A young Muslim angrily took a Bible tract from a Christian worker, tore it up and threatened the worker’s life. The next day the same young man appeared at the worker’s door, not with a weapon but with a plea: “I must have another booklet.” The previous night, he recounted, he had felt two hands shake him awake and heard a voice say, “You have torn up the truth.” He read the tract and became a believer in Christ.
— In Nigeria, Muslims savagely beat a Christian convert from their tribe. As he lay dying, they heard him asking God to forgive them. That night two Muslim mullahs who participated in the attack saw visions of Christ. Both repented and took 80 followers to a Christian church to hear the gospel.
Some reasons for the gospel’s current spread among Muslims can be readily explained. One is the much higher priority Christian groups — including Southern Baptists — now place on reaching major Muslim peoples, no matter how high the barriers.
Evangelical scholar Dudley Woodberry, an expert on Islam, cites these factors: secularization of the Middle East and reaction by rank-and-file Muslims against Islamic radicals; Christian relief ministries to Muslims; Muslim migration to more open areas; a “desire for evidence of God’s power” among Muslims; and efforts to culturally adapt the gospel to Muslims.
But the most important reasons cannot be explained apart from the initiative of God alone, and the proper response of his people called for by Raymond Lull before his martyrdom: love, prayer, tears and blood.
“Every one of those things is happening,” contends Randy Sprinkle, director of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board’s international prayer strategy office. “There is a love for Muslims that cannot be explained apart from its supernatural origin. There is a movement of prayer such as I’ve never seen in history. And there is the pouring out of tears and blood so that Muslims might be set free.”
Christians are praying as never before for Muslims, individually and in groups, daily and through such annual efforts as the 30-day prayer focus during the Muslim observance of Ramadan — when millions of Christians lift up Muslims before God. This year Ramadan begins Jan. 10.
When Christians pray during Ramadan, “we’re not praying to Allah,” Sprinkle says. “We’re joining Muslims during that period as they seek God. Christians are praying, ‘Oh God, do that very thing. Reveal yourself in Christ to the Muslims of the world.'”
How he chooses to reveal himself is up to God.
“We can’t tell him how he can and can’t do things,” Sprinkle stresses. “If he chooses to do it in what to our Western minds is an unusual or mysterious way such as dreams or visions or angels, the Scriptures are full of examples of those.”
In fact, missionaries increasingly are being asked to “interpret” such dreams — a role for which they’ve had little experience or training, observes Lewis Myers, Foreign Mission Board vice president for strategies in World A, the least-evangelized world regions.
“People working among Muslims are very aware that the battles that go on in the hearts and minds of people (about Christ) are spiritual battles,” Myers explains. “It’s warfare. And the tools of this kind of warfare come through spiritual means, the chief of which is prayer.”
That means your prayer. Without it, Myers says, “we just can’t be there.”