One of the earliest prayers in the Bible is Abraham's prayer for his other son: "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" (Gen. 17:18). I believe that if more Christians will pray this prayer today, we will begin to have an impact for Jesus upon the world of Islam.
Today many of us have created an enemy image of the Muslims. They are all terrorists who hijack our planes, blow up our embassies, and take innocent people hostage. Not only is this untrue, but the very minute we view them this way we make it impossible to reach them with the gospel. God cannot use us.
Every trip I've made to the Middle East, beginning with my earliest visits to Israel and Jordan in the mid-1960s, has been an education. More often than not it has been a reeducation, because I've had to unlearn so many of the things I've been taught by Western church leaders. By being there, seeing the situation for myself, and talking with many people face to face, I've gained an entirely new perspective on this part of the world and its various peoples. Let me give a few examples.
- I learned that there are many Christians among the Palestinians. When I took time to speak with these fellow believers, they poured out their pain to me—specifically the pain of not being recognized by the Western church as part of the body of Christ.
- I learned that the percentage of Christians in the Middle East is shrinking at an alarming rate. For a variety of reasons, large numbers of them have emigrated during this century, and the trend continues.
- I learned that just as Christians come in many varieties, so do Muslims. There are many Muslim groups and sects, and they disagree and fight with one another in much the same way Catholics and Protestants have fought over the centuries. Some interpret the Muslim teaching of jihad, or holy war, to mean literal war and even terrorism, while others believe it simply means they should strive to obey qur'anic teachings.