- - Sunday, November 29, 2015

Since birth, they had known the sounds of prayer — the call to prayer and recitations from the Koran — 14 repetitions in five daily prayers. That was prayer.

But all that has changed for a simple church of about 35 West African Christians from Muslim backgrounds. Today, these new Christ followers gather on Wednesday evenings to break their midweek fasts together and enjoy a night of Bible stories and joyful, energetic prayers. Each new year, they commit three weeks to fasting and prayer. One Friday every month is committed to a half night of prayer together. On the last day of every month, many of them go out to find neighbors and pray for whatever needs they may have.

For these Christ followers, prayer is much more than an exchange of Muslim rituals for Christian liturgies. Now prayer is a privileged and intimate conversation with the Creator God who loves them and often responds with a miraculous exclamation point.

This transformation of several Muslim families began more than a year earlier when they observed something odd. An unpleasant Muslim community nearby had dramatically changed. Husbands began to treat their wives as equals. Personal feuds were forgiven. Children became more obedient to parents. And people broke the power of addictions and began to prosper.

The local imam and a sheikh observed this phenomenon and decided to investigate what had happened. They found that the changed community had been introduced to a Discovery Bible Study of the stories from creation to Christ. No one taught them what the Bible meant. They discovered the principles themselves from the narrative, and then were challenged to obey whatever each of them had learned about the God of the Bible.

Within weeks, this Muslim community began to see powerful changes in their lives. They were learning to be thankful, to pray, to encourage one another, and to share with others what they were learning about God. The process continued as whole families became Christ followers. Obeying God’s Word brought changes, and prayer supplied the power, as people were falling in love with Jesus.

Now their neighbors were jealous, so they adopted the same approach to the Bible —with the same outcomes.

Over the past 10 years, this story has been repeated across the Muslim world. Hundreds of courageous men and women train tens of thousands of emerging leaders to pray, obey and encourage others to do the same.

Today, with the horrific tragedy in Paris still in our minds, it is tempting to dismiss hundreds of millions of Muslims as a hopeless cause. But that would be another tragedy because the story above continues to expand. Leading the procession toward the God of love are good-hearted, former sheikhs, imams and even a surprising number of former Islamic terrorists. I aspire to the levels of prayer of these people that I have met. When they pray, God moves.

Over the 45 years since my wife, Gayle, and I first served in Africa, there were many times that the Lord nudged us to take on challenging tasks that felt far beyond our capacities. But after we finally said “yes,” somehow the impossible became possible, because in God’s economy it is always “not by might but by His Spirit.” God always does the heavy lifting.

Our process has been to first seek God’s will in prayer and then seek God’s provision, because Gayle and I never felt equipped for the challenges. But we have discovered that when God invites us to partner with Him, we have a role to play. But in the end, His fingerprints not ours, are everywhere on the outcomes.

Today, CityTeam Ministries is beginning to see these kinds of movements happen in the Americas. Discovery Bible studies are finding fertile ground among students, co-workers, extended families, sport teams, refugees and neighbors — and in places such as homes, workplaces, dorm rooms, community centers, coffee shops, and even jails and human trafficking hotels.

Thousands have joined Discovery Groups among the Hispanic population of the South San Francisco Bay. In places like Nashville, South Philadelphia and San Jose, churches are initiating Discovery Groups as a way to help people outside the walls of their churches embark on journeys of discovering God and following His plan for their lives.

We have great hope for these initiatives because we know of at least 4,800 Muslim-background churches in Africa that are continually praying for these disciples making movements to sweep across America. It truly begins and ends with prayer.

Jerry Trousdale is director of International Ministries for CityTeam Ministries. He is the author of “Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love With Jesus.”

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