Praying the Gospel

When calamity strikes, one missionary uses the opportunity to witness to her grieving Muslim neighbor through prayer.

A couple months after we moved to South Asia, I befriended a Muslim woman named Fitri* when we took our family swimming.

Our families have spent a lot of time together over the last year and a half and have developed a special bond. We’ve prayed that Fitri and her family would be open to the gospel.

About a year ago, Fitri messaged me saying her eyelid was swollen. We talked through some possible causes and she visited a doctor who prescribed her medicine to help reduce inflammation. A few months later, I called and asked if she and her son wanted to go on an outing with our family. She said she felt tired, so we picked up her son and left her at home to rest.

Months passed until I heard from Fitri again. Then came her message: she was in the hospital with stage four cancer that had spread through her backbone to the liver. She would be embarking on the arduous journey of chemotherapy soon.

I was astonished by the news. What could I say to my dear friend?

We visited Fitri as soon as she returned home from the hospital. While the kids played and my husband chatted with Fitri’s, I sat on the floor, gripping my friend’s hand. Tears streamed down her face as she whispered to me, “I am going to die.”

I asked God for wisdom and prayed with her. We sat for quite a while talking about her diagnosis, her symptoms, and the future, occasionally pausing conversation for more tears. I prayed again before we left, promising to be back before her next chemo treatment.

What should I do? My friend is a devout Muslim, it’s illegal to proselytize here, but I needed to say something. If God wills it, he can heal Fitri. But he may not.

I prayed for her physical healing, but isn’t her eternal destination more important than her recovery? After getting some advice, I decided I would pray the gospel out loud with Fitri the next time we were together. In certain South Asian cultures, it is very customary to pray when you visit a sick person.

A few weeks ago, I messaged Fitri: “Can we come over this evening to visit?” No answer.

This was unusual for her, so I waited a day and tried again. Still nothing. Finally, the next day she responded. “I’m so sorry I didn’t look at my phone. My hair started falling out and I was trying to deal with it. Yes, please come and bring your family.”

Fitri was feeling a little better when we came over. We talked more about life. As we prepared to leave, I asked if I could pray with her. She nodded and we held hands.

I began praying through the promise of Jesus, starting with how God revealed himself through the prophets; how he provided a way of salvation for Noah and his family from the flood; for his covenant to Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through his descendants; how Isaiah prophesied Immanuel, “God with us,” would be born of a virgin; how at God’s chosen time the prophesied descendant of Abraham became flesh, and his name was Jesus the Messiah (whom Muslims call Isa al-Masih).

I concluded, “God, you tell us that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead we will be saved. Help Fitri to know the truth.”

With tears in her eyes, she thanked me.

I would love to tell you that immediately she responded, “Yes, I believe Jesus is Lord.” She did not.

But I pray that the name of Jesus would not leave her mind, that she will search and that he will reveal himself to her.

*Name changed for security