Ramadan is a time of prayer and fasting in the Muslim community and it is not uncommon for Christians to pray for the Muslim community during Ramadan.
Brian McLaren, a Christian, is praying and fasting during the current Ramadan. This is good. Christians are to fast and pray, Matthew 6:17. I am, however, concerned that he may have fallen into the tendency of some Muslim (and Christian) people to reduce aspects of the Christian faith to Islamic beliefs. Muslim reductionism of the Christian faith is seen in the Muslim’s questions to the Christian, “We believe in your prophet, Jesus. Why do you not believe in our prophet, Muhammad?” (But for the Christian, Jesus is more than a prophet; He is the Son of God) and again the Muslim asks, “We both believe in Abraham and he submitted to God: he was a Muslim. Why are you not a Muslim?” (But for the Christian, Abraham did more than submit to God; he is the father of our faith in God. See Romans 4.)
Similarly, a Muslim asks, “We both pray to the One God. Let us pray together?” (But for the Christian, God “Our Father” is addressed “through Jesus Christ our Lord”.) Read on –
Prayer is a conversation between two persons. The question is, Who is the One addressed? and, What is the basis on which we can come to God in prayer? For the Christian, God is the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and hence Christian prayer is addressed to the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. Thus the classical phrase, “through Jesus Christ our Lord”, closes Christian prayer.
When I read the Ramadan prayers of Brian McLaren I hear neither of the address to the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit nor of entering into that loving conversation with “Abba, Father” “through Jesus Christ our Lord”. I find this deeply troubling. Why these omissions? Has Brian McLaren’s commitment to peace-making inadvertently sacrificed the Prince of Peace? How is peace gained when clarity in divine address is absent?
Is peace-making best left to deeds of loving service and prayer for our neighbours, rather than the confusion and perhaps misunderstanding of prayer with our Muslim neighbour at their Ramadan time?
I heard our brother Brian speak at the Lambeth Conference of Bishops last year and greatly appreciated his zeal and clarity. I trust that he will clarify and make Christian his Ramadan prayers lest he inadvertently become a submissive appeaser rather than a Christian peace-maker.