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The Fatiha begins with a confession and an indirect praise of Allah. The
mighty one who rules over all demands all praise and worship for himself
alone. He holds every person and incident in his hand. One can only
tremble before him. A Muslim will not be so bold as to speak to Allah and
praise him personally. The Fatiha does not say, "We praise you, our god"
or "I praise you, my lord." "Praise belongs to Allah" is an indirect
call for everybody to worship him. We should realise that Islam is a
religion of worship. According to the Quran, people are created to worship
Allah. In Arabic, the words for worship and worshiper are derivations of
the terms for slavery and slave. They reveal that people are not free to
decide if they will worship Allah or not; rather, praising Allah is a
duty, a must, which obligates each Muslim from the moment of birth. The
Muslim lives under his law. He is a slave of Allah, not a child of God.
With each prayer, he reaffirms anew his submission to Allah -- a
submission birthed out of fear and awe.
In the mosque, there are virtually no songs of thanks or rejoicing; at
the most, one can occasionally hear monotone choruses or rhythmical war
cries. But everyone in Islamic countries can observe how Muslims, alone or
in rows, during their prayer times bow down to Allah up to 34 times daily,
touching the ground with their foreheads. This line going along their bent
backs all the way down to their feet is a demonstration of the incarnation
of Islam in the flesh; it represents a visible interpretation of the word
Islam. Translated, the word Islam means surrender, sacrifice and
submission to Allah. The mighty lord, the strong, powerful and
incomprehensible one has to be worshipped with fear and deep respect.
Earlier, during the age of the caliphs and sultans, even generals
occasionally had to kneel down and crawl on all fours to the throne of
their ruler. The ruler then placed his foot upon their necks, as a sign of
absolute lordship. Through this ceremony, the submitted one declared:
"Here I am. I am at your disposal. Do with me what you will!"
Even today, worship in Islam directs a Muslim to lie on the ground
before Allah, as if to say: "Set your foot upon my neck. I belong to you.
I am yours. I am ready to do what you want: to serve, to sacrifice and to
fight. I stand at your service unconditionally."
Worship in Islam is an ever-renewed submission to the great, unknown
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Unconditional surrender to Allah is heightened in the Fatiha with the
mention of the name, "Lord of the Worlds". The pre-Islamic concept of
Allah controlling all people and events surfaces in this title. He is the
All-knowing One, the All-powerful and All-wise, who notices, sees, hears
and can find a solution for everything. Nothing escapes him. He rules the
macro- and microcosms. He controls the vast seas of galaxies. No
super-nova explodes, no star is born or dies without his will and
knowledge. There is also no electron moving in the invisible orbit of an
atom's nucleus that is not controlled by the Creator.
The name, "Lord of the Worlds," has an additional meaning. Allah not
only controls matter and the things of this visible life but also eternity
and the invisible. He is the lord of the spirits. Angels and demons were
created by him, and they serve him as slaves. In Islam, even the Holy
Spirit is a created angel who serves Allah without reserve. Absolutely
nothing happens without the knowledge and will of Allah. He alone is lord.
In the Muslims' concept of Allah's absolute lordship over the visible
and invisible, we find the stern belief in double predestination. Allah
hardens whom he will and leads whom he will; he saves whom he will and
damns whom he will (Sura al-Fatir 35:8; al-Muddaththir 74:31). The
personal accountability of the individual dissolves into meaninglessness.
In the Quran, we find the statement that "man was created weak" (Sura
al-Nisa 4:29); accordingly, a Muslim can hardly reach a comprehensive
awareness of his own sinfulness. A Muslim confesses that he makes mistakes
but never agrees that he is a lost and broken sinner.
Occasionally, Muslims in prison write to literature centres: "Allah led
me to prison, so that I could establish contact with you." With these
words, they are expressing: "I am weak, because Allah created me weak. He
is ultimately responsible for my error. I am not wholly guilty. I am not
corrupt, for I was created this way in the womb." Such passive,
irresponsible thinking influences Islamic culture in all aspects. Everyday
life often carries the stamp of a lazy fatalism. Skilled workers from the
West, who have become acquainted with the mentality of Muslims, speak of
an Arabic "IBM" which stands for:
Inshallah: Perhaps something will happen, if Allah permits.
Bukra: Maybe the work will be finished tomorrow or the day after or next
Malesh: It does not matter, even if something breaks down.
This spirit penetrates the Muslims way of life more than we can imagine.
A glazier's apprentice needed to install a window and was not cautious;
it fell to the floor and broke. The owner of the house became angry and
shouted, "Why were you not careful?" The boy opened his eyes wide and
responded with the word, "Maktub." With that he meant: "Thus it has
been written. It was predetermined that the glass would fall to the
ground." In other words, he was saying that he was not responsible,
because Allah wanted the window to fall and shatter.
All aspects of a Muslim's day to day life are controlled by the
determination and greatness of Allah. Here we find a reversal of the
words, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created
him" (Genesis 1:27). This can mean: "Tell me what your God is like, and
I'll tell you why you live as you do." The understanding of God on which
a culture is based influences the lives of its citizens down to their very
thoughts and relationships. The life of a Muslim is determined by the
spirit of Allah. The Muslim remains forever his slave and worshipper.
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It is not astonishing that Muhammad, after acknowledging the slavery of
all Muslims, emphasised the certainty of Allah being merciful as well as
compassionate. Without this verbal ray of hope, the spiritual prison in
which the Muslim finds himself would be unbearable. However, these two
characteristics of Allah are somehow empty words that do not grant true
freedom, for they only speak of possible help without giving comfort. Hope
is awakened here, yet it is not based on God's plan of salvation -- unless
one chooses to view the oil billions of the Arabs or the victories
achieved in holy wars as the special grace of Allah upon his subjects.
All the 99 names of Allah are only names, not verbs. A name reveals to
us a possibility, a potential, a programme, a hope but in the end it does
not actually produce an action. Only a verb can describe an act that takes
place at a particular time, in a definite place, to a specific person. The
Quran is full of Allah's names, whereas the Gospel reveals the will of God
in verbs where he is active and fulfilling his promise.
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The Fatiha leads us still deeper to an Islamic understanding of Allah.
He is not only the unknown one, strong, powerful and all-ruling, he is
also the "Ruler on the Day of Judgment".
Islam has its own view of history. Everything is like a river that flows
onward toward a dreadful end: the Day of Judgment. The literal translation
of this expression is "The Day of Religion". Islam's view of itself
climaxes in the final judgment of Allah; all religious yearnings are
directed toward this ultimate goal. On this Day, every good act and evil
deed, as well as everything hidden and not understood, will be brought to
the light, being judged finally.
Islam is a juristically-based religion. It is not grace, mercy and
forgiveness that are the governing principles, but the stern demands of
the law, which includes the payment of debt and the inflicting of
vengeance. The law cannot be bent and must not be broken! This is
especially aimed at protecting the clan's honour, defending all
privileges, and struggling to uphold one's own position unto the very end.
A large balance will be set up on the Day of Religion (Sura al-Shura
42:17). All the good deeds of mankind will be weighed against the bad
deeds. Thereby, the Muslim hopes that his good deeds will outweigh the bad
ones (Sura Hud 11:114). He fails to understand that his whole nature is
evil and corrupt from birth. The belief in original sin or total
depravity, as a result of Adam and Eve's sin being passed down to all
their descendants, is rejected by Muslims. Islam is based on justification
by works. The religious striving of Muslims is aimed at making recompense
for mistakes committed. In the early morning, the muezzin calls from the
minaret: "Rise to prayer, rise to success!" he who prays will be
blessed. All those who repeat the Fatiha seventeen times during the course
of the day's five prescribed prayer-times hope to erase, by these prayers,
several negative entries on the black slate recording their sins.
A Muslim remains captive to his reward-punishment mentality. He hopes to
be guided into the Eternal Garden on the Day of Religion, based on his
good deeds. There, material pleasures await the thirsty bedouin. He had
suffered the scorching heat of the desert envisioning the scene of a
lushly shaded oasis awaiting him. Exquisite delicacies of all kinds, fresh
fruits, ever-virginal maidens, and young lads are to be at the disposal of
every good Muslim, in addition to his own wives (Suras Ya Sin 36:56,
al-Dukhan 44:54, al-Waqia 56:11-37 etc.) However, Allah is not necessarily
present among his Muslims in Paradise. Even there he remains the great,
distant, exalted and unknown god.
Muslims are not certain that they will be granted entrance into
Paradise. Only those who die in a holy war, fighting for the sake of
Allah, nourish this assurance; they hope to be translated immediately to
the everlasting gardens. After having built a mosque on this earth, a
wealthy Muslim believes that a palace awaits him in the afterlife as a
reward. Other Muslims learn to recite the entire Quran by heart, hoping to
secure a sure place for themselves and twelve of their relatives in the
gardens of eternal delight.
The Quran gives much detail about the flames of hell, with its deafening
shrieks, as it does about the joys in the cool shade of Paradise. Whoever
says that there are other gods besides Allah, or who confesses that Allah
has a son, will be roasted on glowing embers while his skin bursts open,
peels off and reforms over and over again, thereby sealing his eternal
agony and pain (Sura al-Nisa4:56).
Dante's description of hell's "intensive-care unit" originates from
the interpretation of various Quranic verses (Suras al-Araf 7:38, Ibrahim
14:16, al-Hijr 15:34, etc.; especially al-Masad 111:1-5). The paralyzing
fear of Allah climaxes in a deep horror of the scorching flames of Hell,
prepared first of all for non-Muslims; but it also awaits those Muslims
who were not faithful worshippers.
However there is an awful verse in the Quran (Sura Maryam 19:69-71),
which states that all Muslims, without exception, will enter hell. This
was inevitably ordained by Allah and is without discussion. Only later is
he able to save those who have been faithful and fearful Muslims. The
Muslim scholars do not deny this very fact but claim that hell will be
cleansed and without fire while the Muslims are passing through. Others
say that Muslims will only enter it in the twinkling of an eye, or stand
barefoot in the flames. The depth of the flames will be according to the
intensity of there sins. Only good Muslims can hope to be rescued from
Nobody knows what exactly makes a good Muslim, for even Muhammad, the
founder of Islam, is in an intermediate state, awaiting the Great Day of
Religion. He himself is not yet saved. Therefore, all Muslims must say,
"Allah pray for him and grant him peace," whenever they mention his
name. When the founder of the religion is not yet saved, where will his
followers end up? Normally the founder of a religion prays for the
salvation of his followers. However, after 1,350 years Muslims are still
praying that Muhammad will find peace.
Expectations, hope and fear mingle together as a Muslim prays the Fatiha
while worshipping Allah. Personal thoughts do not determine the Muslim's
prayer: Rather, an Allah-centred liturgy forces him, 34 times a day, to
prostrate himself before the great unknown god. He worships Allah with
fear and deep respect as his almighty Lord and the Judge that cannot be
bribed. The Muslim hopes that by keeping all the instructions and rules of
the religious law, he may be able to win some mercy and pity from the
Compassionate One. Yet he is never sure whether his deeds and prayers will
be enough to help free him from hell.
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Have you ever considered what the first and most important request in
the Lord's Prayer means? Only when reaching the second or third request
does the one praying actually realise what he is saying. We often overlook
the request that Jesus himself put at the top of the list. He leads us to
ask, first of all, that the new name of God, which he revealed to us, be
hallowed. What is the wonderful characteristic of God in the New Testament
that is to be hallowed but his fatherhood? God is not only called Father,
he is our Father both legally and spiritually. Whereas the prophets under
the old covenant had recognised the Creator of the Universe as the
thrice-holy and incomprehensibly Glorious One, before whom every mortal
man must fall as though dead when viewing him from afar, Jesus revealed
God to his disciples as the Father of light and grace, making him
accessible to everyone whp approaches him in Jesus' name.
Since the coming of Christ we can say that "God", in the old sense, no
longer exists, as far as the earlier understanding of the word is
concerned. He that exists is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in a
complete unity of love and truth. He who worships the Father also worships
the Son and the Holy Spirit simultaneously.
A father is only a father when he has children. The very word implies
that a man has begotten or adopted a child. With the first request in the
Lord's Prayer, we pray that millions of spiritual children will be born to
our Father in heaven. This honours and hallows him. We are not to consider
only the legal side of the adoption but also the essential rebirth through
the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a man. The love of God, his joy, his
peace, his patience, his goodness, his self-control, his humility, his
meekness, his truth and his holiness are to be visible in the followers of
Christ. This is the goal of the first request.
Sometimes in a conversation among friends who have children we can hear
the remarks, "He looks like his father!" or "Exactly like her mother!"
The spiritual equivalent of this rule is written for everyone in the first
chapter of the Bible. There we read: "God created man in his own image;
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them"
(Genesis 1:27). This was the original intent of Creation, but it was lost
through the fall into sin. It was only restored through Jesus Christ. He
alone was able to say, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John
14:9). Jesus is the true picture of our Father in heaven. If you want to
know what God looks like, look at Jesus, his love, his holiness, his
humbleness and his kindness.
In the first request of the prayer of the new covenant, we ask that our
Father in heaven will change and sanctify all his children into his image,
so that his character will be developed in them and they will cause him no
shame, being instead like him in their thoughts, words and deeds. Their
new lives are to glorify the Father. Indeed, he is holy in himself and he
does not need the holiness of his children. But it was his pleasure to
grant us a share in his own holiness, provided that we accept the leading
of his Spirit, choosing as our highest calling the honour and glory of his
Jesus taught his disciples: "You shall be perfect, just as your Father
in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). This command could drive us to the
depths of despair, if the fatherhood of God were not his presupposition
and goal. The strength of the Father, his leading, correction, help, care
and love, transform us into his image. The Father of Jesus Christ is our
hope and strength. He distinguishes the voices of his children, just as a
mother hearkens to the voice of her child and recognises it immediately,
even among other competing voices. Our heavenly Father hurries to help his
children and does not leave them alone. He comforts them with his Holy
Spirit who lives in them.
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The kingdom of God is one of the main themes in the New Testament. God's
kingdom is not underdeveloped but rich in gifts, strength and endowments.
However, only the spiritually poor will enter into his kingdom; that is,
those who stand before God with empty hands, confessing their sins and
accepting his grace, justification and life-power (Matthew 5:3).
According to Semitic word usage, there is an inseparable connection
between a king and his kingdom. He is the owner of the entire country. All
inhabitants belong to him. It is their duty to obey him without
hesitation. In the same way, God is our king. We belong to him since he
has created us. All mankind are his possession, whether they realise it or
not. Many live in rebellion and animosity toward God. They do not want to
submit to their master. But one day, the King will appear as their Judge,
and he has the right to annihilate all rebels.
However, our Father in heaven is a God of patience and longsuffering. He
is almighty, omniscient, all-wise, the Lord of history, and will again
send his son, the Judge who cannot be bribed, on the Great and Final Day.
In view of the sovereignty of our Father in heaven, we know and confess
that the God of the new covenant is not lacking any attribute, power or
authority. Every person belongs to him from head to toe. He waits for our
full surrender and obedience. But there is a decisive difference between
the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and Allah in Islam: the Almighty is
our Father, the Eternal King loves us, the Holy One is personally with us.
We need not tremble before a great lord. His existence is the reason for
our eternal life, happiness and everlasting hope.
When we pray, "Your kingdom come," our first thought is not of
splendor, honour or power for ourselves nor for our future pleasure, but
we consider the spiritual kingdom of our Father, which has become visible
in his Son. Jesus said to his disciples: "The kingdom of God is in you"
(Luke 17:21). The kingdom of our Father is a spiritual kingdom, not of
this world. We do not employ trickery or violence in our efforts to
further the kingdom of Christ, for the essence of his kingdom is love,
sacrifice and patience. Holy war is not a legitimate method to use for
establishing the rule of the Eternal One. Jesus did not arm his apostles.
He preferred that he himself should die, instead of having his killers
extinguished. The Apostles did not attack their enemies but practised the
command of Christ: "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good
to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and
persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven..." (Matthew
Whoever prays seriously for the kingdom of our Father to come will soon
realise that he himself is challenged to work, with all his might, for the
coming of that kingdom. He whose family owns a business or a farm knows
that family members must often work hard; overtime is a matter of course!
The father works more than all the others. In the same way, the kingdom of
our heavenly Father is a family affair. His sons and daughters are called
as princes and princesses to employ their lives, time and money in the
furthering of the Father-kingdom.
It is Jesus' desire that all who pray for the coming of this kingdom
also consistently believe that this kingdom is being irresistibly
realised. Each generation in this world is called on to participate
heartily in this act of faith. By your faith his kingdom comes (1 John
The kingdom of our heavenly Father could certainly be established
without our involvement. But the Father makes us worthy to participate,
for he has made us, his children, to be joint possessors, trustees and
inheritors of his kingdom. His glory waits for all faithfull labourers in
When someone does not know exactly how to participate in the furthering
of the kingdom of Heaven, he may ask the Father in heaven to show him
concretely where his task lies. One is called to testify, another, to
serve, a third to pray unceasingly; again, others see their duty in
sacrifice of money and personal suffering. Some disciples of Jesus are led
through different opportunities for service, whereby the ultimate aim is
always the salvation of the lost. Jesus said, "For the Son of Man has
come to save that which was lost" (Matthew 18:11). He who has been
accepted into the kingdom of the Father will also want to win his
relatives and friends for eternal life. Being saved results in wanting to
lead others to salvation. It should be our desire to show many Muslims the
way to the kingdom of our Father's love.
Whoever prays, "Your kingdom come," does not only think about the
saving and sanctifying works of God in the present but anticipates the
future excitedly, awaiting the final coming of our Father's kingdom full
of grace, ruled by his Son on this earth. The return of Christ, the
resurrection of the dead and the Day of Judgment are stages in the coming
of the kingdom of our Father. Therefore, we should always be asking
ourselves: What is the goal of our lives? What are we living for? What do
we really expect in the future? Are we only striving for good grades and a
life of ease and prosperity? Are we paralyzed by fear concerning the
nuclear contamination of the planet? Are we trying to prepare for the
coming of the Antichrist or to predict the exact timing of Christ's second
coming? Have we become uneasy concerning the final verdict on our lives on
the Day of Judgment, or are we comforted, even at death, when
contemplating our resurrection from the dead? Do we await a paradise of
eternal pleasure, or do our faces grow sullen at the thought of eternal
damnation? It is necessary that Christians occasionally review their past,
draw a balance from it, and seriously consider the hope they have for
We can perhaps summarise the goal of hope in the Lord's Prayer in other
words: "We want to go home! We want to see our Father!" Neither material
enjoyments nor exciting spiritual expectations are the ultimate goal of
our hope, but rather the home-coming of lost sons and daughters who can
only kneel before their Father, and with a stammering voice, cry:
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Your sight. I am no longer
worthy to be called Your son or daughter. Do not cast me away from Your
presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Luke 15:21; Psalm 51:11). If
this is our prayer, then we will experience the Father embracing and
kissing us. He will lay his robe of righteousness upon us and invite us to
the feast of his eternal joy.
Neither the Day of Judgment, the flames of hell, sensual delights, nor
comfort are the goal of our lives; rather, in Christianity, unbroken
fellowship with the Father awaits us! We are wayward wanderers returning
home to our Father. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will
be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain in his presence. The things of
this world will pass away. The new will surely come (Revelation 21:3-7)!
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The third request in the Lord's Prayer is often understood as a prayer
of devotion, in light of unavoidable suffering and heavy burden in the
lives of believers. But we should remember that we are not dealing with an
indifferent Lord. No, we pray to our Father in heaven -- that his will
would be done.
A good father wants the best for his children. He seeks to save them
from worry, sins, failure and misery. He does what he can to help them. He
does not initially demand that they do this or that but is prepared to
sacrifice for them. He encourages them to participate in his work within
the framework of their talents; he does not overburden them. He leads them
and gives them the necessary preparation for carrying out their task.
Thus, it is not we ourselves who must fulfill the will of God. He is the
One who initiates and blesses.
The will of our Father in heaven is the greatest power on earth. It is
his desire that all shall be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1
With these first three requests in the Lord's Prayer, the grand theme of
world missions is outlined. Christians are not victims of a divine despot,
or a higher power tormenting them, or a god seeking to drive them against
their will. Jesus does not call us to passive suffering or blind fatalism
but leads us to work actively with others as we seek to realise the
Father's will. All heaven rejoiced when Jesus became man in order to
redeem the world. The angels glorified the Father and the Son as the Holy
Spirit was poured out upon the followers of Christ who prayed and waited
in expectation to receive the very life of their heavenly Father.
If the will of God is to be done in our cities and villages as it is in
heaven, then we are called to fully align our wills with the will of the
Father and to participate with him, so that his intentions will be carried
out. God's will can certainly come to pass without us, but we are not the
slaves of a careless sultan; we are the children of our heavenly Father,
and he has called us to share in his own blessed work! We do not tremble
before the fluctuating, indiscernible will of an unknown despot. Much
more, we implore the Father to be gracious to all -- those whom we know
and do not know. It is the Father's good pleasure to bless all who seek
A Christian's inner attitude and outer conduct during prayer are
glaringly different from the manner of worship in Islam. Whereas a Muslim,
like a slave, throws himself to the floor before his exalted lord up to 34
times a day, a Christian is not bound to any particular prayer time,
prayer position, or prayer direction. Christians are free to pray, whether
riding on bicycles, at church, or flying in airplanes. The prayer of a
bedridden patient can have more power and authority than that of a bishop
in his parish. Christians do not need to touch the floor with their
foreheads to express their submission. They are free and do not live under
the law. We do not live like the slaves of Allah but are children of our
Father who is in heaven. We have a different attitude towards life. For
Muslims, prayer and worship are a part of their religious law, an
obligation outlined in the Sharia. To worship the Father is for us a
privilege that moves us to eternal gratitude.
"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him"
(1 John 4:16).
CHAPTER III. The Daily Requests
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