Prayer for the Muslim world: Persian New Year
March 2020

Happy New Year! 

What? It’s March? 

Yes, I know it’s March—and this year, March 20 is Persian New Year. I say “this year,” because some years it is on March 21. This holiday is known as Nauroz (or one of many variants, like Nowroz, Nooroz, Naorez, or Naorouz), or in some countries, the Festival of the Red Flower. 

Nauroz predates Islam by at least 1,500 years and probably has its roots in the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. It is celebrated on the spring equinox in a number of countries including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is also celebrated by people from all those countries who now live in the West. But it is especially celebrated in Iran and Afghanistan, where preparations begin two to three weeks in advance of the actual holiday.

If you have friends or neighbors from a country that celebrates Nauroz, discussing this holiday and all its preparations can be a great way to get to know them better. Many people will clean their houses especially well, prepare special foods, buy new clothes, and pick out gifts for family members. They will visit family and friends and, if possible, go on a picnic. In some countries, Nauroz is a one-day celebration; in others it can last two weeks! If you are brave, ask if you can join in the preparation of some of the special foods.

Ask your friends from these countries to share some of their favorite Nauroz memories and ask about the meaning behind the celebration. You will hear a variety of reasons and stories that will help you get a glimpse into their lives. These are bridge-building opportunities that we dare not miss as we seek to learn more about our friends and to find appropriate ways to share the gospel. Jesus took ordinary daily happenings and used them as a stage to share love, compassion, and life-changing stories. We can do the same. 

In northern Afghanistan, people raise a huge pole mid-morning on Nauroz, believing that the first sick person who touches it will be healed. Some infirm people spend the night at the site of the pole raising, trying to ensure that they will be in a good position to reach it first!

People jumping the fence around the Nauroz pole.

Afghans jump the fence to get to the Nauroz pole, hoping to receive healing. 

I have seen babies passed overhead from person to person, so that the baby can be lifted up to touch the pole to receive a special blessing, even from the back of this teeming mass of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. (And I wondered to myself, “How in the world will this baby ever find its mother again?”) Armed soldiers positioned to maintain order around the pole are, year after year, pushed out of the way as the pole is raised and the masses surge forward. It is an amazing sight. 

One Afghan proverb says “the world lives on hope,” and it is on a wisp of hope that these people are forcing their way towards the pole. My heart yearns for them to come to realize that they are seeking hope in the wrong place. Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Since only Jesus can bring life and true hope into these people’s lives, I pray that many of us will take the time to share that with our Muslim friends and neighbors, especially with those celebrating Nauroz this coming March 20. 

A quick reminder: Don’t forget to order copies of the 30 Days Prayer Guide for the Muslim World. Ramadan starts April 23, and you will want to get your prayer guides in time to pass some around with your small group and friends from your church. Feel free to plan a special prayer time using the prayer guide with friends. 

10/10 Prayer Initiative 

Join with Christians around the world who are praying for 10 percent of the Muslim world to come to Christ in the next 10 years. This is a prayer request so big that it will take a miracle from God to answer. Thankfully, God is in the business of performing miracles!  

  • March 20 Nauroz celebrations might be greatly threatened and impacted by the coronavirus. May Christian workers have opportunities to share about Christ in every situation that develops. 
  • Many Christian workers serve in countries with minimal health care available. Pray for protection, wisdom, calmness, and stamina as the coronavirus makes inroads into seemingly every country of the world. 
  • Some Christian workers are being relocated because of the threat of the coronavirus, which is upending ministry. School attendance is being interrupted and causing a lot of stress in families. Pray for God’s peace that passes understanding to calm hearts and minds.
  • Ask your Muslim friends and neighbors how you can pray for them in this upcoming New Year, and then do so right then and continue doing so for the rest of the year. Don’t forget to ask for updates along the way and new prayer requests going forward. 
  • Pray for Christian workers who serve in the countries that celebrate Nauroz, that they might have opportunities to share about new life and hope in Jesus with their friends and neighbors during the celebrations this year. 

— By a member of SEND’s Diaspora | North America team 

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