Here’s how Christians can use the scriptures to pray for people on all sides of this conflict
Saturday was the darkest day in Jewish history since the end of the Holocaust. More Jews were killed in a single day than any other period since the concentration camps.
It isn’t just the numbers that are shocking – 1,200 lives lost and rising. It’s the horrific details. Hamas terrorists stormed a music festival in southern Israel, firing indiscriminately. Reports of teenagers gunned down came amid the news that an elderly Holocaust survivor was among the hostages. And then, as if it were possible, everything got worse. I won’t repeat the details of the massacre at Kfar Aza, it’s too harrowing. But if you want to know, you can see here.
I’ve visited the region many times. Spoken to people on both sides of the divide. And every time, I’ve come away with the realisation that this conflict is far more complicated than I’d thought before.
As Christians, we are called to pray for everyone in these lands
But some things aren’t complicated, and that’s why Western governments have rightly flown the flag for Israel. This is not because they have no sympathy with the Palestinian cause, as some have mistakenly thought. Just as the civilized world were united in their condemnation of the Islamist hatred that led to 9/11, so the atrocities committed by Hamas have rightly been condemned.
As Christians, we are called to pray for everyone in these lands. The Bible says the God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121). Here’s how we can use the scriptures to call on him:
1. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’” (Psalm 122:6-7)
Jerusalem is the only city in scripture which God’s people are specifically instructed to pray for by name. There are historical reasons for this (the Bible was written almost entirely by Jewish people, who had and have a natural love for the holy city). But today, when we pray for Jerusalem, we are praying for those on all sides of the conflict. Jews, Christians and Muslims live in Jerusalem, with Palestinians and Israelis alike calling this city home. We are to pray there would be “peace within [its] walls”. That peacebuilding initiatives which bring Jews and Arabs together would flourish. Pray that the next generation will not be taught to hate the other, but to love.
2. Pray for the protection of innocent civilians
“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18)
We have already seen heartbreaking images of innocent families in Gaza who have lost loved ones. The strip is densely populated, and Hamas use human shields, often basing themselves in mosques, schools and hospitals. We must therefore pray for Palestinians – whether Muslim or Christian - that their families will be protected from what is about to unfold. We must pray that even in their just anger, Israel’s army will make wise and godly decisions, so that innocent Palestinians will be allowed to live in safety. Pray that Israel would heed the Old Testament command: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34). Civilian Palestinians are not the enemy, and must be protected.
3. Pray that evil ideologies will be exposed and gospel truth will prevail
“For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:2-3)
The evil ideology of Hamas (“Israel will exist until Islam obliterates it”) must be exposed and confronted.
But as the West has discovered during past conflicts, bombs don’t work when it comes to destroying ideologies. That’s why we must pray that the truth of the gospel will break into hard hearts.
On the road to Damascus, a violent man full of hate was overwhelmed by the love of God. The same God who saved Saul and turned him into Paul is able to reach today’s terrorists.
4. Pray for the Church
“For [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jew and Gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)
This scripture explains how Jesus’ death on the cross has ended the ethnic hostility between Jews and Gentiles. This is apparent today in churches where Israelis and Palestinians worship alongside one another in peace.
Whether predominantly Messianic, Arab, or mixed, these churches need our prayers. Pray for their leaders, that they would model the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5), especially love, peace and goodness. Pray that the unity of these churches would be protected. Pray that forgiveness would flow and justice would roll on like a river (Amos 5:24).
5. Pray for the Jewish community in the UK
“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9:9)
In the aftermath of Hamas’ terror attack, a Jewish bakery in north London was smashed, and the word “free Palestine” strewn across it. Reports of anti-semitic incidents in the UK have trebled. Videos have circulated online of a Palestinian activist in Manchester saying, in response to the Hamas atrocities: “we are full of pride and joy for what has happened”.
Such events, not to mention similar scenes in Australia (chants of “gas the Jews”) and the US, mean our Jewish friends are deeply worried for their own safety. British Synagogues and Jewish schools have long had airport-style security on their doors, and tensions will be running high.
As Christians, we must be aware of our history. Many of our past leaders were anti-semitic, and their theology paved the way for the Holocaust. We must not commit the same crimes of our forbearers. We must not hesitate when it comes to standing up for our Jewish brothers and sisters. Pray that their places of worship and education will be protected. Pray that justice will prevail, and those guilty of religious hate crimes will be brought to swift justice.
And ultimately, as our hearts break for the people of Gaza and the people of Israel, you may wish to pray the last prayer we find in scripture. Revelation 21:20. “Come, Lord Jesus.”