Prayer For Peace in Israel
Praying for Peace in the Middle East
Meeting Elias Chacour and other Holy Land Christians helps people pray differently for all who suffer in Palestine and Israel.
|Praying for Peace in the Middle East|
There’s a reason that few worship services include prayers for the Holy Land—other than a vague “and we pray for peace in the Middle East.” It’s because most Christians don’t quite know why Israel is such a hotspot.
When Glasgow University Media Group researchers asked people of different ages, incomes, and countries what the words Israeli-Palestinian conflict call to mind, the top responses in all groups were violence and suicide bombings.
The researchers asked 49 American journalism and media students about who’s occupying the occupied territories and what nationality the settlers are. Only 29 percent knew that the Israelis are both the occupiers and the settlers.
Because current news is often delivered in sound bites with little context, some of us resort to stereotypes and either-or thinking to make sense of it all. But Elias Michael Chacour, author of Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land, doesn’t fit into the categories Christians often use to understand the Holy Land. Hearing his stories may change how you pray.
Made in God’s image
Chacour believes that how you understand someone’s identity affects how (or whether) you pray for them. As he tells his story around the world, people are surprised to hear him describe himself as a Palestinian Arab Christian and Israeli citizen.
Chacour was born in Biram, a Palestinian village in upper Galilee, in a house that had been in his family since the 1500s. His first language was Arabic, though he now speaks 11 languages. Biram was an entirely Christian village.
Though listeners often assume that Chacour’s family must have converted from Islam, Arabs were among the first to be called Christian and to be persecuted for their faith.
A century ago, about a quarter of people living in the Levant—present-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), and Syria—were Christians.
“Our worship started three days after Jesus was crucified, on the day of resurrection. From the empty tomb came our daily belief that we are all to become adopted children of God,” he said at the 2010 Calvin Symposium on Worship. He is now the Melkite Catholic archbishop of Galilee.
After the United Nations declared Israel an independent country in 1948, 460 Arab villages were emptied or destroyed. Arabs and Jews killed and maimed each other.
More than 700,000 Palestinians, including most clergy and seminary professors, fled abroad or to nearby countries.
The Chacours had no means to flee so became refugees five kilometers from their ancestral home—which is why they are considered Arab citizens of Israel.“It’s as if I bear in myself all the contradictions of being Palestinian, Arab, Christian, and an Israeli citizen. But I wasn’t born an Arab,” Chacour said.
He paused, then added, “My identity is a born baby human being. All the rest is addendum. We are children of God no matter who we are. We are made in God’s image. Therefore we all have rights and should be treated with dignity. Christ came to restore us to that identity.”
Blessed are the peacemakers
Chacour said he grew up “saturated with the physical presence of Jesus.” Bible stories about removable roof tiles, fig trees, grape vines, sheep, lost coins, and weddings mirrored his life. He calls Jesus “our Compatriot, our Champion, our Friend, our Man from Galilee” and speaks of belonging to the land—“not the land belongs to me—because it is God’s land.”
His parents taught him to value peace, justice, reconciliation, and sumud (Arabic for “steadfastness”) in following the sabeel (Arabic for “the way”) that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
When Michael Chacour learned that Jewish soldiers would visit Biram, he explained to little Elias that these soldiers had survived terrible suffering in Europe. Michael bought a lamb he could barely afford so the family could roast it and welcome the newcomers into the harmony that Christians, Jews, and Muslims had enjoyed together for centuries in Galilee.
Within weeks, the soldiers confiscated their property. Israeli high courts ruled several times in favor of Biram villagers’ right to return, but the military never allowed it.
“My father said that hatred and violence are a bucket of stinky garbage on someone’s head. If you return hatred with hatred, it’s taking another bucket of that same stinky garbage and putting it on your head,” Chacour said.
His father’s determination to live out the Beatitudes made even more sense when Chacour learned Aramaic. He discovered that what Jesus said is translated in Greek as makarios and in English as a passive “blessed are.
” But the gist of the original Aramaic is “get up, move, do something.” Chacour said, “I hear Jesus saying, ‘Get your hands dirty for peace. Build a human society for human beings.
Otherwise, others will torture and murder the poor, the voiceless, and the powerless.’”
Since Chacour’s childhood, the Christian population in Israel and oPt has shrunk to two percent. Sometimes known as “the forgotten faithful,” Christians in the Middle East provide an enduring witness.They have the potential to help reconcile Christian West and Muslim Arab worlds.
Chacour asked for Christians everywhere to pray “that Christians will stay and maintain a physical Christian presence in Palestine so that people maintain hope.”
Peace is hard work
Seeing each person as God’s image bearer and working for peace requires reconciling with people who make your life difficult.
Though Arabs account for a fifth of Israeli citizens, they have fewer rights than Jewish Israelis have. “We lost our homes, possessions, lands, and power. But we still have our minds.
Educating our children in peace and justice is our best hope for reconciliation,’” Chacour said.
Practicing peace is even harder in oPt, where poverty, checkpoints, roadblocks, trade blockades, and utility shutoffs dominate. As of February 2010, officials from the United Nations oPt office reported 550 closures in the West Bank (slides 14-15).
Many Palestinians are never allowed to leave their village. Jericho is surrounded by a ditch and has only one entrance and exit. The military evicts Palestinians and bulldozes their homes so Jewish settlers can move in or build. The settlers get water 24/7.
Many roads are for Jewish pedestrians and drivers only.
“When the Berlin Wall crumbled, we were dancing. We never realized there would be a wall that zigzags between our homes and farms, more than 525 kilometers long and eight meters high. This suffering must end before there is total moral corruption among Jews in Israel and Palestinians,” Chacour said.
Violence tempts the oppressed to retaliate with suicide attacks, which lead to more deaths. Violence also corrupts the occupiers, say Israeli peace activists, refusers, and veterans who break the silence.
After a year of prayer and discussion, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant leaders wrote the Kairos Palestine document.It asks the world, especially churches, to work with them for a just peace that includes peace and security for Israel.
It calls Israel’s military occupation “a sin against God and humanity” and asks churches to “revisit” Christian Zionism, a theology that supports unfettered military aid to Israel so Christ will return and the end times will begin.
“I will always protest every evil act done against me or my people, but I will never protest with the same methods they use,” Chacour wrote in We Belong to the Land.
Israeli authorities often refuse to grant building permits at Mar Elias Educational Institutions, the kindergarten through university system Chacour founded for children of all faiths.
He solicits international support and builds anyway. He has replanted countless uprooted orchards.
Chacour asked churches to pray for solidarity among two peoples and three faiths in the complex challenge of sharing one land.
“God always takes the side of liberation, not the side of particular people or nations as favorites. God calls the oppressor to be liberated from fear, anger, and lust for power.
Remember that standing with the oppressed does not automatically make the other side your enemy,” he said.
He has often shown The Diary of Anne Frank film so students understand the Jewish Holocaust. In Faith Beyond Despair: Building Hope in the Holy Land, he wrote about rabbis who helped get food into the West Bank and Mar Elias students and teachers who gave blood for Israeli soldiers after a suicide attack.
For decades he has preached, “God is love. God does not kill.” Many Palestinians now work for peace through nonviolent resistance. Arabs and Israelis work together for peace, as do Jews in Israel and the U.S. and Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Holy Land and elsewhere.
U.S. Christians who pray for greater trust in Christ’s work of destroying the wall of hostility must also confess that their taxes prevent true peace and justice in the Holy Land. The Congressional Research Service reports that the U.S. gives an annual average of three billion dollars in military aid to Israel.
“We need common friends, people who are friends with both Jews and Palestinians. When the Israeli minister comes to visit me, I say, ‘Please tell your people that we don’t hate you. We don’t what you have done to us. But we love you. We still have hope for you. I don’t ask you to destroy the wall. But maybe we can cover the wall with bridges,’” Chacour said.
Listen to or download Elias Chacour’s January Series lecture “Unity within Diversity: Myth or Reality?” at Calvin College in January 2010. Read his books.
Plan an education event with resources, fact sheets, and recommended films from Jewish Voices for Peace and Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian group. Most U.S. newspapers fail to cover nonviolent resistance in Palestine, but you can see it on videos.
Stand with “the forgotten faithful.” Request a free copy of the video The Cradle of Our Faith. Read English professor Raouf J. Halaby’s brief lament that North Americans often equate Palestinian with terrorist. He writes, “My family was Christian before America was discovered.” Go deeper by reading Christians in the Middle East by Betty Jane Bailey and J. Martin Bailey.Gather a group to read and discuss the Kairos Palestine document. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu prays that the Palestine Kairos document will mobilize international Christian pressure, just as churches did with apartheid in South Africa.
Christian traditions that have only recently confessed anti-Semitism may worry that speaking against Israeli occupation repeats past sins. However, some Israelis say that if U.S.
military aid decreased, then Israeli politicians will have an alibi to appeal to reconciliation instead of to fear.
That annual $3 billion chunk to Israel could instead be used to buy back homes and property from Israeli settlements or pay for primary health care and affordable housing in your community.
Use or adapt this service of prayer for people in the Middle East or this one by Anne Zaki. Listen to Anne Zaki sing “The Lord’s Prayer” in Arabic. Read denominational statements and use denominational resources on peace in the Middle East.
Pax Christi, an international Catholic movement for peace, has Peace Sunday worship resources. Use peace-themed prayers and Bible passages. Sing “A Song of Lamentation,” “For the Healing of the Nations,” or “God of Grace, God of Glory,” which includes the line “Cure Thy children’s warring madness, Bend our pride to Thy control.”
Observe the annual World Week for Peace in Palestine & Israel with these contemporary and traditional liturgies and resources.” Pray the Jerusalem prayer with Christians around the world. Read prayer requests and Easter greetings from Palestine.
Start a Middle Eastern cooking and conversation group cookbooks with stories, such as Palestinian and Jewish Recipes for Peace or Classic Palestinian Cookery.Travel to Palestine and Israel. Serve as an ecumenical accompanier. Boycott or disinvest in companies that support Israel’s military occupation. Start a Hope Equals chapter on your school campus.
Browse related stories on Jesus through Middle Eastern eyes and Christians who suffer in Argentina, Northern Ireland, and Pakistan.
Start a Discussion
- What in this story surprises you? What do you disagree with and why?
- If reading about Israel and Palestine makes you angry or fearful, what Bible passage, song or prayer helps you? How might these emotions help you pray differently for people in the Holy Land?
- Which international needs does your church most often pray about? Which issues do you ignore—and why?
- If you joined an organization or visited Palestine and Israel, will you share how that experience helped you pray differently? What worked best in sharing the learning with your congregation?
- What worship resources—biblical, written, musical, visual, social, or other—help sustain you in working for peace, justice, and reconciliation?
Why Should We Pray for Israel? A Christian Perspective
Why should we pray for Israel? Does the Bible instruct us to? Should we also be praying for the peace of Jerusalem the Old Testament prophets sometimes did? Should a Christian be obligated to pray for Israel?
In Psalm 122:6 it says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.”
God’s Chosen People?
God calls Israel the “apple of His eye” which is a term of endearment (Duet. 32:10, Zech. 2:8). God adds a blessing to those nations and people who bless Israel and a curse on those who curse Israel (Gen. 12:2-3). Do these blessings and cursings still apply? I do not see why they don’t since God changes not (Malachi 3:6). God was seen as the husband of Israel (Jer. 3:14).
God is evidently still concerned over Israel, saying in 2 Chronicles 6:6, “Yet I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.” Wherever God places His name is where He still places His love. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, knowing what their fate held, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41).
This may be the very reason that God has prospered the United States. America is one of the few nations that have chosen to be her ally but that seems to have recently began to change. When America withdraws her support and defense of Israel, God could take His hand of blessing off of the U.S. Perhaps He has already begun to do so since relations with Israel have cooled off lately.
Israel is surrounded by hostile nations and a religion (Islam) that seeks her destruction. A blessing is pronounced over those who will pray for and bless Israel (Numb. 24:9). God will never abandon Israel and in the end, Israel will be saved by God Almighty (Malachi 3:6, Romans 11:1).
Since Paul commands Christians to pray for governmental authorities and leaders, (Rom 13:1-7) why should we not also be praying for peace in the Middle East and in particular, for Israel? No, Israel is not perfect and she has made many mistakes, but they are God’s chosen people (Duet. 6:3-4).
Listen to what the prophet’s and Old Testament writers say about Israel:
Isaiah 48:12 “Listen to me, Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last.”
Psalm 105:43 “He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy.”
Isaiah 41:8-9 “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.”
Deuteronomy 7:8-9 “But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
Deuteronomy 14:2 “For you are an holy people unto the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”
Why We Should Pray for Israel
There are dozens of Scriptures where God says that we should pray for the peace of Israel. In Psalm 122:6 it says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.
” Not only does this say that we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and by extension, Israel, we read that “those who love you [will] be secure.
” This is a clear signal that God would be pleased that we pray for Israel’s peace and safety because God is not giving up on Israel (Rom 10:1).
In the New Testament, Paul prayed for Israel’s salvation, saying, “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” (Rom 10:1). If Paul is telling the church that his heart’s desire is to pray for Israel and that “they may be saved” that should clearly be our prayer for them also.Believers today are grafted into the natural olive tree – described as ethnic Israel – for we are “fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (Eph. 2:19).
Romans 11:24 is clear about this: “After all, if you were cut an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!”
What about the Lost 10 Tribes of Israel?
Perhaps you have heard about the lost 10 tribes of Israel which were separated from Judah when the Northern Kingdom was taken into captivity by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17). The fact is that nothing is lost to God. They are lost to history perhaps, but to God, never! Revelation 7:4-8 says that these tribes are not lost if God knows where they are:
“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulon 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.”
The Remnant of Israel
God has not rejected His people Israel and today we are Jews who are ones inwardly as Paul writes in Romans 2:29 “but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Neither has God rejected His chosen people.
Paul testifies to this fact in Romans 11:1-2 “Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel.
Further, Paul says that “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches.
If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith.
Do not be arrogant, but be afraid” (Rom 11:17-20).
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in [or has been saved]. And so all Israel will be saved [true Israelites, whether ethnic or spiritual, e.g.
Rom 2:29], as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob [Israel]. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Rom 11:25-27). This does not mean that all of Israel will be saved…the entire nation and all Israelites of all time, but those who come to believe in Jesus Christ.
This will happen someday when Israel finally recognizes Jesus Christ as the Messiah. The nation will finally accept Him as the Prophesied One.
Today there are Messianic Jews who already believe that Jesus is the Messiah. The national stock of Israel will join these Messianic Jews, but not until the “fullness of times” or when the last person is saved prior to Christ’s return as King of kings and Lord of lords. That time appears to be fast approaching.Jerusalem means “king of” (Jeru) “peace” (Salem). Jerusalem is anything but peaceful right now but the King of Peace is coming. Until then, believers ought to be praying for the peace of Israel and for the King of Peace to come soon. Even so Lord, come quickly.
That is my prayer and I hope you will join me in praying for His Kingdom to come and for the peace of Jerusalem and for Israel.
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The International House of Prayer (IHOPKC) is committed to seeing the nation of Israel walking in their full destiny at the end of the age. Our primary role is to pray for and partner with Messianic Jews living in Israel, and to pray for God’s purposes in the nation of Israel.
The operation and visitation of the Spirit in Israel is a vital part of releasing the great end-time harvest among the nations (Ezek. 36:23–36).
However, this full release of the Spirit will only come as a result of a body of believers who are committed to a life of night-and-day prayer and fasting.
Jesus Himself prophesied that He would raise up a last-day prayer movement that would cry out for the Jewish people (Isa. 56:6–7; 62:6–7). We take this mandate seriously.
Our mission is to mobilize an international prayer movement that would pray 24/7 for the nation of Israel to receive their Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus).
Jesus promised the nation of Israel an unusual visitation of His presence at the end of the age, when the Jewish leaders will recognize Him as their true Messiah and deliverer (Mt. 23:39).
We invite you to get involved and join us in praying for the nation of Israel. Join us on the free prayer room webstream, or in the Global Prayer Room here in Kansas City during our prayer meetings that focus on Israel.
Israel Prayer Schedule
|Monday||1–2pm||Global Prayer Room, Side Room 4|
|Tuesday||12–2am; 4–6am; 10am-12pm; 4–6pm; 8–10pm||Global Prayer Room|
|Tuesday||8:00–9:00am||Global Prayer Room, Side Room 12|
|Tuesday||3:00–4:00pm||Global Prayer Room, Side Room 6|
|Tuesday||10am–12pm (in Chinese)||All Nations Prayer Room|
|Wednesday||9–10am||Global Prayer Room, Side Room 4|
|Wednesday||1–2pm||Global Prayer Room, Side Room 3|
*Email email@example.com for information
Please note that only the Global Prayer Room is streamed; prayer in side rooms is not on our webstream.
Houses of Prayer in Jerusalem
Succat Hallel » (Succat hallel means “tabernacle of praise.”)
Jerusalem House of Prayer for All Nations »
Jerusalem Prayer Tower »
Mishkan Elohai » (Mishkan elohai means “the dwelling place of my God.”)
Scriptures to Use in Prayer for Israel
“For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns.” (Isa. 62:1)
Jerusalem’s End-Time Significance
Jesus “bound” Himself by His own prophecy, saying He would only come back and rule in Jerusalem when Israel’s leaders ask Him to reign as King over them.
“O Jerusalem! Jerusalem . . . How often have I wanted to gather your children together . . . but you were not willing . . . for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Mt. 23:37, 39)
The Armageddon campaign is a battle for Jerusalem
Military forces of all nations will gather in one place and lay siege against Jerusalem.
“And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all the peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut to pieces, though all the nations of the earth are gathered against it.” (Zech. 12:3)
“For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem.” (Zech. 14:2)
Jesus will bring military breakthrough.
“In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be David, and the house of David shall be God, the Angel of the Lord before them. It shall be in that day that I shall seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” (Zech. 12:8–9)
“Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.” (Zech. 14:3)
At the same time, Jesus will bring spiritual breakthrough.
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:9-10)
“And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls.” (Joel 2:32)
Jesus will rule over all nations from His throne of glory in Jerusalem.
“For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place. This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Ps. 132:13–14)