May 22, 2024
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How the global Church can pray for Gaza and Israel

Gaza is once again caught up in the middle of a war with Israel after a deadly attack by Hamas on October 7, 2023, that left over 1,000 Israelis dead and about 190 kidnapped.

Israel in return has been bombarding Gaza relentlessly seeking to smoke out Hamas.

But caught up in this perennial war is civilians, amongst them our brothers in Christ. The latest horrifying attack on Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza is said to have killed around 160 people and left thousands of children wounded. It now threatens to draw the whole region into the war.

The dead in both Israel and Gaza is already more than 4,000 and over 40 percent of those killed in Gaza are claimed to be children. People everywhere are hurting or furious.

With so many lives lost on both sides, so much pain and suffering and fear and heart break, how does the church respond? How do we pray and for whom do we pray in such a bitterly divisive situation?

Are there sides to take?

While avoiding the politics of the day over the Holy Land, may we know that Jehovah is the God of all the peoples of the earth. He is the God of the Jew and the Gentile, the young men and the children. Violence, injustice and hate, regardless of the side it’s coming from, break his heart because that’s not who he is.

If we look at Eden and at the future promised King, we he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, with a great rule and peace that has no end.

So in these troubling times, may the Holy Spirit calibrate our hearts that as we pray for peace in the region and for those affected by war, we will catch the heart of Jesus. The heart that weeps over Jerusalem, which has refused to acknowledge its Messiah; the heart that longs to gather all God’s people as prophesied by Isaiah; but also the heart that loves the people in Palestine and that longs that they come to know Christ and his love for them. Jesus died for us all – African, Asian, Palestinians, Israelis… atheists, traditionalists, Muslims, Hindus and Jews…

Open Doors, an organisation serving persecuted Christians globally, says Christians in Israel and Gaza are asking for prayer from the global church – for protection, an end to hostilities, and for justice and peace to reign.

In article on their website, Open Doors quotes a Christian living in Gaza:“My family and I feel fear, due to the heavy bombardments, and we feel that the house will fall – it is a permanent earthquake. We try to hug our children and relieve them of fear and terror.

“We do not know what is coming… all we see, hear and feel is war… explosions and destruction everywhere and the screaming of children from the intensity of the bombing. There is a strong fear of what is coming as there is no safe place in Gaza,” he continues.

This man is one of more than 1,000 Palestinian Christians in Gaza. The churches in Gaza cancelled all their services due to the current war and the bombings of the Israeli air force and according to Al Jazeera, churches have been turned into sanctuaries for both Muslims and Christians as the Father Elias, a priest at the Church of Saint Porphyrius in north Gaza says, “War knows no religion… Our humanity calls us to offer peace and warmth to everyone in need.”

According to Open Doors, Christians in Israel are also fearful of how they, their families and communities will be affected by ongoing violence. Around two per cent of Israelis identify as Christians.

The Christian in Gaza asks: “We pray that love and peace will prevail in our country and I ask for a prayer for God’s protection over my family and our home, that the war will end quickly, and that the Lord will meet all needs, especially at this time, and that we be can be the light in the middle of this total darkness and reflect the light and love of Christ in Gaza.”

Open Doors reports that Christians in Israel similarly ask for peace and protection, and to be able to shine the light of Christ in an area that is so significant in Jesus’s ministry on earth and in the history of our faith.

From Palestinian pastors

During a similar bombardment in Gaza in 2009, a Palestinian pastor gave directions on how the church can pray. Those pointers, published in Come and See, a newsletter from Nazareth (yes, that Nazareth) by Arab Christians, are as relevant today.

How to pray

1) Pray that the Lord will give wisdom to the leaders on both sides to stop the war. Pray that their minds will be changed.

2) Pray for the believers in Gaza, may they be protected from this attack, may they be a light amidst this darkness.

3) Pray for the church in Gaza, that this situation will not dismay her from her main calling to seek the lost.

4) Pray for the underground church in Gaza, there are many believers who are not from a Christian background that may God protect them and use them in mighty way.

5) Pray for safety as well for Israeli believers who live in towns near the Gaza strip.

6) Pray that the Lord will enable to Palestinian church like ours to stand with our people in every mean. In prayer, in relief and community development.

7) For bereaved children, families, men and women who lost their loved ones on both sides.

8) Pray for finances to come so that we could begin sending help as soon as we could.

9) Pray for the Palestinians in general, that they will still continue to seek peace with Israel, after seeing all this loss and death and destruction, that their hearts will not be hardened more.

10) Pray that those who don’t want peace on both sides will either change their minds or be taken away from power.

11) Pray for the Palestinian believers, that their heart will still seek reconciliation with their messianic brethren on the other side. Pray that their hearts will continue to be open for healing and continue to stretch the hand of peace to the whole Body in the country.

12) Pray for the Israeli believers, may they be a light to their nation, may the Lord continue to use them as a beacon of his love and goodness for the Jewish people.

Open Doors gives these prayer points:

Pray for an end to all violence and injustice in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Pray that the church might be a beacon of hope for the people around through their testimony in words and actions.

Pray that the Lord will comfort those who have lost loved ones, or who are waiting to hear about missing family and friends.

Pray also that the international community will work towards lasting peace in the Holy Land.

Tim Wyatt, a freelance journalist and the host of the ‘Premier Christian Newscast’ says that ultimately, for followers of Jesus caught between the violence of the two much larger religious and ethnic communities in the Holy Land, the prayer remains the same as anywhere: “Come, Lord Jesus, come”.

“The president of the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land, said the now decades-long conflict over territory missed the point,” he writes.

“Christians should not pray for either side to win, but for both to turn to Christ. “If either side takes land from the Mediterranean all the way to the Pacific, but does not have Jesus, it is nothing,” he said. “They still need Jesus.””

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