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I am sending this email from South Africa. I am a member of a prayer group and we would like some guidance on how to pray for the situation in the Middle East. We want to see the love of God and the peace of God reign in that area. Do you have any suggestions on how to pray?- Praying For The Peace Of Jerusalem
Dear Praying For The Peace Of Jerusalem
It is a little bit tricky to pray for peace in the Middle East. Some people feel that prayer is in the center of God's will and others think it is directly opposed to God's will because of end-time prophecy. So the first thing you will need to do as a group is to ask God to show you what His will is for this area and how He would like you to pray.
I am going to share both sides of the "issue" for you. On one hand, it makes sense for intercessors to pray into current events and to invite God's glory into bad situations. Some people feel the Bible gives us a clear mandate to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They cite Psalm 122:6, which says, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." They believe that passage is not just for the people who lived at the time it was written. They believe that it is also instructions for modern-day believers all over the world to pray for Israel and peace in the Middle East.
However, if we look at that verse in context, we discover it has a different meaning. The psalm is talking about the "House of the Lord," the temple. The Psalm mentions "the tribes of the Lord" going to the temple "to give thanks to the name of the Lord." Look at the last four verses in that context, and pay special attention to verse 9.Psalm 122:6-9:
"6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May they prosper who love you.
7 Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.'
8 For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, 'Peace be within you.'
9 Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good."
This passage is clearly about God's temple and those who worship in it. It is about there being peace at the temple site so it is a safe place for the people of God to come and worship Him. It is not really talking about the nation of Israel today, it is talking about God's house. The temple in this Psalm doesn't exist there anymore--it was destroyed in the first century. Therefore, this passage does not mean that modern-day believers should pray for peace in the Middle East or pray for peace for Jerusalem, etc.
In fact, there is a big question about praying for peace in the middle east: is that prayer in accord with God's will, or does it explicitly go against His will?
The "other side" of the issue is end-time Bible prophecy. The Bible has a lot to say about "wars and rumors of wars" (Matthew 24:6, Mark 13:7). There is a lot of end-time prophesy that centers on the Middle East and on military conflicts in that area. The Bible predicts war, and many Bible scholars believe the Antichrist will rise to power by putting an end to war in the Middle East. According to the Bible, we cannot avoid conflict in the Middle East; it is destiny and it will be an unalterable part of human history.
The question becomes: are we living that time right now? Are the Bible prophecies about end-time war in the Middle East being fulfilled now, or will they happen some time in the future?
If we are living it now, then praying for peace in the Middle East would be futile because that prayer would go against God's explicit prophesied will. If we pray against God's will, we know that God would not answer our prayer. On the other hand, if we are not yet in that end-time destiny, then our prayers could make a real difference in world affairs.
The problem is that none of us can know for sure what God's time-table is for end-time events. Even the top Bible scholars don't agree on the timing of the last-day prophecies. Some think we are already living the Book Of Revelation and others feel that is still a distant future event. Their confusion about God's timing is not a big surprise, because Jesus said in Matthew 24:6, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only."
So how do we figure out how to pray about the Middle East?
I suggest we look at Jesus and at how He prayed when His will did not line up with His Father's will. Jesus knew He was about to be crucified, and He was not looking forward to it. He actually asked God the Father if He could get out dieing for our sins. In Matthew 26:39, He prayed, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Jesus knew that whenever there is a conflict between our will and the Father's will, then the Father's will must prevail. However, that knowledge did not keep Him from expressing His desire to His Father in prayer. In fact, He prayed about it more than once. It was the first thing He prayed when He got by Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane (verse 39). But look at verses 42, which says, "Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.'"
What do we learn from this? We learn that we must always come into agreement with the Father's will, but it doesn't hurt to tell Him the things that are on our heart. We know that He is our loving Heavenly Father, and He loves to answer our prayers (Matthew 7:7-11). But at the same time we know that there is a certain destiny that has already been prophesied and cannot be changed, so there are certain prayers that He is going to say "No" to.
Praying for peace in the Middle East is one of those gray areas that might be praying against destiny and God's explicit will. So we should pray like Jesus did:'Father, if it is possible,' let there be peace in the Middle East right now. Override current events with Your glory and bring an end to this killing and bloodshed. Let truth and justice prevail. Cause the hate the enemy has sowed in that region to be replaced with Your love and Your peace. Come and bring Your presence and Your glory into the Middle East. End the war, end the conflict. And at the same time, cause the Jews and Arabs living there to know You, to honor You and to walk in Your ways. Pease is that I really want, Lord. 'Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.'
There are many other things you can pray regarding the Middle East that you know for sure do not go against His will, no matter what your end-time theology is. You can pray for God to open people's eyes to the gospel in that area, that many would come to know Him. You can pray for the political leaders on both sides of the conflict to come to know and walk in the Lord's ways. You can pray that the Lord would take care of the widows and orphans in the area, that He provide comfort, food, and shelter for them. You can pray for God's protection over anyone you know who lives in the area. God is a merciful God and He has been know to have great grace and mercy for specific individuals even in the midst of His judgment. Look at Rahab the Harlot. She had enough faith in God to hide the Jewish spies. God protected her and her family in the midst of Jericho's destruction. He took good care of her even though He was judging and destroying her people. We can ask for that same grace, mercy and protection to be extended to those people in the area who have hearts that are open to God.
In short, even if someone feels that they can't pray for peace in that region, there are still many things that they can pray for.