How can a Christian pray specifically for the current conflict between Israel and Hamas? The Jewish celebration of Hannukah can serve as a guide.
The events surrounding the “festival of lights” are recorded in the Apocrypha, a collection of pre-New Testament writings, and mentioned in the Talmud, a compilation of teaching and commentary on the Torah. It is the story of the religious oppression, persecution, and martyrdom of Jews by Syrian tyrant Antiochus IV. G’d fearing Jews rose up in resistance to defend themselves and restore the right to worship. The Temple, which had been desecrated, was cleared and the Menorah was relit by the Jewish liberators known as the Maccabees. Although there was only enough oil to fuel the Menorah for one day, it lasted for eight days, as Israel defended itself in battle against its oppressor.
The remembrance of Hannukah seems to be an appropriate way to pray for the current conflict in the Holy Land. Christians must pray with compassion and conviction for peace in the land, for light in the darkness. As Psalm 122:6-8 says,
“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.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
As the Menorah has 8 stems (which are lit on consecutive nights) use the following 8-day guide beginning the evening of Thursday, December 7th to pray for the conflict. The following prayers have been compiled from various resources (as noted); some published Jewish Tefillah (prayers) and other prayers published by Catholic and Protestant sources.
Day 1: Prayer for the Release of Hostages *
God of Israel, our Rock, and our Redeemer, God of Mercy, of Compassion,
we pray, we plead that you return these precious and beloved people […] the captured and the missing, who have cruelly and heartlessly been torn from their homes… (and) lay beyond our reach and our capacity to save them.
And so we plead before You:
Father of Mercy, be at their side, support them, protect them and quickly bring them back to the embrace of their families and all who love them as You have declared:
“Thus says the Lord; Behold, I will restore the captives of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on their dwelling places…” (Jeremiah 30:18).
We beseech you, Adonai, quickly fulfill Your word: “Here, I am with you, I will watch over you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land, indeed I will not leave you until I have done what I have said to you” (Genesis 28:15).
* Prayer for the Welfare and Return of Israel’s Captured and Missing by The Rabbinical Assembly of Israel and the Masorti Israel (Online at https://www.exploringjudaism.org/living/prayer-for-the-welfare-and-return-of-israels-captured-and-missing/ Also at https://forward.com/culture/567835/rabbis-writing-prayers-for-captives-hostages-held-by-hamas/ ) Content edited.
Day 2: Prayer for Grieving Families in Israel and Gaza *
God of love and mercy, embrace all those whose hearts today are grieving. Draw near to the brokenhearted and those whose spirits have been crushed by the loss of their loved ones (Psalm 34:18). Be mindful of them and have mercy.
O Lord, we call upon You in the time of sorrow, that You give them the strength and will to bear this heavy burden, until they can again feel the warmth and love of Your divine compassion.
* Selection from https://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_mourning.htm .
Day 3: Prayer for the Palestinian People *
Lord, we lift up this prayer for the Palestinian People in their hour of despair and desolation. We intercede for the protection of all civilian lives and especially children and infants. Lord may they know Your presence in their dire circumstances. May You give them hope for a future where there is no more suffering. May a different spirit arise amongst the Palestinian People, and the Christians among them, that is filled with faith, hope and love.
Father in Heaven, the God of Mercy, Grace and Compassion, be merciful to the Palestinian people. Show them divine revelations of Your goodness, Your power to protect, rebuild and give them visions and dreams of a better tomorrow, a brighter future.
* Adapted from A prayer for Gaza – Let’s intercede for the Palestinian People and Church in Gaza. Online at https://internationalchristian.news/prayer-for-gaza-and-palestinian-people/
Day 4: Prayer for the Humanitarian Aid Workers *
God of Heaven, be with the aid worker…
Who, in times of danger, marches forward when human sense says to flee,
Who seeks out the fallen, Who listens for the cry of the lost,
Who reaches out to the broken, And rescues them in their distress.
Be strength for them when they tire.
Be hope for them when they despair.
Be life for them when they mourn.
Help us support these, your bravest sons and daughters. Inspire us with their courageous spirits. That we may build a safer, more just and peaceful world. May your angels protect those who protect us, dear Lord.
* Adapted from Prayer for Aid Workers by Catholic Relief Services. Online at https://www.crs.org/resource-center/prayer-aid-workers
Day 5: Prayer for the Human Consequences of War *
Gracious and Merciful God,
We humbly ask for Your protection upon the men, women and children who live in daily mortal danger. Show mercy and preserve the innocents from the destruction and death of war. We intercede for the refugees who have been dislocated from their homes and lost all their possessions, that You would provide them with the stability, resources and favor required to begin their lives again. We pray for courage and strength for all who work and contend for peace in the land. And we pray that those who would violate the sanctity of human life and engage in barbaric brutality would be unseated from the power they have abused. May Your justice and righteousness rule, Your grace and mercy realized. Amen.
* Adapted from Six Ways to Pray In Times of War by Christopher Poshin David (The Gospel Coalition – India). Online at https://in.thegospelcoalition.org/article/six-ways-to-pray-in-times-of-war/
Day 6: Prayer for the Israeli Government *
Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the first flourishing of our redemption. Shield it with Your lovingkindness, envelop it in Your peace, and bestow Your light and truth upon its leaders, ministers, and advisors, and grace them with Your good counsel. Ordain peace in the land and grant its inhabitants eternal happiness. *
Day 7: Prayer against Antisemitism *
Lord, we thank You for Your love and generosity to people of every nation, having made us all in Your image (Genesis 1:28). We fervently pray against the antisemitism that exists in the minds of people and cultural opinion, which continually terrorizes people and communities around the world.
Father God, convict the hearts of any who harbor hatred toward Jewish people and draw those people to repent. We pray for healing from hate and for love and peace to rule. May compassion prevail, promoting dialogue and understanding between Jews and the peoples of the world. Above all, we pray for all people to be reconciled to God and one another. Amen
* Adapted from https://www.chosenpeople.com/pray-for-the-peace-of-jerusalem/
Day 8: Prayer for Peace *
Almighty God, all thoughts of truth and peace proceed from you.
Kindle in the hearts of all people the true love of peace. Guide with your pure and peaceable wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth; that in tranquility your kingdom may go forward, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
* From the Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland, St. Andrew Press.