Praying for peace in Jerusalem
Filed under: international, religion | Tags: Bible, Christianity, day of prayer, Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, Isaiah, Islam, Islamic Society of North America, Israel, Jack Hayford, Jerusalem, Jesus, Judaism, Micah, Palestine, Palestinians, Paul of Tarsus, peace, Peace of Jerusalem, prayer, Psalms, Robert Stearns, Sayyid Syeed, social justice, St. Paul |
Since 2004, the first Sunday in October has been observed by some Christians as a day to specifically pray for the peace of Jerusalem, something specifically enjoined by the psalmist:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
“May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.
— Psalm 122:6-9
The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem (official site), first organized by a pair of Pentecostal evangelists, Jack W. Hayford and Robert Stearns, day is mostly observed by evangelical Christians and it’s date was selected to fall near Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement and repentence. While many involved with the day may be as concerned with politics as with God, we should never require much convincing before we pray for and contemplate peace and how we can promote its realization on earth, as it is in heaven.
Jerusalem, and the entire conflict that centers on it, certainly needs peace; entirely too much blood is shed over the city and the region—and a single drop constitutes too much. But if we simply say “peace, peace” there will be no peace: peace is more than just the absence of violence; it requires the existence of a just system wherein everybody is free from harm and free to be who they are and who they can be. Such a system cannot be established until there is healing for the enormous amounts of hatred and anger that exist on both sides of the present conflict. That conflict, which effects not just Jew and Moslem, and not just Israeli and Palestinian, but the larger world as well, has gone on for far too long. One need not be a Christian or a Jew, or even religious at all, to desire and pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the region.
Those who are within the Judeo-Christian tradition have as their heritage some of the most beautiful passages on peace in all of world literature, and perhaps sharing some selections might be appropriate on this day. One image of peace used frequently in the Hebrew Bible, albeit not very much today, is the hope that
Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
— Micah 4:4
Vines and trees were beyond the means of the poor to own, so a society where each person had his or her own fig tree is one where poverty has been eliminated; and since they take a long time to grow, this image implies a stability and permanence to the situation, not just a temporary cease-fire. It speaks to the point that it is difficult to eliminate anger and hatred if you have not yet eliminated deprivation, a theme often emphasized by people who are especially interested in social justice.
Many of the Bible’s other passages about peace are still commonly used today, often by those unaware of their origins. From the prophet Isaiah we read:
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;and a little child will lead them.The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
— Isaiah 11:6-9
From the same source we get one of the best known images of peace:
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
— Isaiah 2:4
In the Christian New Testament peace is also an emphasis. One of Jesus’s epithets is Prince of Peace (though the phrase itself occurs only in the Old Testament) and, of course, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
Paul of Tarsus, the second most important figure in early Christianity, wrote in his epistle to the Romans that “so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” and that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” So, let us “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
This brief listing is by no means exhaustive, even of the Judeo-Christian tradition; all of the world’s enduring religions, in their best forms, emphasize peace. And, of course, many people who consider themselves nonreligious also seek peace and pursue it.
In an ecumenical spirit, here is a prayer for peace in the Middle East written by Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, former Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America:
O God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad! Bring peace and tranquility to the people of Middle East who have been plagued with pain and suffering.
O God! We appeal to you bring our soldiers back safe and help our nation to be one that is given to truth and justice.
O God! We call you with your beautiful names: the One, the Holy, the Sovereign, the Just, and the Peace. We call with love and sincerity to bring peace to our world and guide our steps to do what is right and what pleases You.
O God! You are the Source of Good, the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Supreme: All Glory belongs to you! Help us to see our glory in serving you and upholding the values of compassion and justice on earth.
O God we beg you to forgive our sins and ask you not to hold us accountable for mistakes and missteps we did or were done in our names. Our Lord give us the humility to recognize our mistakes and limitations, and the strength and courage to choose right over wrong and justice over pride.
O the Eternal and Compassionate Lord! Fill our hearts with your Love, and help us to love one another, and show compassion to your servants throughout the world and your creation.
O God! We ask you in submission and humility to allow wisdom to triumph over vanity, truth over falsehood, and love over hate.