The news has been full of the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. It’s an intensely volatile situation, as most situations in the Middle East usually are.
Calls for prayer, email alerts, memes, profile picture changes, social media activity from high profile spiritual leaders all seem to have a common thread; the dominant Christian response I have seen is “Pray for Israel.” I’m sure there have been other responses, but they are not as visible, at least not in my corner of the world.
I will be clear: with all my heart, I believe in praying for Israel. I believe Scripture instructs us to pray for Israel. There is no question that the existence of this nation is continually threatened, that her enemies make no secret of wishing they could wipe her off the face of the earth. You cannot ignore the significance of such a tiny nation being the constant center of global conflict and concern. Obviously, Israel matters.
But so does Palestine.
Palestine matters because there are people there. People with hearts and souls and dreams and thoughts. People with hopes for their future and aspirations for their children. Some of them are innocent; some of them are not. Some of them have been deceived by Hamas; some of them wish they could be free of Hamas. Some of them have no idea of the global significance of the horror they are facing; they are only concerned with surviving another day.
But they are people. And they matter to God.
I attended Christian school growing up, and I can always remember shaking my head at the irony of student athletes praying for God to help them win their game. As if the other teams at the other Christian schools we were playing against weren’t praying for the same thing. How does God decided whose side to take? And I realize the attacks and violence happening are on a totally different scale, and I realize Israel is God’s chosen nation – but I don’t think that always means what we think it means. I don’t think the sides we begin to draw up and take always represent the way He is seeing the situation.
I am not here to debate theology or politics or global issues. Ultimately I’m less concerned with what I think or anyone else thinks, but I am very concerned with what I know.
And I know with unshakeable certainty that God loves people. All people. His heart breaks over lives taken and lives broken. All lives.
So please – please do pray for Israel. But don’t pray one-sided prayers. Don’t add on, “And help Palestine too” as an afterthought. Pray for Palestine too. Lives are hanging in the balance on all sides – lives that are precious to God. Lives that are worthy of our prayers and our awareness and our voices speaking on their behalf.