Like many of you, I am glued to the news coming out of the Middle East. An ocean of virtual ink has been spilled this summer in debate over the Israel-Gaza war, the Israel-West Bank conflict, and the hard shift caliphate-building ISIS has brought as its taken hold across war-ravaged Syria and Iraq. And the reality is that heart-breaking recent events in Somalia, South Sudan and Ukraine are not disconnected from what is happening in the Middle East.
I am writing from a comfortable home in a Chicago suburb. A piece of my soul is not here, but is half a world away in the Middle East at any given moment of the day or night. As I type those words, releasing another bit of virtual ink into the blogosphere, I realize how lame they sound (“Easy for you to feel some emotion from the safety of a six thousand-mile distance, Michelle”) or, perhaps, how simple it would be to marginalize what I might say because of who I am and what I believe. I am a Jewish follower of Jesus. In addition, my husband and I are both currently serving a discipleship ministry headquartered in Jerusalem, and we have many friends in Israel. But we also know people who’ve lived or worked in some of these other countries named above, and are connected with others planning to head to nearby countries in the region in order to assist in relief efforts.
My concern is for each group (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) caught in the the fury-filled ancient divide that has cost so many their lives and homes. 2.5 million Syrians, for example, are currently refugees from their homeland, and more than 6 million more are still in the country but displaced from their homes. Christians are a shrinking, persecuted minority across the region. My own Jewish people have been persecuted as well, refugee people for millennia, surrounded now by people committed to eradicating them from the face of the earth.
What I most want to do while I have breath is use my voice in this space in ways that reflect the heart and character of God – and the wisest thing I can do at this moment is to pray. My prayer catapults my extraneous emotion, limited perspective and un-shalom-like temptations heavenward and allows me to better hear God’s voice so I can respond to others as he would have me. Philosopher Soren Kiekegaard once said, “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.”
I need to be changed. So I pray. From this posture alone will I learn how I am then to respond in practical ways and with wise words.
Please feel free to join me as you read the words below.
You are Father. No one in this world exists without you giving them life and breath.
Who art in heaven
You are above all. You are beginning and end; you are eternal.
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
May those who bear your Name shine forth your character in the darkness of this present world.
Your will be done
Our Father, Our King, we long to be agents of your inside-out revolution. Be glorified through the surrendered, poured-out lives of your beloved ones.
On earth as it is in heaven
In terror, chaos, fear, revenge and death…in wars and rumors of wars…we cry out for the healing of the world. For new creation. For the impossible, possible with you. You hear the terror of little ones and the unquenchable grief of those with arms emptied of their loved ones. You are not listening from afar. You are there…in the rubble, in hospital rooms, gravesides, bomb shelters, in camps, on streets and in markets. Reveal the beauty of your salvation and the name of your Savior to the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted.
Give us this day our daily bread
Respond with supernatural provision to the cries of the poor and hungry, of those displaced from home and family. Multiply loaves and fishes in places where there is no place to grow a crop or cast a line.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
We do not have the strength to forgive those who have done us harm. This, then, is our offering to you, Lord, these clenched fists and iron-divided hearts. Only you can beat these weapons of war within us into implements fit for harvest.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
Save us, Father, and we will be saved. Heal us, and we will be healed. Act swiftly to expose the deeds of darkness and silence the rage in the hearts of aggressors. Teach us in this when to act with courage so lives can be saved. Teach us how to turn the other cheek. Teach us to love what you love, and despise what you despise.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory…forever. Amen.