Perhaps you’re like me, feeling burdened and heavy-hearted over the increasing cycle of violence and death in the Middle East. Less than four weeks ago most of us couldn’t believe the horror of hatred unleashed by Hamas against Israelis— rape, beheading, burning families alive, kidnapping hundreds and taking them back to Gaza.
Certainly, the Israeli government had every right to a swift and effective response to rid themselves of terrorists and to secure their borders. Remembering our stunned desire for justice following 9/11, we Americans could relate on a visceral level.
Less than a month later, over 10,000 Palestinians are dead, most of them women and children. If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we need to acknowledge that awful horror is being responded to with overwhelming horror.
My wife, Beryl, and I watched in grief a few nights ago when a video clip from an explosion in Gaza showed a 4-year-old girl, wrapped in bandages, scars on much of her face, and a look of terror in her eyes. Then we learned she had lost her arm, she suffered a spinal cord injury that has left her paralyzed, and her whole family was taken in the blast.
In an instant, the war brought unimaginable consequences to this girl—who probably has no grasp of why it’s happening. Consequences she will live with every day for the rest of her life.
Many of us North American Christians feel an affinity and love for the people of Israel. I do. I pray for their protection, security and stability. But my ache and shock go beyond borders. My heart is heavy for the 1 million refugee Palestinians forced to leave their homes in a landscape of death, destruction, little water and disappearing medicine. I’m burdened by the wrath unleashed on so many innocent civilians. And it leaves me unclear how to even pray.
I wonder how God feels about what is unfolding. What I believe about God as Father is that he feels what I feel; just infinitely more. Where does my fatherly compassion and my tears for that 4-year-old girl come from if not from the heart of the Heavenly Father who created her? We know Jesus wept over the pain in the world, too (John 11:35). His love for “all the children of the world,” as we learned in Sunday School, does not end at manmade borders. If we describe ourselves as Pro-life, then every life matters to us.
So how in the world do we pray? I struggle to find the words that express my sadness and mixed feelings. And then a friend shared this prayer below, distributed by the National Association of Evangelicals. Their words are my words. Perhaps they can be yours, too.
A Prayer for Peace
Please join us in praying:
For a restoration of order and security throughout Israel and Gaza.
For the leaders of Hamas to cease any further terrorist attacks on Israel.
For the leaders of Israel to focus on defense of the Israeli people and not on revenge.
For the protection and safe return of all who are being held hostage.
For the healing and restoration of all who have been injured and traumatized by the senseless violence.
For comfort for all who have lost loved ones.
For those who feel that violence is their only option and for those who feel powerless and vulnerable.
For protection and strength for those providing vital treatment, care and relief.
For guidance for all who are involved in diplomacy to end the immediate conflict and prevent any external efforts to provoke continued violence.
For the restoration of conditions in both Israel and Palestine in which the longer-term issues of sustainable peace and justice for all can be addressed.
For the strengthening and witness of the Church in Israel and Palestine.
For the world — that even today, people in this region and across the globe would choose to follow Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The National Association of Evangelicals
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, their daughter Gemma and son Calvin. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.