Prayers for Peace in the Middle East

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My introduction to our time of prayer together

First of all I wish I could take credit for this event, but it was the brainwave of one of our Facebook supporters. I suppose I could say it was a Godsend! It was after floating the prospect of a pray for peace gathering in the real world that we decided not to allow debating of Israel and Gaza in our Facebook group. Everything came together and continues to do so.

We often hope that we can achieve positive outcomes by sharing our positions with each other, debating, arguing, even signing petitions and writing to politicians, and let’s hope that these do work and we end up in a better place. Though here we are remote from the conflicts that bring us here, or not, if we are Israeli, Palestinian, Arab, Christian, Muslim, Jew, human beings. Even dialogue isn’t enough sometimes, and I must have a reputation by now for saying that dialogue is the answer to everything! But what’s behind the dialogue, if dialogue turns into argument, into shouting at or insulting each other, failing to listen, accusing each other of bias or not caring? It leads nowhere and gets nowhere, turning into recrimination, adding to hostility, breaking and souring relationships, even away from the actual conflict. Another door closed, another dialogue off the agenda.

So what is behind the dialogue? Pain, grief, disbelief, horror, fear. Real emotions on every side, something in common between those who disagree. And who listens to and shares all those feelings, us hopefully, but more likely God. Is it God where everything comes together? God who is for everyone, who does not, cannot take sides. God who loves human beings and hates war? Sometimes we bring God into our wars and violence, when God would rather be left out of it? Except to give comfort to the wounded and urge combatants towards mercy, even better if they use God’s Words to speak against war, seeking to realise the ancient prophetic vision of swords being turned into ploughshares, or bombs into bread.

So prayer is where we really come together, and perhaps we don’t do enough of it either individually, I know I don’t, or amongst ourselves. In my own church we only began a regular prayer meeting in response to anxieties about our sustainability. If we come together in prayer we don’t, and can’t, be gathered to argue or accuse, I don’t think God wants that either. But we can listen to each other, share our pain and ask for reconciliation, cessation of hostilities and eventually peace. This is a safe space for all of us. I hope that we will really listen, not judge, not be partisan, not find fault, nor feel that we must explain or justify. I hope, in God’s name, that none of these comments are necessary. I was struck by the sensitivities of sharing and expressing opinions and differences, from different standpoints and allegiances with a friend recently. Had I spoken to him as unwisely as some have been doing I would not just, perhaps, have lost a friend but stoked up hostilities some more.

So let’s be wise, gentle and inclusive in our prayers, whatever we find difficult to hear let’s pray that we can be with God who can handle all our difficulty and difference. And let’s be ultimately committed to peace as we pray. Perhaps we can’t stop any hostilities in Syria, Israel, Iraq, Gaza or anywhere else, but we can stand together as peaceful people saying – ‘We don’t want this, what is war good for?’ And, finally, reflecting on a theme in our ‘Abrahamic’ scriptures, maybe God is saying to us, ‘I want you to do something about it’, and be inspired to change things.

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God of Peace and Love,

We acknowledge that all wars and violence come from us, that even those of us who are not fighting are implicated, when we harbour our own violent thoughts, even if not fully acted out. Or just because we are all human beings.

Refresh us with your perspective across our shared traditions – that we are made in your image, that you have put our neighbours, whoever they are, alongside us so that we can love them, not fight them, and that we are not on the right path unless we want good things for our sisters and brothers, fellow human beings.

Guard us against demonising the other, however full of hate or desperation they may be, or when they mirror our own violence.

Help us to look with mercy on all who fight or are on the receiving ends of attacks. Remind us that, like you, we cannot rejoice in the death of anyone.

Be with us at times of tears and anger, and of the hatred that we struggle with. Help us to consider that you must be grieved too as your children fight, sometimes in the name of religion, targeting those who are different. And we repent of the huge hatred, bloodshed and oppression in our appalling histories, of communities set against each other and catastrophic loss of life.

In your mercy hear our prayer,
Amen

Julian Bond
Director, Christian Muslim Forum

More prayers

A Prayer for Gaza’s Children by Bradley Burston (2008), shared by @ElizabethHS3

Lord who is the creator of all children, hear our prayer this accursed day. God whom we call Blessed, turn your face to these, the children of Gaza, that they may know your blessings, and your shelter, that they may know light and warmth, where there is now only blackness and smoke, and a cold which cuts and clenches the skin.

Almighty who makes exceptions, which we call miracles, make an exception of the children of Gaza. Shield them from us and from their own. Spare them. Heal them. Let them stand in safety. Deliver them from hunger and horror and fury and grief. Deliver them from us, and from their own.

Restore to them their stolen childhoods, their birthright, which is a taste of heaven.
Be that Lord, the God of our kinsman Ishmael, who heard his cry and sent His angel to comfort his mother Hagar.

Be that Lord, who was with Ishmael that day, and all the days after. Be that God, the All-Merciful, who opened Hagar’s eyes that day, and showed her the well of water, that she could give the boy Ishmael to drink, and save his life.

Allah, whose name we call Elohim, who gives life, who knows the value and the fragility of every life, send these children your angels. Save them, the children of this place, Gaza the most beautiful, and Gaza the damned.

In this day, when the trepidation and rage and mourning that is called war, seizes our hearts and patches them in scars, we call to you, the Lord whose name is Peace:

Bless these children, and keep them from harm.

Turn Your face toward them, O Lord. Show them, as if for the first time, light and kindness, and overwhelming graciousness.

Look up at them, O Lord. Let them see your face.

And, as if for the first time, grant them peace.

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Prayer from @drcheema786

O, the Lord of Adam, Noah, David, Moses, Jesus, Abraham and Muhammad (Peace be upon them)

O, Our Gracious God,

I pray for peace in our communities this day.

I request you to bless all who work for peace,

And those who work to uphold law and justice.

I pray for an end to fear, miseries and sorrows

For comfort and support to those who suffer.

For calm in streets and cities of Gaza, Mosul and Najaf

I pray for all who suffer as a result of conflict,

And request you to give them eternal peace,

For the men and women who have died in the violence,

May each one be blessed by you;

In your mercy, hear our prayers,

Now and always. Ameen

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Spirit of the living God,

Come afresh on your holy land.

Help your people to restore broken relationships.

Give them patience to break down barriers of suspicion and mistrust; ability to discern personal prejudices and the courage to overcome fear.

Teach them to respect each other’s integrity and rights so that your kingdom may be established on earth.

For Jesus’ sake.

Closing Responses

Pray not for Arab or Jew,
for Palestinian or Israeli,
but pray rather for ourselves,
that we might not
divide them in our prayers
but keep them both together
in our hearts.
When races fight

PEACE BE AMONGST US

When neighbours argue

PEACE BE AMONGST US

When nations disagree

PEACE BE AMONGST US

Where people struggle for justice

LET JUSTICE PREVAIL

Where Christ’s disciples follow

LET PEACE BE OUR WAY
AMEN

@shanticate – Neve Shalom What- el Salam

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Prayer from Ben Dorfman @marylebonesr

The Soul Burns for Peace

The soul burns for peace
And where and to where my God?

The soul burns for peace
Not with a fire, but with a desire

The soul burns for peace
And if you listen you will hear the burning

The soul burns for peace
And the body is eaten and the body falls

The soul burns for peace
But I believe.

I believe that there will be a time
That the entire world will see.

That all the world will cry out.

And humanity will sit in a dwelling of peace together.

With God
With the living things
With the land
And with one another.

The soul burns for peace.

Also in Hebrew

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