This morning, I woke up and checked my emails. To my surprise, an email from a friend in the US shared with me a headline about Israel being at war. I opened my Internet news station and was shocked to learn that a massive assault had just begun against southern Israel. By mid-morning, parts of Jerusalem had also been attacked.
After answering my friends and letting them know I was OK but to pray for those in the south of the country, I began preparing to attend Saturday morning worship. Then I received a notification on my phone that the congregation elders had felt that it was right to cancel the meeting today in light of the uncertainty of the situation. We were encouraged to use that time to pray for the country and the safety of all involved.
I really didn’t know how to pray
I sat in my recliner with my Bible, usual devotional, and diary. As I sat there, it was so hard to focus. How did I pray in such a situation? I’ve always found it harder to pray alone in situations like this. For some reason, when I’m in a group, I can focus on the specific need and join in with my own Amens. But by myself? My mind so easily wanders. I am so easily distracted.
I opened my Daily Light, and as I read the collage of verses, 2 Chronicles 20:12 grabbed my attention. I had yet to learn how spot-on that verse was.
O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
An ancient prayer – the same message
I found myself praying for the Lord to confound our enemies and cause equipment failure. I found myself praying for a minimal loss of life on both sides. As I prayed, I realized how utterly dependent we are upon God for our protection and how much we in Israel rely on our army for protection.
Thousands of years ago, our nation was under a surprise attack from Edom. King Jehosaphat called for a time of fasting and prayer. The verse I read in my Daily Light was part of Jehosaphat’s prayer to God. As a result, God sent a prophet to the people with an encouraging message, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (verse 15).
As I think about what has happened, I realize there is a difference between Jehosaphat and today’s democracy. There may have been a call asking for prayer, but I have not seen it in any news media. In a recent speech, Netanyahu said, “The enemy will pay a price he has never known.” Although this is a supposedly Jewish nation, and our new government is doing a lot to make a huge point about our Jewishness, I have not yet seen one statement in the English media calling on the people of Israel to call on the God of Israel.
And yet, since the birth of our nation, nothing has changed. Our nation has always needed to rely on God, and we always will. Our army is never going to be enough to save us.
This attack comes at a critical moment in Israel’s history. I had initially told a friend that there was no strategy behind the timing. I was wrong. Today marks 50 years and 1 day since the Yom Kippur War. This attack is probably the most coordinated terrorist attack in history: missile barrage, border infiltration by foot and by air, and even attempts to attack from the sea. The primary targets were residential areas in the settlements. Based on the eyewitness accounts that I’ve read, civilians from the settlements likely comprise the reported hostages that were taken by Hamas.
Politically, the country has been facing a major and divisive upheaval. The country is suffering politically, socially, morally, and spiritually.
As of this writing, many of our young people have been called into army service, men are being called up to serve, and Israel is officially at war. Two of my Chinese godchildren have to report for duty, one tonight and the other tomorrow morning. I live in Haifa, around 60 miles from Tel Aviv. But we are as affected as the people in the south as we wait to hear if friends or family are safe and hope and pray that our soldiers will get through this war unscathed.
The news reports state that 100 Israelis have died, 900 injured, and Hamas has bragged that they have around 25 hostages, mostly women and children. The Israeli government has not confirmed how many hostages but has admitted that they do know some were taken.
But the greatest damage may be to the relationships between Jewish and Arab residents of Israel. Haifa is recognized throughout the country for coexistence. Tonight, the traffic is much less than usual. Some friends came over to visit as part of their nightly walk. They told me almost no one was outside and that the atmosphere was strange. She shared that in chats with her colleagues, questions about our own security in Haifa are being raised. How do we know that some of those who infiltrated the south have not kept going to try to do damage further north? How do we know there aren’t secret supporters here in the north, waiting for a signal to attack? And so it begins – an atmosphere of distrust – with potentially horrible consequences for all of us who have, at least until now, lived together in peace.
—- 9 am, October 8, 2023 —-
This morning I have learned that at least 300 people have been killed, but they expect the numbers to rise. More than 1800 have been wounded, 345 seriously. The current count of abducted people is in the dozens. Many friends are asking for prayer for their sons and daughters who have been called up to serve in the south. Several wounded people have been transferred to Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa. A state of emergency has been declared for all of Israel. Schools are closed, and Rambam has begun to prepare one floor of its underground emergency hospital. I expect these numbers and information will change over the coming days, so I am only posting this update for you. However, please feel free to write to me, preferably via the comments, with your questions. I’ll do my best to answer there so that others can see the answers.
Should I Have Prayed Differently?
As I ponder all that has happened today, I wonder about my own feeble prayer of this morning. Was it too simplistic? Was there any hope that it could realistically be answered? I think no, and no to both of these questions. Many scriptures in both the Tenach and the New Testament make it clear while God is holy and just, and He is the judge – judgment is not His first choice. Yes, He will punish the wicked and evildoer if they do not repent, but that is not something He ENJOYS doing. He would always prefer hearts that repent and seek His ways. So asking for minimal loss of life was not too simplistic or naive. And while it may have been unrealistic, so was Jehosaphat’s prayer. Prayer does not look at the power of the world; it looks at the power of God.
However, I do think my prayer was lazy… I could have gone deeper. I should have been praying for the situation before knowing how bad it was. If anything, writing this post has reminded me how much deeper I have to go in prayer. I can pray when I’m alone. Yes, it is harder, but not impossible. And so I will continue to pray for the fewest possible lives to be lost on both sides and for the Lord to confound our enemy. I will continue to pray for things to unfold in such a way that people will realize that there is a God in Israel and a God of Israel. I will continue to pray for my country to hunger and thirst for righteousness and be filled.
Suggestions for Prayer
I realize there is so much more to pray for – where do I start? I think I will simply list the things that come to mind. I don’t expect you to pray for all of these things, but perhaps one of these prayer requests will grab your heart. Or, feel free to comment on my website and add your own list of prayer requests for Israel.
- … the hearts of the people to turn to the God of Israel, and seek HIS deliverance.
- … the Lord to confuse our enemies, cause their equipment to fail, and to be horrified by the bloodshed. Somehow, may the Spirit of the Lord fall on the enemy and open their eyes to the destructiveness of hatred.
- … the Lord to work in the hearts of all of Israel’s leadership, to hunger for the God of Israel and know that only He can give us the protection we need.
- … a desire for peace by the people on both sides of the issue… a peace that only God can give.
- … that all the soldiers who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) would have God’s peace with them at this time. That they would know how to serve faithfully, trusting in God rather than their weapons. That God would protect them from this spirit of hatred and fear, and bring them back to their families safely.
- … that in His mercy, God would extend the same protection to ALL of Israel’s soldiers.
- … pray for the people of Haifa – especially the Muslims, Christians, and Jews who have lived together in the same or neighboring areas for decades. The relationships between certain Arab groups are already strained, particularly because of gang killings. But adding an element of mistrust between the different ethnic groups could kindle a fire that we may not be able to put out so easily.
- … that we would learn how to pray consistently for God’s best for this country, for Him to fulfill His promises to Israel, and to breathe the spirit of the Lord into the dry bones, that they might truly live before Him.
For follow-up regarding what is happening
Following are some links to English websites that I go to for news. Some are moderate, while others are more left than right, or more right than left. I don’t pretend to know which side is correct. Most likely, as is usually the case, they are both right, they are both wrong, and it is what they are doing with their “rights” that is wrong. But I hope you find these informative.