Images: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem and Violeta Santos Moura

The events of the past week in Israel and Gaza have again displayed the terrible agony and tragedy of our broken world. It reflects the experiences of so many in other wars, past and present. Whether it be Sudan, Myanmar, Ukraine, Haiti, Ethiopia, Mali, or any other country shattered by conflict; and whether it be cross-border or internal, lives are being forever altered by these brutal clashes. If you are human, you will feel sadness, anger, grief, and sorrow at these expressions of evil. The Bible has an answer for these emotions we feel, it’s lament – a prayer for help coming out of pain. This form of prayer is common in the Bible. Jeremiah was known as the ‘weeping prophet’, and wrote a whole book, Lamentations, and the book bearing his name is filled with cries to the Lord. The book of Psalms too is a book containing around 50 prayers of lament.

We live in a world, however, that has become numb to death and suffering, and lament has become an overlooked and even forgotten form of prayer. However, if we want things to change, then we must begin by lamenting the realities of violence and oppression in our world. Biblical examples of lament should challenge us, not just for our personal circumstances, but also for others. It can be in an individual capacity or corporately. Crucially, these prayers are not requests for information, but cries of pain. Honest, raw, agonised prayers of lament are not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God counts; it counts to us, and it counts to God.

Negativity, injustice, hatred, and brokenness are part of our lives and part of our world. In the face of this, we can have an instinctive feeling for retaliation in kind, for returning hatred with hatred. It’s part of the human condition to feel pain, hurt and anger, but these are not a good basis on which to act. The sometimes brutally honest examples of lament in the Bible suggest that it is alright to express our uncensored feelings before God. Such honesty in its own way comforts the bereaved and expresses solidarity with the wronged. Jesus Christ, in His humanity, experienced firsthand the agony and injustice of this fallen world. If He expressed lament to His Father, for Himself, and for others, so too can we. But lament is not passive, it fuels our desire to see His Kingdom come on earth, as it is in Heaven. It challenges us to be faithful ambassadors of the Prince of Peace in our broken world. It expands our heart for the ‘lost’ who are dying without knowledge of the Saviour.

As with the Biblical examples of lament, we are encouraged to hold on to the hope we have in God. We see in the prayers of lament in the Psalms how most end with praise, expressions of hope. Ours is a very real hope – in the Lamb who was slain, the Saviour, the One who took upon Himself every sin of this world. But our hope isn’t only for the future, it is for now, and it is based on His assurance that through His sacrifice, death is defeated, light overcomes the darkness, and evil is vanquished.

Let us lament. Let us cry out to God for help, from a place of deep pain for each of these precious lives, each one created in His image, each worthy of His grace and mercy. Let us lament.

Join us in prayer for the following (guidelines prepared by the prayer ministry, Jericho Walls – although specifically focussed on the current conflict in Israel/Gaza, most of the points are applicable to wars/conflict throughout the world):

  • Current events – Keep your eye on the news and continue to pray daily as the Holy Spirit leads you. Discern well between true and false reports.
  • Protection of all – (Psalm 91:1-2). Pray for God’s divine protection of people on both sides – and for peace to come to this troubled region and comfort to those who have lost loved ones. Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
  • Hostages – (Psalm 34:17). Pray for all hostages, including women and children, being held – for their safe release and God’s comfort in their distress. Especially pray for the wounded to be attended to.
  • Believers on both sides – (Matthew 5:13-16). There are precious Christians on both sides who are praying for God’s will to be done in this situation. Pray for them to be light and salt amidst terrible circumstances and demonstrate the love of Jesus where they are.
  • Salvation – (Philippians 2:9-11). God, the only Saviour, reveal Yourself to the lost in Israel and the Gaza Strip amid the chaos and conflict. Draw them to Your Son, so that He will be acknowledged as Lord and Saviour, and You will be glorified.
  • Leaders – (James 1:5). Heavenly Father, grant wisdom and discernment to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all leaders involved in making decisions during this challenging time. May they seek Your wisdom and guidance in all they do. Guide church leaders to play their important part in this process, demonstrating the love of Christ.
  • International Leaders – (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Father, we lift up in prayer every world leader, as well as the leaders of nations in the Middle East. May they work towards a peaceful resolution and support efforts to bring an end to this conflict.
  • Prayer covering – (John 13:34-35). Pray for the mobilisation of the church to pray, to be a reconciling influence in a divided Israel and to SHINE the light of Christ in the midst of this dark and fearful time. May they bear a strong and courageous witness to Christ in this hour of trouble and need.
  • Access to airports and border posts – Pray for those unable to leave Gaza and Israel due to closed border posts or delayed flights – for wisdom, shelter, food and water, also to hear God’s purpose and plan for them and experience His guidance. Pray for the opening of escape routes at the right and safe time.
  • End to war – Pray for a swift end to this war and all violence in Israel and Gaza. (Matthew 5:9). Prince of Peace, we cry out for an end to the violence and bloodshed. Bring about reconciliation and understanding among conflicting peoples. May your peace prevail, and You be glorified.

In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.