Help, O LORD, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind. (Psalm 12:1)
Over this past week, close to 3,000 people have been killed in Israel and in the Gaza Strip following Saturday’s unprecedented surprise attack by Hamas on Israel and the resulting Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. As of this writing, an Israeli ground assault on Gaza appears imminent.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, has said that “between 100 and 150” hostages, including women and children, are being held in Gaza after being kidnapped.
According to the Israeli military, more than 1,300 people in Israel have been killed so far, and some 2,700 wounded; Gaza’s health ministry reports over 1,400 people dead and close to 7,000 wounded in their territory. And on both sides of the border, the death toll continues to increase.
The attack by Hamas put Israel on a wartime footing in what’s been considered the worst attack on the country since the Yom Kippur war in 1973. It is now being called “Israel’s 9/11.”
Almighty God, we come before you as your children, giving thanks for the blessings of life: for your gift of love in Jesus Christ, we give you thanks; for your love reflected in the lives of people we know—spouses, parents, grandparents, children, siblings, friends—we give you thanks. For the wonders of creation—for mountains, prairies, seashores, whispering pines, beautiful flowers, graceful beasts, and the starry sky at night—we give you thanks. In all of these things, we feel your presence in and around us. Thank you, Lord, for never leaving us nor forsaking us. Thank you for giving to us not as the world gives, but as Jesus gives—freely, and deeply, and eternally.
We come before you today praying—as so often we pray—for peace and harmony amongst the peoples of the earth; for an end to armed conflict and to the injustices which precipitate it. Yet today we bring this prayer with heavy hearts and much discouragement. As we witness the tragedy unfolding in Israel and in Gaza, we are shaken to our very core, and we find ourselves asking whether there is any point to our continued prayers for peace. A ground assault by Israeli forces appears inevitable (and perhaps, unavoidable). Thousands of innocent people are already dead—and we do not know how many more will die in the days and weeks to come.
God, please help us. Help us to believe that peace is still worth praying for. Hear us as now we pray, and strengthen our prayers with that grace which is called courage. We pray for all those whose lives have been shattered or ended by the events of this past week. We think of ordinary people in Gaza City—women and children and men—who find themselves caught up in a conflict not of their own making. We remember the Israelis who were slaughtered by Hamas at a music festival and in their homes. We remember those hostages who are being held in Gaza and used as human shields. We think of those who lost and are losing loved ones. We think of those whose lives will yet be lost as this cycle of violence continues to spin out of control and the blood of innocent victims cries out from the ground. Lord, help us to understand the distinction between justice and vengeance.
We pray for the leaders of the world, that you might guide them as they choose how to react to the terrorist threat which is before us. Especially we pray for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the members of his National Unity government; give them comfort and courage, but also true wisdom. May their legitimate desires for justice and for the survival of their nation be tempered with compassion and concern for innocent people who may stand in the path of retaliation. Also, we pray for our own Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his cabinet; and for American President Joe Biden and his cabinet; as they stand in support of our friends in Israel, may they also benefit from the guidance of your Spirit.
Mighty and tender God, you are supreme not only in justice but also in mercy. You bring release to the captives and rest to the weary, and you know the way of suffering in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Hear us as we pray.
In the midst of our anguish and shock over the gigantic evil which has reared its head in the land called “holy” by three great world religions, let us not forget that you are a God who cares for each one of us. Lord, we pray for your continuing care for the least of our human family, asking that your healing, reconciling power might come upon them. We pray for all your children who are suffering this day—for the hungry, the homeless, the abused; for the imprisoned, the despairing, the diseased and the dying.
God, be with them, and with those who care for them. Insofar as we are able, let us be your messengers of hope and comfort in this troubled world; and keep strong our resolve to live and work for you, even in the worst of times. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus, who is our Prince of Peace. Amen.