Bishop Ward recounts her personal experiences of traveling to the Middle East and encourages us to pray the prayer below for all people living there as they deal with conflict daily.
Please pray for United Methodist missionaries in ministry in the Middle East – Alex Awad, Brenda Awad, and Kristen Brown.
A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing, and the Struggle for Justice in Israel and Palestine
Children of Nakba
Salt of the Earth: Palestinian Christians in the Northern West Bank
The Role of Religion in the Arab-Israeli Conflict
I greet you today in the strong name of Jesus Christ — the one who came to bring and give peace to all humankind.
Our hearts continue to break as we watch and hear stories out of the Middle East — the land of Jesus’ birth and childhood and ministry, the place where He was crucified and the place where he rose again to life eternal. This same Jesus Christ reigns over all the earth. We pray for the peace of Christ for Palestinian families and Israeli families. We pray for Syrian refugees. We pray for our missionaries in this region. We pray for all the efforts of our church to offer welcome and the basic necessities of life to those who are fleeing from Syria. We love this land and we have long called it a holy place.
I remember as a little child, making maps of the land of Jesus — building with paper mache the mountains and then scooping out the basins; painting with blue paint the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River flowing down into the Dead Sea. All my life, I’ve had a sense of this place, Sunday after Sunday, hearing pastors preach stories rooted in this place; having Sunday School teachers open up the scriptures. Today, as I drive up to churches named Mt. Zion or Galilee, or Bethlehem or Jerusalem, I have in my mind’s eye, a place for which these churches have been named.
As a child, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I read a book that I got off a bookmobile about Kathleen Kenyon who had excavated Jericho. I tried it out in college, and in the context of that experience in the summer of 1972 in upper Galilee, I spent a season with an archaeological dig, rising early to dig in the dirt. The community of that dig were Jewish students, almost exclusively. I learned more than I had ever known about my own roots in the old Covenant. I also learned about the founding of Israel, and the Zionist narrative.
Years later, in this same region, visiting with my husband, an educator, we were overjoyed to be in schools where Muslim, Christian, and Jewish teachers and visionaries were gathering children of all three faiths to go to school together, to build friendships, to build a better future.
In recent years, I give thanks for opportunities to know in greater depth, the story of the Palestinian people, who recall 1948 as the great tragedy — the time in which their ancestral homelands were taken away from them so that the state of Israel might be formed. We, who find our roots in the narratives of this place, are called now to be attuned and aware to what is happening in this time in the land of the Bible. The complex interactions of cultures have led to continued conflict and violence, and we see repeatedly on our television screens, images that make us weep.
On the very spot where Jesus prayed for the city of Jerusalem, there stands a chapel, small, built in the shape of a teardrop. There’s a clear glass window. Worshipers look out upon the city of Jerusalem. As we gaze upon it let us pray,
“Eternal and ever-living God, we pray this day for peace on this earth. We repent of the violence in our world as we pray for our sisters and brothers in the human family who are in danger. Lord Jesus Christ, long ago you wept over the city of Jerusalem. We weep with you as we watch violence in the land of your birth and ministry and crucifixion and resurrection. We pray for the children, women, and men of Israel, of Lebanon, of Palestine, and of Syria. Holy Spirit, give us courage to engage with wisdom and faithfulness the complex realities of this region so dear to us. Help us hear and honor the stories of real people who live in fear, whose dreams have been shattered, who yearn for safety for family and community. We embrace, Triune God, the strong hope that you give for humankind. Use your church, we pray, in powerful ways, in this time in your world. With deep gratitude and renewed faith we pray. Amen.”
I invite you to use this prayer as you gather for worship this Sunday, and let us, across the North Carolina annual conference, join our hearts in prayers for peace in the Middle East.