Violence and chaos in the Middle East have left many around the world hopeless and feeling helpless. As followers of Jesus, we refuse to be sidetracked by the temptation to despair.
Prayers for Peace (P4P) provides a way for Christians of diverse political and theological backgrounds to stand up for peace and unite in supplication to God with a special focus on prayers for the Holy Land. Prayers for Peace provides Jesus’ followers with the common language of prayer around which to mobilize their energy and passion for the land that gave birth to our faith. To combat the prevailing images of discord, Prayers for Peace will highlightpeace-building organizations that we may pray for them as they live out the reconciliation offered in the Prophets and Jesus’ message of peace.
Prayers for Peace is thankful for the partnership of our board member organization Christians for Social Action in writing and sharing these prayers.
Lessons Learned Through the Nassar Farm by Rev. Charlie Lewis, Co-Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Snohomish, Washington
The day I met Daoud Nassar and the Nassar family, I felt an instant connection. Land is something sacred to Palestinians and, having grown up on a third-generation family farm, I have experienced the sacredness of the land as well. The Nassar’s grandfather instilled in his family a keen awareness that the land is a part of their identity, that they belong to the land. When I hear Daoud or his family speak about their land, it seems like they are referring to a member of their own family.
The Nassars founded the Tent of Nations, a peace project established in 2001 on a portion of their 100 acres of grape, apple, olive, almond, and fig trees about six miles southwest of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The land, purchased by their family in 1916, has been cultivated for over 100 years, passing down responsibility from generation to new generation. For over three decades, Daoud (Arabic for David) has been involved in a David-and-Goliath struggle to hold onto the land through active, non-violent means.
Every year over 10,000 people of goodwill from around the world, including Jewish groups, have joined them in their struggle for dignity and justice. While at the farm, in addition to a wonderful Palestinian meal, visitors hear the story of how one remarkable Palestinian Christian family takes the pain, frustration, and hardship they’ve experienced living under Israeli military control and channels it into positive actions.
The Nassar’s Ottoman-era paperwork showing their ownership of the land has not prevented the Israeli government from repeatedly bulldozing the family’s olive trees, cutting all electric utilities to the farm, shutting off their water, and engaging in decades of harassing tactics to drive them off their land. The Nassars’ experience is, in fact, a microcosm of what has/is happening to Palestinians across the West Bank. It would be understandable why, even as devoted followers of Jesus, the Nassar family would have some deep anger at the destruction of their property and resentment toward those who threaten their livelihood, seek to steal what is rightfully their land, and harass them continually. But instead, they’ve taken their anger and channeled it into a constructive, creative, and positive response.
When a few thousand fruit-bearing trees were destroyed on their lands in 2014 by the Israeli Defense Force, hundreds of new trees were planted on the farm, a gift from Jews in England who had heard of the incident. When their electricity was cut off to their farm to try to drive them out, they put in solar power; when their water was cut off, they built cisterns to capture rainwater and keep their trees irrigated. When large boulders were placed to block the primary road leading to the farm, they found a new way. Instead of fighting back violently at land being taken and hardships endured; instead of fleeing the West Bank as most Christian Palestinians have been forced to do with no sense of hope for a future; instead of sitting passively and helplessly by, they have channeled their exasperation at the injustice into active, non-violent resistance.
The Nassars have educated and inspired me and thousands of people who have visited their farm with their faith, their courage, and their steadfast determination for the right to prevail. Constant delays in court do not diminish their determination to re-register their land. Destructive acts against their trees, property, and people do not deter or dissuade their objective. Mounting numbers of demolition orders do not discourage the will of those who won’t be worn down by the wrong, but instead work tirelessly for what’s right. It is a profound honor to be working alongside Daoud and his family whose spirit never grows weary of doing good but waits to reap a harvest of justice in the end (Gal. 6:9).
O God, inspire us by the witness of the Nassar family to act with justice, compassion, and humility. May we stand in solidarity with all those who struggle under the burden of oppressive conditions. Strengthen us to endure the long and arduous journey as the moral arc bends toward justice. We pray in the name of Jesus, your greatest gift and our world’s greatest hope. Amen.
Note: Our FOTONNA Steering Committee has greatly appreciated our partnership with CMEP and the support of Kyle Christofalo and Mae Cannon as we’ve worked together in solidarity with the Nassar family.
The Author: Rev. Charlie Lewis is the Co-Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Snohomish, Washington, and also the Chair of the Friends of Tent of Nations North America Steering Committee, which works to support the Tent of Nations farm from the US and raise awareness of the plight facing the Nasser family and Palestinian land claims more generally.
Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).
We at CMEP believe in putting faith into action; in the pursuit of justice and peace, it is important to remember that prayer is action. We want to encourage all to join us in praying over the Middle East, and over the different issues that weigh heavy on our hearts. Below are some of the thoughts and prayers from CMEP staff. Please be encouraged to add your own prayers below this blog in the “comments” section.
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, Executive Director:
When I was in Palestine last, a fog came over Bethlehem where it was hard to see where you were going. This picture (right) is the road to Beit Jala heading up the hill. The fog felt so synonymous to what hope looks like right now. We can barely see it in the distance. Pray that darkness would clear and peace would find a way forward. Pray for hope to manifest and justice to prevail.
Jennifer Maidrand, Outreach Manager
Creator God–God of sun and wind and water and fire, God of land–we thank you for the gift of life that we all have been given today. With the breath of your spirit in our lungs, we cry out to you, oh Lord, for justice. We pray specifically that the Nassar family’s court date will be heard on Monday and that their family will be allowed to re-register for their land. God of the oppressed, we pray that you strengthen the Nassar family and those throughout Palestine, Gaza, and Israel who have committed themselves to loving their enemies and working fervently for justice. Equip and sustain us to continue knocking on the door of justice. For all who have had to battle for their land and their home, for all the children who have died before their time, for the soldiers who allow their uniform to strip them of their humanity, for the healers who are denied the opportunity to use their gifts, Lord, hear our prayer.2 Oh God of radical forgiveness and love, let us continue to practice a resurrection kind of living and build together your vision for the kingdom of heaven on earth.
This prayer was shared by Jennifer Maidrand at the virtual prayer gathering for the Tent of Nations on May 12, 2023.
Growing up, the struggles of the Middle East were always so far away. I never knew much about why there was fighting; I didn’t know who the Palestinians were; I heard government officials say “peace in the Middle East” but my awareness ended there. Now, working with CMEP, my heart is both overjoyed to know many wonderful people of the land and also broken to know the details of daily life in an area where so many struggle to survive. My heart yearns to support the beautiful lives throughout the Middle East. Just as strongly, I want others to know what I have come to know. I feel beautifully burdened to get the information to the masses online in the social sphere. Ignorance should no longer be a viable excuse. People need to hear something that causes them to pause, and which awakens the yearning that, I believe, lives in every human heart – the longing for all humanity, all image bearers of God, to have life and have it abundantly.
Many dismiss social media as fruitless and without meaning and I push back – never before have we been able to connect like we can now, nor have we been able to know what’s happening around the world with immediacy. Thanks to this connectedness, people from around the world can connect and pray together for the Tent of Nations. Christian leaders from Iraq can speak about the realities of their lives to me in Southeast USA. I can watch international protests, read pressing news, hear personal stories, or donate to causes about which I care deeply: for all of these things, I am grateful. I cannot go to the Middle East today and be with the people suffering. But I can hear their voices, smile at their beauty, and take action in my government. Most of us reading this blog post have immense privilege and can help those who cry out. May we never stop learning, listening, or loving.
Kevin Vollrath, Manager of Middle East Partnerships:
At the time of writing, Gaza weighs heavy on many hearts. The death count from Israeli airstrikes continues to rise, along with the number of children killed and injured. Transport of people and goods into Israel remains closed.
This image (of the beach in Gaza) reminds me of two things. First, that there is more to Gaza than war. It has beautiful potential. Second, that even when there are no bombs or rockets, its population of 2.2 million still lives under military blockade and severe poverty. Let us continue to pray for peace and justice for Gaza, and not just during news cycles of violence.
Adysen Moylan, Trips Coordinator: As I read the news daily, following reports of new home demolitions, bombs dropped in Gaza, or court cases controlling the future of people with which I have shared a meal, I am often asking God what to pray for in this seemingly endless despair. It is much too easy to feel that God is not near because of this sorrow and thus miss the reality of what He is doing. In the quiet, comfort of my home, I am reminded that my desire for peace comes from my Father and the Spirit intercedes when I am at a loss for words.
You do not need to work for an organization like CMEP, travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, or lead a delegation to make a difference. By the Spirit of God, we can be active participants in the work for peace from any corner of the world. We are in the body and family of God. The disciples so easily missed Jesus on the road to Emmaus; let us not now miss how God is near and bringing peace. Let us join the spirit in prayer from any corner of the world, knowing that we are a part of this body regardless of human boundaries like space or time.
We will close with a prayer written by Ben Norquist, Ambassador Warren Clark Fellow:
We remember that you heal the sick and secure hope for the oppressed. You restore broken communities, forgive sin, and protect others. You work ceaselessly, tirelessly, continually for the good of all people. But things are deeply wrong in the world. Our communities are infected with a virus of hatred. Indifference has become a pandemic. Brothers and sisters are strangers.
Human warmth has turned to undisguised suspicion. We love our own illness and carelessly infect others: We entertain idols in our homes. We flirt with contagions that deplete love and breath. We love the precious viruses that weave into our lifeblood. We don’t know how contagious we are. We are white with ignorance, pale with self-righteousness.
Knowing You are the first and eternal doctor, we ask you to: Arrest us as we approach our idols. Make our diagnosis clear and unavoidable. Warm our hearts toward the humanity in strangers. Heal the wounds that tear friends from each other. Reverse the quiet drifting that removes us from our siblings. Retrain our desires and redirect our attention. Renovate our hearts and revitalize our affections.
We want to love you more than we have. We long to love others as ourselves.
We ask these things, knowing that you can do more than we can imagine to ask. Amen.
By: The Very Revd Canon Richard Sewell, Dean of St George’s College Jerusalem
St George’s College Jerusalem is the Anglican Centre for Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. It was founded in 1920 and was intended to operate as a theological college for the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem. In the last thirty years, we have become more of a pilgrimage centre where engagement with the Land, the history and the people are taken more seriously than in many pilgrimage organisations.
St George’s College runs pilgrimages for Anglicans and Christians of other denominations around the world. Our pilgrimages are predominantly religious in nature but we are committed to ensuring that people engage in the political realities of Israel and Palestine today. We highlight the injustices experienced by Palestinians as a day-by-day reality. We deal with modern history as well as ancient history. We make sure that our pilgrims engage with the Wall of Separation and understand the real impact of it on Palestinian lives. We also make sure that people hear and understand Jewish narratives and not always in a negative light. However, we do not simply set up a cheap equivalence. We are clear that Israel’s occupation is an injustice which, whilst it continues, is a barrier to constructive talks.
The work ofthe World Student Christian Federation- Middle East (WSCF-ME) in the pursuit of peace and Christian unity throughout the Middle East.
By: Mira G. Neaimeh
WSCF-ME (World Student Christian Federation- Middle East) has been and still is engaged in the peace processes in the Middle East since its inception 60 years ago. As an integral part of this region, WSCF-ME found itself automatically involved in the advocacy for the rights of its members and youth, as well as the education around the different aspects of peace and their ways of implementation within specific communities. Thus, peace processes are all part and parcel of our identity in this turbulent area, with a tireless quest for this so-called “peace” and its manifestation in our different countries alongside church and local communities.
Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6 🌿 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 🌿 Colossians 3:1-4 🌿 John 20:1-18
After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb… there they encountered an angel that said to the women:
Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead…” (Matthew 28:1-7)
Job 14:1-14 🌿 Psalms 31:1-4, 15-16 🌿 1 Peter 4:1-8 🌿 Matthew 27:57-66
Choose one of the scriptures of today’s lectionary passages and engage in the practice of imaginative prayer.
Find a comfortable place with few distractions to sit. Still yourself and pray for God to meet you in your imagination; pray the Holy Spirit would guide your wonderings and prevent that which may call your attention away. Perhaps rest your hands, palms up, on your lap as a physical sign of openness.
As you read, do so intentionally, slowing to picture interactions or phrases visually. Imagine you are the director of a video clip. What is the geography surrounding you? What noises would you hear? Is it light or dark? What emotions arise as you sit with the scripture passage? Consider all the sights and sounds, emotions, tastes, and scents, and ask God to meet you there.
There is no need to get stuck in the details; if you’re not struck with an image or a sense of something, continue reading and ask the Spirit to pique your curiosity and spark your imagination. Consider how our brothers and sisters in the Middle East might encounter these scriptures today.
God, we thank you for your presence in our lives and for the gift of imagination. We believe you, we give thanks, and we ask you to meet us in our times of darkness and despair.
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 🌿Psalm 22 🌿 Hebrews 10:16-25 🌿 John 18:1-19:42
Any visitor to the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane on the base of the Mount of Olives knows the color of the church’s stained glass windows. A dark rich purple represents the robe Christ wore just before his death. The light inside the church looks dark and somber. Built to commemorate Christ’s betrayal, the garden and holy site are a good place to remember and reflect upon the crucifixion.
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. -John 13: 14 (NRSV)
In the Lenten season of the liturgical calendar, Maundy Thursday is a day to commemorate the last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before his crucifixion. And it is a day, or evening, that is often commemorated with foot washing ceremonies. The act of washing the feet of those we are in community with is a practice that might be dear to some of us, off-putting to others, or perhaps for some, seemingly outdated.
As we wait upon the realization of God’s perfect peace, we can grow weary, worn, and wondering. As we wait for Easter Sunday, may we be heartened by the great cloud of witnesses of Hebrews 12, run with perseverance, and keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”
It is Tuesday of Holy Week, just a couple days from Palm Sunday. It is interesting how Palm Sunday is often described as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And yet, what was triumphant about this humble Jewish man riding down the Mount of Olives, across the Valley of Kidron, and into the Old City of Jerusalem? The people cried out adulations to him, but the praise of humankind was temporary and fleeting. For in the days hence, that very same crowd would turn their backs on Christ and instead release the convicted prisoner Barabas into freedom. How could Jesus ever be reconciled to his people after such betrayal?