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Daniel ben Yehuda's Prayer

Why Pray for Jerusalem?

by Paul Sumner

  Scripture admonishes believers in God to: “Pray for the peace [shalom] of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). It tells us what will happen if we do.
[sha'alu sh'lom yerushalayim]
May they prosper who love you [Jerusalem].
May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces. (NASB)
Another translation renders the word shalom differently but still literally:
Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem;
May those who love you be at peace.
May there be well-being within your ramparts,
Peace in your citadels. (Tanakh, Jewish Publication Society)
Some people zealously obey this command. They pray for and give material support to the State of Israel, then wait to be blessed by God. They pray so they themselves will prosper. It’s like an investment. God made promises, so they wait for Him to fulfill his part of the bargain.

Is that the right heart to have? Is it an honorable motive behind interceding for this long-troubled city?

The psalmist helps us understand the real reason we should offer prayer for the City:
[lema'an beit-YHVH eloheinu,
for the sake of the House
of the Lord our God]

For the sake of my kin and friends,
I pray for your well-being [shalom];
For the sake of the House of the LORD our God,
I seek your good. (vv. 8-9)

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In other words, we pray, not for our own prosperity or peace, but for the sake of others — especially for the House of God, His place of dwelling.

His House (Temple) was his earthly framework out of which He spoke and where He provided methods of atonement to make it possible for humans to fellowship with Him.

[avakshah tov lach,
I seek your good]

Praying for the House, within Jerusalem, is the real focus here. Not making a business deal with the Creator.

Originally, Psalm 122 was a pilgrim psalm that worshipers sang while going up the roads into the city, ascending the hills to the Temple in order to see God. [The psalm title "Song of Going Up" is our clue to its setting.]

Jerusalem has worth because of the House, not vice versa. When she is shalomed/blessed, so are those who love her and her Lord.

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The Gospel of John implies that Yeshua was God's House, in whom the Kavod and Davar (Glory and Word) were dwelling among God’s people.

In him they saw and heard the face and voice of the One who sent and indwelled him (John 1:14; 10:38).

Before leaving, Yeshua said he would make the true believers into a House, to the extent they allow God’s presence to indwell them. They were then to add on to the House, to extend its rooms so that it filled the earth.

In history there have been Three Houses: (1) the Temple in Jerusalem, (2) Yeshua himself, and (3) the international building of true believers (consisting of Jews or Gentiles).

There is to be a Fourth House: in Jerusalem again. Scripture affirms that the Architect’s compass has always pivoted around this center-point city and its people. How this last House will be re-built and who it will consist of is now unfolding (Heb 12:22-24; Rev 21:2-3).

In our zeal to believe the prophetic plans of the future, let’s also be sober. Praying for Jerusalem’s rebuilding may lead to a “prosperity” that we wouldn’t expect or naturally choose. Yeshua prayed for the city:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem...
how often I wanted to gather your children together,
the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings...
(Matthew 23:37)

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Yeshua sought her well-being and he was killed. He prayed for God’s House and he experienced warfare every day. Yet he knew that the House and the city would one day prosper as he had prayed and labored. And in the end, with his last breath, he said he was at peace with his work: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

His work on behalf of Jerusalem and the final House of human worshipers cost him.

If we obey the biblical command and pray for Jerusalem's shalom, and follow Yeshua’s example, it will cost us too.

Many who support Jerusalem are targets of discrimination and violence from Muslims, Communists, secular progressive atheists, Neo-Nazis, the United Nations. In many Western universities being pro-Jerusalem puts an X on your back, placed there by anti-Semites and anti-Christians.

Let's face prophetic truth: Love of Jerusalem may not obtain for us earthly prosperity or peace, here and now.

So? What’s truly important?

Do we want personal blessing here and now? Or is it God's will to bless others? Should we pray for Jerusalem, hoping we’ll escape marterial destitution, tribulation, earthly death? Or should we pray to give strength and hope and shalom to the City's residents?

If we pray rightly — in the spirit of Psalm 122 — we can be assured that the House will indeed prosper. And in the end we’ll be blessed: along with the whole House.

• Paul Sumner

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