For several years now, I have been praying for Israel first. I start and end my prayers with thanksgiving, praise, and adoration, but when I present my petitionary prayers, I begin with Israel.
I pray for Israel to be delivered from all her enemies and for Jerusalem to be made a praise in all the earth. I suspect some of my prayers for Jerusalem are also a prayer for the New Jerusalem, but I let God sort all that out.
I also pray for the gospel to be proclaimed in Israel with words, lives, and the work of the Holy Spirit. I pray for Yeshua (Jesus) to be exalted as Messiah. I ask God to gift Israel with pastors, teachers, prophets, evangelists, and apostles. Honestly, I ask this without knowing exactly what that should look like.
I pray for the land. I have been fascinated with Deuteronomy 11:12 where God promises to take Israel to the land “that the Lord your God cares for.” God, for some reason, has loved this land even before settling His people in it. God declares that his eyes are constantly upon it throughout the year. Therefore, I pray for God to bless the land with rain, natural resources, plentiful harvests, and wise stewardship.
This is probably my eccentricity, but I pray for certain streets: Dizengoff Street and Ben Gurion Boulevard in Tel Aviv, Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. I pray for Yeshua to enter the lives of people on these streets. One night in the 80’s I was briefly lost on Dizengoff Street. I had wandered into a big shopping center through one door, got turned around, and then came out a different exit on a different street. I walked in the direction of the brightest lights and found my way back to Dizengoff Street, Ben Gurion Boulevard, and then my hotel. So today, I pray for the light of Jesus to shine brightly on these streets.
Praying for Israel first has enriched my walk with God. First, it has changed my hermeneutics, my approach to Scripture. I more easily see that so many of God’s promises are first to Israel in the Old Testament, but also the new. When I see the many promises of God’s faithfulness in the Psalms and prophets, I first thank God for his faithfulness to Israel. I then give thanks that the God of Israel is faithful to me today.
Second, praying for Israel first keeps me humble. It reminds me that the gospel first came to the Jews and that I am a wild olive branch grafted into the root stock of Israel. It helps me heed Paul’s warning not to be arrogant toward the Jews to whom believers in Yeshua owe so much (Romans 11:20). It vaccinates me against the virus of anti-Semitism that has too often infected the Christian faith. It saves me from the errors and arrogance of Replacement Theology that usurps all God’s promises to the Jews and applies them only to the Church.
Third, praying for Israel enlarges my heart. When I pray for Israel, my heart becomes invested in the purposes of God beyond my own needs and concerns. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I sometimes enter God’s deep love for Israel and His desire for Israel to know His Son. Sharing God’s heart for Israel, if only for a moment, draws me closer to Him.
I am not suggesting this is how everyone must order their prayers. It has, however, been a helpful habit. I believe the promise that those who bless Israel, God will bless, but I have not made praying for Israel into a lucky charm that will force God to bless me. Humility and a larger heart are blessings enough.
It is also a blessing to love what God loves. God still loves Israel and the Jews. His gifts and calling are irrevocable. He will keep His promise to make Jerusalem a praise in all the earth. God is not done with Israel and the Jews. We are children of the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac. We should faithfully pray for family.