Prayer: hating our enemies

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

We thank you for the chance today to honour the courage and sacrifice of the people who have given up their lives, their health, their comfort for our safety. We mourn everyone we have lost through war, and we pray for the survivors of wars past and present. We pray for healing, and for recovery after traumatic experiences.

We pray for Ukraine, for some path to peace. We pray for the Democratic Republic of the Congo where violence has increased this year. We pray for the faltering peace talks in Yemen. Please bring new hope.

We are appalled at what we see in Israel and Gaza over the last few weeks. We ask desperately for peace and justice – freedom for hostages and safety for ordinary people. For the freedom that comes through forgiveness. We feel hopeless: during my lifetime I’ve seen attempts to improve the situation but nothing has worked. Please, bring new ideas and people on both sides brave enough to stand up for peace and mercy.

Lord, why do we persist in hating our enemies? Why are we surprised when we find we just end up with more enemies?

Hearing about the destruction of families in Israel and Gaza it brought to mind the vision that Ezekiel had: he saw a valley full of the bones of people who had been killed. The bones were totally dry, which to me connects with the utter hopelessness of this situation – there was no life in them at all. But God, you showed this to Ezekiel for a reason: you told him to speak to them despite the hopelessness, and when he did, impossibly, life entered those bones and they re-formed into people, and breath came into them.

Lord, we beg you to bring new life in Israel and Palestine. We pray for people of peace, and public support for them. We pray for courage. We pray for international support. We pray for everything that is needed: from us, from our government, whatever it is, so that some new breath can be breathed into these dry bones. Lord, don’t let another lifetime go past with this insult to your character pouring out shame on us, the human race.

We acknowledge that we ourselves are part of this hatred for enemies. We are subject to a kind of dehumanising outrage, whether it’s about the COVID enquiry, or the timing of protests, or the latest newspaper article. We pray against outrage designed by algorithms to farm our attention. We pray for unity of purpose over our shared values, and for acknowledgement of the humanity of people we disagree with. Where we have been tricked into forgetting that people are people, and their stories inform their opinions, we are sorry.

Today, as we honour the people we have lost, make us those people of peace. And maybe some of us want to cry out with Noy Katsman, whose brother Hayim was killed last month, “Do not use our pain to bring death”.


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