Recent tensions in Israel and the Middle East found local believers gathering for a national day of fasting and prayer last Shabbat.
Messianic Jews and Arab Christian came together in the Lavi Forest in Western Galilee to cry out to God for nearly five hours. Hot topics for prayer were Iran’s nuclear capabilities, the continuing bombardment of Israel’s southern cities and the upcoming elections in Israel and the US.
Organized by pastors in the Galilee, the event brought together Arab and Jewish believers from Dan in the North to Beersheva in the South.
In the shade of the dense eucalyptus forest an estimated 1,500 participants began with a time of personal repentance. Pastors from a variety of congregations across the land explained the need to come before God with "clean hands and a right spirit." Tears were evident as local believers asked God’s forgiveness for sins of jealousy, pride and critical attitudes.
Instructions were given on the need to confess cooperate sins as well. Pastors and leaders lead their congregations to acknowledge sins of divisiveness and ungodly competitiveness. Weeping was heard as leaders and congregants acknowledged their failings and repented before God, and to one another.
"This was no ordinary meeting," said one of the organizers. "A prayer gathering that leads people to publicly confess sin is very significant. This was crucial to begin the gathering," said the local pastor. "We needed to humble ourselves and unite our hearts with God and with one another. This made a way for us to intercede for the Messianic body and for the people of Israel."
Unity between Arabs and Jews was one of the highlights of the event. Shmuel Aweida, an Arab pastor from Haifa, led prayers for Israeli soldiers. "I have no problem praying for the army," said Aweida. "My oldest daughter served as a medic and my younger daughter is a combat soldier fighting on the border with Egypt," he said. "We pray everyday for the army!"
The IDF does not draft Arab citizens, but the Aweida family considers it an honor for their children to serve in the Israeli Army. "I guess we are not ‘normal’ Arabs," said Aweida. "What a wonderful thing to pray to the One who keeps Israel to watch over our soldiers."
According to Pastor Aweida more and more Messianic soldiers are not ashamed to share their faith in the army. "This is what we have been praying for for years!" he said.
Arab and Hebrew music gave a worshipful atmosphere as Jews prayed for Palestinians and Arabs prayed for the Jewish nation. Jewish leaders cautioned against calling for judgement on Israel’s enemies. Prayers for Iran centered around crying out for salvation for the Iranian people. Significant time was also given to interceding for protection and courage for believers in all the Arab nations surrounding Israel.
A number of Gentile Christians joined the local believers including a television crew. They filmed the event hoping to get more Christians involved in supporting the local believers by giving them an inside look at the Messianic body in Israel.
One member of the crew broke down in tears as the Israeli body cried out for salvation for Israel. "I was so touched by their passion for their own people," she said. "I wish we could pray like that in my own church."
"We cry out Lord for your protection of the southern cities now under missile attack from the Gaza Strip," prayed a local pastor with urgency. "You are the only one that can save us," he implored as the people raised their voice in a united "Amen."
Local leaders continued to urge prayers for government leaders in Jerusalem, the upcoming January elections in Israel and salvation for Arabs and Jews. Prayers included God’s mercy for the people of Israel because of the moral decline in society including youth violence, a breakdown in family values and increasing abortion rates.
As the day wore on and the sun waned, the assembly gathered to pray in unison the well known Hebrew chorus: "I come to lift a prayer for my people. I can only cry out for mercy. O Lord, have mercy for your name’s sakes as we lift our voices to you the Living God. For your name's sake, O Lord, for your name’s sake O Lord, have mercy."
* Photo is of a Messianic Jew and a Christian Arab arriving together for this united prayer gathering