As part of the board meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals held October 15 in Minnesota, seven evangelical leaders from the Holy Land — Israel, Jerusalem, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan — shared stories of success, struggles, celebration and discouragement. They were asked how American evangelicals could walk with them as they seek to advance God’s kingdom in a difficult environment. Their response was, “Pray for us.” How are we to pray?
Pray for Freedom of Conscience and Religion
Evangelical churches and denominations do not have government recognition. That means they cannot officiate weddings, build buildings, own cemeteries, settle divorce proceedings or settle estates at death. (These matters are administered only by Jewish, Muslim, Druze or the historical Christian Church clergy.) Yes, there are evangelical weddings and funerals, but each requires approval from a government official who, as one leader shared, “You hope had a good commute to the office that day.” Visa approvals for teachers in Christian schools and ordained pastors are often arbitrarily administered. Evangelicals are petitioning the Israeli and Palestinian authorities for recognition. Pray for a favorable response.
They also asked us to advocate for them. When we meet with Israeli or Palestinian officers, politely but firmly ask that your brothers and sisters would have recognition. But beyond mere recognition, our guests are praying for true freedom of conscience — that followers of all faiths will have equal standing before the law, equal access to private and public services, equal opportunity to practice their faith, freedom to change religious affiliation and freedom to respectfully bear witness to their faith.
Pray for All the Peoples of the Holy Land
An Israeli leader stated, “Please pray for us but also pray for our Arab brothers and sisters as well.” A Palestinian leader shared, “Please don’t forget that we are here.” It is hard passing through multiple checkpoints on the way to work or school every day, living in fear of a terrorist attack, not knowing if you are going to get called up to military service, forgiving the Jewish extremist who set fire to your church or the Muslim mob seeking to break up a baptismal service, having your land appropriated under the name of security, not knowing where your son and daughter are … We American evangelicals have long prayed for Israel — and we should; but we must remember that God equally loves the Palestinians who grieve over their pain. For both it is difficult to live in a sin-marred environment. Pray for God’s sustaining grace and blessing.
Pray for Reconciliation
Yes, the call is to pray for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs; but I was personally drawn to the one leader who eloquently said, “We are a tiny minority — just over 20,000 among over 11,000,000. Yet we are sadly divided. Yes, we are Christ followers, but we are Israelis, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians. We Jewish background believers are Zionists, those who chose to follow Jewish traditions of worship and traditional evangelicals. We Palestinians are Christian background and Muslim background, and if that’s not enough we are divided along theological lines. If we are to show the transforming love of Christ we must truly put our loyalty to King Jesus ahead of our political, ethnic, cultural and traditional biases. Please pray that we might truly demonstrate the reconciling power of Jesus — that we might truly love the Lord our God with heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourself.”
[Tom Correll serves as global church representative of the National Association of Evangelicals. He previously served as missions pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and on the boards of the North American Council of the World Evangelical Alliance, Mission: Moving Mountains, Daystar USA and the National Association of Missions Pastors. Prior to joining the staff of Wooddale Church, he spent over 25 years in the computer industry. Correll received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan and M.Div. from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.]