I could not help the uncontrollable feelings of emotion that flooded through me as I stood in front of the 300 people crowded into that small Ohio church back in 1988. On one side of the room sat both saved and unsaved Jews, and on the other side of the room sat both saved and unsaved Arabs. This was not some conference designed to discuss a road map for how Arabs and Jews could live together in harmony—this was my wedding!
Here I was, a full-blooded Jew being joined together for the rest of my life with a full-blooded Arab. God certainly has a sense of humor. My wife, Beth, and I met at Bible college, married in 1988, and recently celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. To God be the glory! As deep as the enmity has historically been between Arab and Jew, I feel privileged that the Lord has blessed our relationship to be a testimony of His power, demonstrating what God can do through the seeds of Isaac and Ishmael.
The hour in which we live is crucial. It’s time for the church to carry God’s burden for both Jews and Arabs in our prayers. So how do we effectively pray for these two peoples?
We must first understand how God feels about Isaac and Ishmael.
It is a remarkable thing to realize that Isaac and Ishmael were two out of perhaps only six or seven men in the entire Bible who were pre-named by God! God’s love for both brothers was evident in the fact that He not only named them, but also spoke awesome prophetic words over both.
“… and I will establish My covenant with him [Isaac] for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him” (Genesis 17:19).
“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 17:20).
While there is no way to equate Ishmael’s blessing with the everlasting covenant God made to Abraham—which was repeated to Isaac, not Ishmael, and then to Jacob—we know from Scripture that it is the Lord’s heart that none should perish. And since there is a yet unfulfilled prophecy for the nations surrounding Israel, we must carry a heart for these Arab nations and ask God for their salvation.
We must rid ourselves of any inkling of prejudice and look at them as the Lord looks at them.
We, too, must carry God’s heart for the Jewish people! Jew-hatred is as old as the Jews themselves and is often referred to as the longest hatred. Because the people of Israel and the land of Israel are central to the end-time purposes of God, and because Scripture indicates that the Messiah won’t return until a Jewish Jerusalem welcomes Him back, there have been demonic plots throughout history to annihilate the people and the land that God has chosen as His own. And, since those very people are the key to ushering in the return of Messiah, the devil will continue to fight, doing his best to delegitimize and destroy the nation and people of Israel.
Similarly, we must carry God’s heart for the Arab nations surrounding Israel. Approximately 2,600 years after Ishmael’s death, a direct descendant of his named Muhammad, rose to become the “prophet” of a new religion called Islam. To the degree that Ishmael experienced a fatherless existence after his expulsion from Abraham’s home, I believe that Muslims today need to be shown the unrelenting love of the Father. To the same degree that God heard Ishmael crying more than 4,000 years ago (Genesis 21:17), He still hears him crying today. There is yet an unfulfilled destiny for the descendants of Ishmael, and God is still looking for a people who will take Ishmael by the hand and speak life to him (Genesis 21:18).
We must pray that Jewish eyes would be opened to their Jewish Messiah.
The Bible clearly states that because of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, they have experienced a partial blindness, giving the nations (the “wild branches”) an opportunity to be grafted into the Jewish tree. The natural outflow for those of us who believe that Jesus is the Messiah ought to be a burden for the salvation of Israel. The Bible also clearly mandates that we pray for the peace of Jerusalem as well as relentlessly praying until God establishes Jerusalem as a praise in the earth.
Some people might say that they won’t pray for Israel because they don’t have a burden to pray for them. My response is simple: Perhaps there is no burden for Israel because we’re not biblically praying for them as the Word instructs.
While God loves the Jew and Arab in the identical way, there is a unique, chosen role for the Jewish people in the world, to the point that Paul wrote that their salvation would literally mean “life from the dead”! (Romans 11:15).
We must also pray that Arab eyes would be opened to the true Messiah.
Two weeks ago, I shared lunch with a pastor in our city who said he had been a Muslim but was radically converted after a supernatural encounter with God. Similarly, reports from former Muslims are surfacing from around the world, that Jesus is revealing Himself to them and that they are giving their lives to Him. The same God who would supernaturally reveal Himself on Damascus Road to Rabbi Saul, a descendant of Isaac, also desires to make Himself known to the descendants of Ishmael.
What if the Lord is simply waiting on the church to pray?
Bible verses are taken by permission from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.
Scott Volk, a Messianic Jew and ordained minister, is founder of “Together For Israel,” a nonprofit ministry that educates the church about God’s heart for Israel and helps established ministries, Jewish and Arab, that are proclaiming the Gospel. He also publishes daily prayers on the “1 Minute for Israel” Facebook page. For information, go to TogetherForIsrael.org.