I am often asked: “How do I pray for Israel and the Jewish people?” The other question often asked is: “How do I provoke Israel to jealousy?” These are great questions, and the answers are in fact rather simple.
Let us talk about how to pray for Israel. There are several areas that I think are extremely important. First, we must of course pray for their salvation. This requires us to pray that the demonic veil that covers their eyes would be removed. Paul said: “Their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:14, NKJV).[i]
The Jewish people are being held captive in great deception that results in their outright rejection of their Messiah. Their expressed hatred borders on the irrational. However, I have also seen a gradual softening of their hearts towards Christians who have displayed a love for the Jewish people.
Before my father passed away I took him to a friend’s church that genuinely loves Israel. They even have an Israeli flag hanging up in their sanctuary. My father was surprised and asked: “What’s our flag doing up there?” I said: “These are the true Christians who love us.” “They love us” he responded? “Yes, they love us.” He was so moved, almost to tears, that he said he might consider becoming one of them.
Yeshua quoted Isaiah when He said: "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE HAS ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR; HE HAS SENT ME TO HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED, TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET AT LIBERTY THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED” (Luke 4:18). Just like Yeshua, we also are called to free the captives, setting them free so that they might receive the love of His truth.[ii] This we do through prayer and fasting as Yeshua instructed: “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21).
However, more than just praying for Israel’s salvation, the church is called to intercede for, and stand in the gap for Israel. Yeshua said on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). In the book of Joel we see a picture of the church crying out for the salvation of Israel and their return to the land, even pleading with God to remove the defilement of His name, as it is written, “Let the priests [those who are in Christ], who minister to the LORD, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, Spare Your people [Israel], O LORD, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, Where is their God?” (Joel 2:17).
The redemption of Israel, therefore, is the sanctification of God’s name, while their exile continues to profane God’s name amongst the nations, as it is written: “And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:23-24).
Finally, we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for in doing so we are actually praying for the return of Christ.[iii] He is the Prince of Peace, and it is only when He returns to the earth that all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, and the Kingdom of God will be established in Israel from Jerusalem.[iv]
On that day the Lord said: “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (Zechariah 12:10). This means that all those living in Jerusalem, including the sons of Ishmael, will receive the Holy Spirit. Therefore, praying for Israel and the Jewish people should not preclude prayers for the salvation of their Arab cousins. Imagine Israel as “one nation” stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River, and from Egypt to Syria that brings all the natural descendants of Abraham together as one people of God in Christ Yeshua? “In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance” (Isaiah 19:24-25). That is the only peace process that will ever succeed.
So how is the church going to provoke Israel to jealousy? I believe the church needs to be restored to a proper understanding of God’s prophetic plans and kingdom purposes for the nation of Israel, including and a proper understanding of God’s calling for the church to come alongside Israel to provoke Israel to jealousy.
Paul said: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28-29). Paul was not talking about the irrevocable gifts of the spirit or other administrative gifts given to the church—as many like to preach. No, Paul was talking about Israel’s calling to be a light and a blessing to all the nations.[v] These were his proceeding words: “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11: 15). Paul was telling the church that once Israel received her Messiah that she would be resurrected from the dead,[vi] and that this resurrection would not only bring life to the church, but would bring His life to the whole earth.
This is when the Kingdom of God will be established on the earth. In fact, the Kingdom of God itself belongs to Israel. In scripture, it is written that one day Yeshua’s disciples came to Him and asked: “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Yeshua gently told them they need not worry about the time of His return, but the fact He did not rebuke their question confirmed their understanding. The Kingdom of God belongs to Israel.
Paul said it like this: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises” (Romans 9:3-4). Every single promise made by the Lord to Abraham, Moses and King David was and remains for the Jewish people.
The nations (gentiles) can only share in these promises by the Lord’s grafting them into Israel, as it is written: “And it shall be that in whatever tribe the stranger dwells, there you shall give him his inheritance, says the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 47:23). Paul said: “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
And this sharing of Israel’s promises and blessings has been given to the nations because of Israel’s transgressions, including the rejection of her Messiah.[vii] God made a promise to Israel that He would provoke the Jewish people to a jealous anger, and it will in fact be the work of His Holy Spirit through the gentile church to provoke them.[viii]
The Lord spoke through Moses, saying: “I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21). He was speaking of a nation who was ignorant of God and had no knowledge of Him. He was speaking of the gentiles.[ix] But the singular vernacular specifically indicates one gentile nation in particular. Could this nation be the sons of Ishmael? It is written: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 17:20). Pray for the salvation of Ishmael.
Prayer is crucial. Still, there are some practical things that God requires of us. First, we must love the Jewish people unconditionally, meaning without prejudice to their current spiritual condition. Frankly, the church is supposed to love all people completely. How many churches do you know that are known for their love? Didn’t Yeshua say: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). And because Israel is God’s first born son, the church must also honor them as the older brother. The second born of Abraham is Ishmael (even though he was born first in the natural).[x] God chooses the one He wants and not necessarily in the order they are born. Therefore, the church must honor the sons of Jacob.
Next, I believe the church must preach the good news of the gospel to the Jewish people, as is written: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Giving them bread without giving them the “bread of life” is simply not enough.[xi] “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Feed their bodies and then feed their souls. Yes, they might reject the word and even despise you, but that is our calling as followers of Christ.
Also, I believe the gentiles are called to materially bless the Jewish people, as it is written, “If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?” (1 Corinthians 9:11). Anti-Semitic rhetoric often proclaims the Jews control most of the money in the world. That is a deception and a lie from the pit of hell. You may not know that thirty-percent of the Jewish people residing in Israel are living in poverty. One of the most neglected groups of Christians in the world are our Messianic brothers and sisters in Israel. Second to them are the Arab Christians. The church has, and retains a mainly western view of the world. God’s first born (Israel) and second born (Ishmael) are some of the least honored and most neglected people within the church.[xii]
Last of all, I believe the church needs to be restored to its proper biblical foundation in terms of both understanding, and honoring the sacred assemblies of the Lord, such as the Sabbath and His Holy Convocations (feasts and celebrations). Who wants to miss a great celebration? Look what the Lord says, “In this mountain [in Jerusalem] The Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees. And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day: Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:6-9). I’m going to the party. Are you coming with me?
The Lord has established a Hebrew calendar that identifies the seventh day as the Sabbath—a day that is uniquely set apart (sanctified) and made holy (hallowed).[xiii] The Lord also established seven yearly feasts and celebrations that create a cycle of expectancy for the return of our Messiah. The church, and in fact the world is obligated to follow God’s calendar, and not the other way around.
While these convocations are not required through any legal obligation, nor as a means of salvation, I believe that when the Jewish people see the church in mass celebrating and honoring the feasts of the Lord with such zeal and spiritual passion, that the Jewish people will question what they have been missing. They might even become angry, accusing the church of stealing their traditions and the things they feel rightly belong to them. Yes, the Lord will provoke Israel to a jealous anger.
I continually hear stories about how this person grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, or that person has several close Jewish friends or family members. Beloved, these are not coincidences or accidents. God has placed your feet intentionally, and He has given you these associations for a purpose.[xiv]
While the Jewish people have an irrevocable calling to be a light to the nations, the gentiles also have an irrevocable calling to provoke Israel to jealousy. And for this reason, it is the Lord’s work, and not exclusively yours. He has anointed you, and He will open doors for you. He will convince hearts, and He will open eyes for people to see His Kingdom—through you. We are all merely vessels, instruments in His hand for His work and His glory.
The gentiles are ultimately called to restore God’s heritage, Israel, and rebuild Jerusalem— “Thus says the LORD God: Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, and set up My standard for the peoples; they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers” (Isaiah 49:22-23); “The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; for in My wrath I struck you, but in My favor I have had mercy on you. Therefore your gates shall be open continually; They shall not be shut day or night, That men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, And their kings in procession” (Isaiah 60:10-11).
And for this, the nations will receive the earth as an inheritance.[xv] God’s kingdom will then be complete—Israel at its center, and all the nations of the earth who are grafted into Israel, coming up to Jerusalem to worship their God, the God of Israel.
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[ii] 2 Thessalonians 2:10.
[iii] Psalm 122:6.
[iv] Romans 11:26.
[v] Isaiah 27:6 & 42:6, Acts 13:46-47.
[vi] Ezekiel 37:1-14.
[vii] Romans 11:11.
[viii] Romans 10:9.
[ix] Ephesians 2:12.
[x] Genesis 21:12.
[xi] John 6:51.
[xii] Exodus 4:22-23.
[xiii] Exodus 20:11.
[xiv] Psalm 37:23.
[xv] Isaiah 45:3.