How to Pray—and Not to Pray—for Gaza
Recently, I watched one of the most troubling Christian videos since the beginning of the war in Israel last month. Lamma Mansour’s “Prayer of Lament and Hope” for Gaza streamed on Christ at the Checkpoint’s online event on November 4th. Her prayer has great empathy and compassion that anyone of good faith could agree with. But the greater the emotion and pathos, the more powerful the manipulations are baked into her message.
Beyond the slanted message, the greatest problem with her prayer is this: not all Christian Arabs believe the manipulations that are expressed in it. There are brave Arab Christians who stand for the truth of what is happening and for what God’s Word says regarding Israel. They do this in the midst of the most difficult circumstances possible. My heart goes out to them as much as anyone. These Arab believers are my inspiration, saints of whom the world is not worthy.
Mansour’s manipulative prayers are a betrayal of their incredible courage and faithfulness.
Mansour prays, “Lift the siege, cease the fire.”
There is a time for peace, and there is a time for war.
And there was a time without siege and without fire.
I’m old enough to remember when there was no siege. There was no blockade of Gaza before the majority of Gazans voted Hamas into power in a landslide electoral victory. Instead, there were gifts of millions in agriculture and greenhouses. There were wishes for peace and hopes that Gazans would make a paradise on earth from the gifts given to them by Israel and the entire world.
Gazans—even before Hamas came to power—burned it all to the ground, salted their own earth, and stole every penny given in sympathy and turned it into blood money, into weapons smuggling.
And there was a ceasefire. There was a ceasefire until October 6th.
On October 7th, Gaza broke the ceasefire. They lit a fire from the depths of hell. Can there really be raping, pillaging, kidnapping, and sadism—only to then hide behind Mansour’s prayers for a ceasefire, so the Hamas cowards can reload for the next attack? No. The injured party, the Jewish State of Israel, will force Hamas to stop firing. They will stop Hamas with justified and overwhelming force. Then the fire will cease. Pray Hamas is defeated quickly and surrenders unconditionally.
If we must get biblical about sieges, there once was a wise woman in the Bible also caught in a siege of destruction (2 Samuel 20). She told the surrounding army, “I am peaceable and faithful. Why should our city be destroyed?” The general of the army replied that the city was giving refuge to a traitor who had attacked the king himself. “Give him up, and we won’t destroy the city.” The wise woman spoke to the other residents. They put the traitor to death and handed him over. The siege ended, and the city was saved.
Perhaps the Wise Woman of Abel was wiser than Lamma Mansour?
Mansour makes no supplication for Christians in Gaza to be freed from Hamas. She does not pray that churches (or mosques) not be used for firing murderous rockets against Jews or that Christians be released from their oppressed dhimmi status under the Muslim Brotherhood. Mansour does not pray that any Jewish hostages, not even the children, be freed from the rapists and sadists in Gaza. There is no excuse for such an omission.
She says Gazans “encounter selective empathy.”
What of the selective empathy in this very prayer she has written? I do not know any Christian who does not feel empathy for Gazans. But there is a vast difference between empathy and letting that empathy blind you from discerning good from evil, right from wrong. There are times to remain neutral and times to choose sides. There are times when choosing to be neutral means becoming the devil’s ally.
At one point, Mansour admits to being angry. She does not wish to be bitter, but she is still angry.
Angry at what, and why?
In this context, she seems angry that there is no more sympathy for Gazans. She does not say if it is a lack of sympathy toward the vast majority of Gazans who support Hamas (according to every available measure); or if it is a lack of sympathy for the very small minority of Christians left in Gaza.
We can all truly sympathize with these Gazan Christians under Hamas. But again, she does not pray for Gazan Christians to be freed from jihadist rule. Indeed, Christians are the most persecuted people group in the entire world today, and the lion's share of all that persecution comes from the jihadists. This glaring issue is not the subject of any of Mansour’s laments. Under Islamist rule, be it PLO or Hamas, Arab Christians have dwindled from being the majority in several cities to nearly nothing. In Gaza, they now number in the hundreds, 1,000 at most. The only place in the entire Middle East where historic Christian communities are increasing is under full Israeli sovereignty.
She also says that the Arabs in Gaza are being subjected to lies.
What lies exactly?
If we cannot agree on truth, there is no way to pray together. True love and grace for Arabs in the Middle East does not mean compromising on truth. The God of the Bible does not do that. Grace and truth always go together, always.
I have compassion for the Arab people caught in an ideology of death, lies, and violence. My biblically mandated love does not, however, require that I assent to false narratives like so many Westerners being manipulated by these types of messages.
She prays for the downfall of haughty “rulers who encourage bloodshed.” Does she mean Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Mullahs of Iran? Or, is she praying against Netanyahu and America—the Little Satan and the Big Satan, like the Mullahs themselves are praying?
She dreams of “no more wall, of lifted sieges, of all the inhabitants of the land living in peace and security, and of life more abundant.”
In that prayer, she is heartily joined by all of Israel, as well as the Christian world. Amen.
But, if this prayer is an expression of a committed pacifist, the Bible makes no such utopian promises before Messiah returns. And if it is not the wishful dreams of a pacifist, it is a thinly veiled prayer for the destruction of Israel. It is a prayer that Israel will put down its arms and defenses. Everyone knows what would happen if they did.
Let’s stop pretending. There is no cycle of violence here. Each rational observer knows that if the Muslim Arabs in the region put down their arms, peace would break out the next day. If Israel puts down its arms, Israel would be massacred the next day. That is not any kind of “cycle”. It is not tit-for-tat revenge.
There are times when pacifism, in the face of evil, is itself evil. She may respond that by me saying so—by me insisting on objective truth, that someone is in the right and someone else is in the wrong—it makes me the same as a Hamas extremist. That is unacceptable. Truth cannot be surrendered. For as Jesus said, truth is the only thing that can set us free.
This is not Lamma Mansour’s first stab at praying for the Arab-Israeli conflict. She prayed another, more radical prayer for the infamous anti-Israel conference Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) of 2022. The CATC movement insists that God has abandoned His covenant with the Jewish people. This movement makes a mockery of the Bible in the name of the Bible. Like previous theologians who tried to “de-Judaize” the Bible, this movement claims that God’s Words must be “de-Zionized.”
This movement, centered in Bethlehem, refuses to condemn the very jihadists who oppress them and have driven nearly every Christian from Bethlehem, as well as Gaza. Within that movement, the jihadist elephant must not be named and certainly never blamed. The Jews are to blame—or rather, the “Zionists” are to blame (which is a polite way of saying nearly every Jew, except a handful of Neturei Karta and Noam Chomsky). They are to blame even for the existence of the jihadists! Arab suffering is also the fault of those arrogant and ignorant Christians who support the Jews. That is the message of the CATC movement.
Thank God for the brave Christian Arabs who stand for truth and not for Mansour’s manipulative prayers.
I pray for the Arabs in Israel, in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Haifa and Jaffa, in Ramallah, in Shechem, in Bethlehem, in Hebron, in all the Middle East. I pray that the jihadists who try to murder the innocent are stopped. I pray that truth will prevail and deliver those who are trapped in the lies and darkness.
I pray with Psalm 83 that the jihadist spirit will be humiliated and that many will see that the LORD God of Israel is the true and living God, who will not allow Israel, His “firstborn son,” to be destroyed. I pray that Israel will be granted swift victory so that the fewest possible number of civilians, hostages, and soldiers perish. I pray they will be granted complete victory to prevent jihadists from murdering any more innocents again, in and around Gaza, whether Jew or non-Jew.
I pray God would comfort the terrified children in Gaza, have mercy upon them, and grant that they would not grow up to absorb the deceptions of society, whether they come from the PLO, Hamas, CATC, or anywhere else. I pray they would come to know You, Father of Compassion, and Your Word, full of grace and truth. I pray for Lamma Mansour as well that she would have a deeper encounter with the God of Israel and His faithfulness.
I pray that the love and truth of the gospel will pierce the darkness of jihad. And I pray for those brave Arab believers who already stand with the truth in God’s Word regarding Israel. May God grant them strength and grant that we would live worthy of their courage and suffering. I pray that the underground revival of Christians in Iran will continue to spread until the regime of the Mullahs implodes from within.
I pray for, and I believe in complete faith, in the return of the Messiah to Jerusalem when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and they will not learn war anymore. May it be soon and in our days.
It is not as poetic, but that is my prayer. Some might say I lack compassion. I simply will not accept grace without truth, for in the end, we will be left with neither truth nor compassion.
John Enarson is a Christian theology student from Sweden living in Israel. He has lived in the Middle East for over 25 years and currently serves as the Christian Relations Director at Cry For Zion (cryforzion.com). He is happy to receive input or questions about his articles. This article was previously published on Christian Headlines.