Probably the main verse in the Bible which answers this question is Psalm 122:6 “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they prosper who love you.” The emphasis is on praying for Israel. This is not really surprising, since a large part of the Old Testament is about the history of Israel and God’s relationship with them, and most of the Psalms are written by Israelites. Throughout the Old Testament, we see how God had a special relationship with the people of Israel. He even calls them his firstborn (Jeremiah 31:9).
When God called Abraham, the forefather of Israel, God promised:
- blessing to Abraham’s descendants (Israel)
- that they would be a great nation
- that He would give them the land of Canaan as their inheritance
- that God’s covenant would last forever
- that all the nations of the earth would be blessed because of Israel (see e.g. Genesis 12:1-3, 17:4-8)
Fulfillment of promises
The Bible gradually reveals the fulfillment of some of these promises
- The people of Israel became a great nation from Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, “the son of promise” (referred to in Galatians 4:21-31)
- The people of Israel entered Canaan according to God’s promise
- The second king of Israel, David, was told that his throne would be an eternal throne, one that would last forever
- In the New Testament, the very first chapter informs us that Jesus Christ was born a descendant of David through Mary, his mother. The gospel of Luke records: “And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
Key promise: the Messiah
The Old Testament says repeatedly that God would send Someone to save Israel and the nations from sin, idolatry, enemies… and bring a glorious future. The Jews called Him Messiah. This is a key figure in all God’s promises regarding both Israel and the rest of the world. But when the Messiah finally came in the person of Jesus Christ, they did not recognize Him as such and even rejected Him. Jesus was arrested, accused falsely and crucified on a Friday — but on the Sunday He rose from the dead. Jesus appeared to His disciples and commissioned them to go throughout the world telling everyone the good news of why He came: to take the punishment of the sins of mankind and to show us the way back to having a right relationship with God. Now He reigns in heaven forever. This was the fulfillment of the promise to David that His kingdom would be established forever, and of the promise to Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in his descendants.
Pray for Israel
Sadly, many in Israel still refuse to accept that Jesus is their Messiah, the One that God sent. This is why it is still important for Christians to pray for Israel. As Paul says in Romans 11, we have salvation, the Bible and the Messiah through Israel. The fact that Israel rejected the Messiah meant that the way was opened up for us gentiles (non-Jews) to become the people of God. In Romans 11:26, Paul says that Israel will be saved and in Romans 11:28 that they are still loved by God, because of His promise to their ancestors. Hence it is important to pray for the people of Israel as for a beloved brother who does not yet know the full truth that is of life importance.
Of course, the Jews as a people are closely related to the land they claim as their territory. And many of God’s promises are related to their land as well. This brings up really complex political problems, since other people groups claim the right of this land too, or even want to wipe Israel out. If you want to know more about that, please read Why are Israel and the Palestinians fighting?