Psalm 122 urges us to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, or more literally, to ask about the shalom of Jerusalem. What does it mean? Is it talking here about the need to pray for the city itself? Or for spiritual salvation, as true peace starts within? Or a bit of both? Let’s look at what the Bible has to say about the significant city, and some suggestions about how we can pray today.
City of Peace
The very name “Jerusalem” comes from the Hebrew root for shalom, the word for peace (ש.ל.מ = Sh.l.m.), which you can hear a bit better when you say it the Hebrew way: “Yerushalayim”. Interestingly, the verb “to pay” is from the very same root word – leShalem. A payment or transaction in return for goods given restores peace between the two parties, making things right. Shalem in Hebrew also means “complete”, and shalom, as we have said, means peace. So you can see that the root word behind the name of God’s chosen city is rich with meaning, especially for us who believe that Yeshua paid for our sins, in order to make things right with God and to restore peace between us and Him… and He did all this in Jerusalem.
So that takes care of the “Shalem” / “Salem” bit, but what about the “Jeru” / “Yeru” bit at the beginning? Interesting fact: the very mountain that God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son upon was Mount Moriah – no other than the very place where Solomon built the temple, and where the second temple also stood. Yes, Abraham took his son Isaac up to where Jerusalem stands today. Isaac climbed up that same mountain, carrying the wood on his back that would be for his own sacrificial death, if the Lord had not stopped Abraham and provided a ram as a substitute to die in his place. And here, it is suggested, is where the “Yeru” comes in. In Genesis 22, the Hebrew word “to see” appears several times. And it is just after Hagar refers to God as the one who sees. Genesis 22:14 says, “And Abraham called the name of that place Adonai-jireh; as it is said to this day: ‘In the mount where the LORD is seen.’” However, many translations would say “the LORD who provides”, and certainly, Jehovah Jireh is usually thought to mean “God my provider”. The context certainly lends itself to understanding the word “see” here as as referring to provision. Also in verse 8 we see the same thing, the verb “will see” is translated as “will provide”: Isaac asks his father where the animal for the sacrifice is, and Abraham tells his son, “’God will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son’”…Perhaps it means something like, “God will see to it”. But all of these words are from the root word “to see”, “yireh”. Even Mount Moriah comes from the same root.
So the name “Jerusalem” means something like, ‘God will see to / provide complete and paid-for peace’.
Certainly God sees all that is happening in Jerusalem these days. There is much sin abounding on both sides of the dispute, and it grieves God. We know from scripture that God still has plans for Jerusalem, and that Yeshua will return to the Mount of Olives. He will come back to rule and reign as a conquering king, not as a suffering servant this time. He will put all things right. Political and supernatural peace will come when he returns, but until then, we need to contend for peace in prayer – the peace with God that has been paid for by Yeshua the Messiah. The city is important to God, but not as important as the people.
“Thus says the Lord GOD: This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations, with countries all around her.” (Ezekiel 5:5)
As far as God is concerned, Jerusalem is at the center of the world. The Biblical Hebrew actually refers to it as the belly button or navel of the world in Ezekiel 38:12! The word “Jerusalem” occurs 881 times in the Bible, 667 times in the Old Testament (or Tenach, as it is called here in Israel) and 144 times in the New Testament. God Himself refers to it and to no other place, as “My City” (Isaiah 45:13), the city he has chosen for his dwelling place. However, God was willing to destroy his own temple and the whole city of Jerusalem because of Israel’s disobedience. This shows us that it is not so much the building nor the city which have top priority in his heart, but the holiness of his people and his relationship with them. Both the temple and the city have great significance in God’s estimation, but not as much as right relationship with his children. This is where real peace happens – in the hearts of people in right relationship with their God.
The best way to pray for peace is to pray for the salvation of the people – the Bible teaches that when our minds are trusting God fully, our hearts will be at peace (Isaiah 26:3). This needs to be our prayer for all the Jews and Palestinians, the politicians and officials, the workers and ordinary people – for everyone: That God would draw them to himself, and lead them in the journey of walking by faith, trusting him, and experiencing the peace that comes only through Yeshua.
The most significant city
Jerusalem is the central hotspot of spiritual battle, which we can see to this day. Somehow, it always ends up in the headlines. Jerusalem is the most contested and sought after city in all of history – many nations and peoples have come against it: Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, Turks, Jordanians, which is strange because geographically, it was always located off the main trade routes and has no strategic importance to a conquering army. If this were only a physical battle, it would be hard to understand the reasoning behind this. However, the heart of the battle is spiritual. God declared that He will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:3). How much do you think the enemy hates the place where God dwells? The enemy can’t succeed in this battle against Jerusalem but he is trying hard to cause as much tension, bloodshed, pain and strife as possible. But as we said, one of the meanings of “shalom” is completeness. God has chosen Jerusalem for his dwelling place, and wishes the city to be complete, whole, at peace.
In 1947 the General Assembly of the UN passed a resolution that established Jerusalem as a “corpus separatum”. This is a legal term meaning a “body of separate covenant”. This has never happened before in history. No city has ever been set aside by a human government so as to abide by different laws than the rest of the world. But Jerusalem has been set aside by God, not just by the United Nations. It is an interesting fact that politically Jerusalem has been a capital to no other nation except Israel. Many Christians and Jews alike see the restoration of Jerusalem into the hands of the Jewish people in 1967 as a fulfillment of the Bible prophecy. Certainly, we saw a remarkable wave of Jewish people coming to faith around the world from that time, along with other waves of spiritual revival and renewal around the rest of the world.
So when the Bible says that we should “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, it is because what happens in Jerusalem radiates across the whole world. This was true when Yeshua was crucified, and it is true as the prophetic events of the Last Days play out in Israel. In Isaiah 62 we are called to continually intercede for Zion and give God no rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise in the whole earth.
- For the Holy Spirit to convict all the people of the city about sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come (John 16:8) so that they can find truth and forgiveness in Yeshua – for people of all walks of life to find real peace with God through Yeshua
- Pray against violence, and for peace and hope on the streets of Jerusalem, and against fear – that more and more would come to trust in God and find peace and love that casts out fear
- For integrity in the governmental institutions and for those in positions of responsibility to walk in righteousness – for God to root out corruption
- For God to raise up those who can be a witness in these high levels of Israeli society – people like the prophet Daniel
- Please pray for our leaders – for the right people to be given the right positions, and for God’s wisdom that leads to peace and justice
- For the Jewish and Arab believers in Jerusalem to truly love one another, and to love their enemies as well
- For the destructive plans of the enemy to be thwarted, and for God’s perfect plans to come to pass