“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” What exactly does that mean?
The phrase is found in Psalm 122:6. King David wrote Psalm 122 for the Israelites to sing as they went up to Jerusalem for their holy days. The word “Jerusalem” means “habitation of peace.” Peace and the City of Peace is the theme of this psalm.
All the tribes of Israel came “unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.” They came to Jerusalem to visit “the house of the LORD,” to be instructed in the Word of the LORD, and to praise the LORD.
In Jerusalem, there were “set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.” If citizens of Israel had legal disputes that they could not settle at home, they would bring them to the king in Jerusalem. The king was “of the house of David,” so he was sure to judge rightly.
Of such a city, David instructs God’s people in verse six, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” Verses seven through nine reiterate the King’s call for people to pray for Jerusalem’s peace and prosperity.
The city that David describes in Psalm 122 does not exist today. In fact, it did not exist when Jesus came to earth around 2,000 years ago.
Instead, Jesus warned Jerusalem while He was there:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (Matthew 23:37, 38)
After Israel rejected its Messiah, Jesus, Romans desolated Jerusalem in AD 70. Today, Israel still rejects Jesus. Godly people can no longer find spiritual instruction, vibrant praise, and righteous judgments within Jerusalem. A descendant of David no longer reigns therein.
At this moment in time, Israel finds itself embroiled in a war with its Palestinian neighbors. As the battles rage, Jesus continues to call out to Israel, “In me ye might have peace” (John 16:33).
There will be no true peace in Israel until it submits to the Prince of Peace—Jesus. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is not praying for wars to cease. In fact, the Prophet Jeremiah speaks of an unprecedented “time of Jacob’s trouble” which will move Israel to “serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them” (Jeremiah 30:7-9).
A plain reading of the Scriptures indicates that Israel will one day return to its homeland and be blessed by God. However, Jesus states that before this happens,
they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son … in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1)
Praying for the peace of Jerusalem means praying that the Jewish people will finally embrace their Messiah—Jesus. Until then, the Jewish people will continue to feel the loving, chastening hand of God heavy upon them.
Let us emulate the Apostle Paul who declared, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1). Thankfully, Romans 11:26 promises that his prayers and ours will one day be answered when “all Israel shall be saved”!