“I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” —Matthew 18:18
The other night we gathered and prayed for Israel and what’s happening in the Middle East. It was an emotional time as one of the couples was from Israel. They had moved to the United States just a few months ago, and they shared stories of brutality and senseless death, imploring us to pray, to fast, to intercede for their people. We did . . . and we will continue to do so.
In moments like this, when it’s tempting to feel both powerless and angry, a dangerous combination to be sure, we must ask ourselves, How is God inviting me to pray for and participate in this moment?
There’s no question that we need a miracle. We need heaven’s reality, the evidence of God’s sovereign rule, to invade the Middle East, a place overflowing with pain and promise.
In the middle of an extended teaching on forgiveness and reconciliation (see Matthew 18), Jesus tells us that what we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven. For Jesus, our capacity to combat evil and release good on a cosmic (and national) level is linked to our ability to forgive and reconcile in our daily lives, at the local level.When we bind the powers that would estrange and divide us here, whatever “here” may mean for you (family, work, neighborhood, church, etc.), we can pray with a cosmic authority that undermines the dark powers and principalities over there. When we loose God’s refreshing power through personal forgiveness and reconciliation, we somehow join in the healing of nations.
Is there someone in your world who you need to forgive today? In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus places forgiveness at the heart of prayer. Without it, our prayers fall flat for lack of vitality.
Maybe you’ve tried to pray for what’s happening over there and have felt little life. Why not first locate the grace and strength to embrace the power of forgiveness and reconciliation here. As you do, you will locate the authority in prayer that can change what’s happening in the Middle East and beyond.There is a reason why Jesus used some of his final words to give us this prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I often pray his words, making them my own. They center my soul and clarify my response. And when I struggle to pray like Jesus, I invert the prayer, Father, forgive me for I know not what I do, reminding myself that the person who cannot forgive has forgotten what they’ve been forgiven of.
Israel and the Middle East need our prayers. For the sake of the nations, let’s be people who embrace personal forgiveness so we can be conduits for the kingdom, stakeholders in God’s sovereign rule. We don’t need more empty words. We need heaven’s miraculous power. And Jesus tells us that we participate in God’s power, a power that joins heaven and earth, when we yield to the holy and transforming work of forgiveness.
Praying with you
P.S. I’ve been praying Psalms 121 and 122 over this situation. These are songs of ascent and have relevance to our moment.