Does the Bible really tell us to pray for peace in Jerusalem?

Jeremiah, what a personality, what a life story. In the midst of one of his doom prophecies regarding the fate of Jerusalem, he stops, takes a deep breath, and cries out, “Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem? Or who will bemoan you? Or who will turn aside to ask how you are doing (or literally: how is your peace)?” (Jer. 15:5).

“Shalom,” we usually great each other in Israel on a regular day, “Ma Shlom-cha?” Meaning, “Peace be upon you, how is your peace? How are you doing”

How strange it is, than, that when the same phrase appears in Ps. 122:6, it is translated into “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and not into “ask how is Jerusalem doing, how is her peace?”

Does it really matter?

Well, yes. The English translations have missed the oh so deep meaning of this widely known and quoted verse. In the original Hebrew, the same saying appears both in Jeremiah and in Psalms. The word “ask” here doesn’t mean simply “pray”, like some kind of an empty mantra that repeats itself, but “show interest in the details, wait for an answer, keep in touch with Jerusalem, inquire about her well being, check how is she doing.” How else will you know how to pray for her?

This verse, that brings millions of Christians on their knees each morning, praying for peace in Jerusalem, is not a calling to just say, “may there be peace in that city.” It is a calling for relationship, a calling to check on Jerusalem, to get in touch with those who live in Zion, and learn from them why is there no peace, and what is their role alongside her, in such a time as this.

So, how is Jerusalem doing?

Thanks for asking. Not so well, to be honest. Indeed, she is gorgeous and exciting, but she is also old and exhausted. On one hand she is new and modern and with a brilliant mind. On the other hand, she is a compilation of contraries. She is surrounded by enemies wishing to trample and conquer her. She needs much help, and the saddest part is, she is not even aware of that.

If we set our eyes on the peace of Jerusalem, thinking this is the main thing, we are missing two important points:

1. We are missing the calling for a relationship with the nation and with her children.
2. We may be fooled when false peace comes, thinking this is the answer for our prayers.

So this is the challenge I want to set before you: will you turn aside to ask how Jerusalem is doing and to bemoan her? Will you invest time into getting to know her, and her children, and the true reasons for the lack of peace (versus what the media chooses to tell about it)? The glorious day will come when there will be true peace in Jerusalem, but as of now – this is not exactly the plan. So let’s be careful to not turn our passion for Israel into a religious mantra, and look for the details.