I got to thinking about this the other day after a conversation with someone who was upset with me for praying a peaceful outcome in the ongoing round of conflicts in the Middle East - Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Libya. He had figured out what God was up to in the region and had fit it all neatly together into his scenario of the end times. His theology did not include a peaceful resolution in Iraq. He was upset because I suggested that his theology might be wrong.
I do not pretend to know what God is up to regarding the end times. But I do think I know what God is up to regarding Muslims. Specifically, He loves them and is not willing that any of them should perish, but that they all should come to repentance - the same thing He desires for Buddhists, Hindus, “Christians”, Mormons, atheists, and anyone else we might care to name. If I want to pray as Jesus would pray if He were praying, I need to pray for the redemption of Iraq and of Palestine and of Iran and of Libya and of Syria - with the full reminder that it is ultimately the kindness of God that invites repentance.
Clearly God can - and has - used military messengers to discipline and chastise both His children and their enemies. Judgment is clearly in His hand. But short of a specific prophetic word that over-rides the command of Jesus, our whole heart needs to be set on the discipling of the nations – primarily by immersing them into the full reality of the Trinitarian Universe. We dare not make judgment calls that are not ours to make. Especially when God himself has demonstrated his reticence to judge until mercy has had its full day in court.
So, how might we pray as Iraq lurches from one instability to the next, and Israel contemplates trading settlements for peace with an unreliable neighbor, and Iran postures nuclear defiance, and Palestine ekes out subsistence level living? We can pray for the spread of the gospel by any and all means possible. We can pray for those who make for peace. We can pray that those who devise against peace find themselves caught in their own traps. We can pray against the systemic evil behind terrorism. We can pray for our brothers and sisters caught in impossible situations and victimized for their failure to align with either side. We can pray for the innocents who are as victimized by their own armies as they are by any outside enemy. We can intercede, praying that He withhold judgment to allow as many to hear the gospel as possible before the end of the age. We can pray that God’s kingdom come - that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.