I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel.
There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.
(Psalms 122:1-9, NIV)
Psalm 122 was a hymn sung by the Jews as they made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to attend the annual religious festivals. Biblical scholars refer to these pilgrimage hymns as “songs of ascent,” because the elevated location of Jerusalem meant the weary travelers would sing the songs as they climbed up the steep ridges to get to the sacred city. Jerusalem had a double significance to the Jews: it was the royal city of King David and the location of the temple (“the house of the Lord”).
Today’s verses demonstrate the nature of peacemaking on a practical level. The words of this hymn of joy instruct the hearer to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” The practice of peacemaking begins with prayer. The first action step for the peacemaker is to pray for peace. The words of this hymn beautifully weave together the various dimensions of shalom: peace involves physical security, prosperity which means having what one needs for a full life, and a “right relationship” with God. Praying for shalom meant praying for all these aspects of a wholesome life grounded in the Lord God.
Ordinary Christians are called by God to be prayer warriors. Like the Jews journeying to Jerusalem, Christians are to pray for “their Jerusalem,” for their neighborhood, city and nation. When the hearts of Christians are regularly focused in prayer for peace in the world, then responsible action is likely to follow. Christians begin the practice of peacemaking on their knees.
Almighty God, protector and deliverer of your people, we pray for the peace of “our Jerusalem.” We desire physical security, food and shelter, a positive self-understanding, and – most of all – a “right relationship” with you. You are our only source of security. Help us to be people of prayer who have our hearts centered on the peace that only you can give. Amen.