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Call to pray for Jews mirrors God’s heart, prayer leader says

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–On Rosh Hashanah, when observant Jews around the world begin 10 days of seeking God, Southern Baptists will be praying they find his Son.
A new prayer booklet published by the International Mission Board will guide Southern Baptists as they intercede with God on behalf of his chosen people.
The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, opens the Days of Awe, when Jewish tradition teaches that God opens his Book of Life to inscribe the names of the righteous and remove the names of the wicked. The book remains open for 10 days, during which Jewish people recall the sins of the previous year and pray to God for forgiveness.
The observance, also known as the Days of Repentance, ends with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah will be observed on Sept. 11 this year; Yom Kippur falls on Sept. 20.
Because God loves the Jews as his chosen people, Christians ought to mirror that love at the very time Jews worldwide are seeking God, said Randy Sprinkle, director of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s prayer strategy office.
“God calls on his children to reflect his deep heart love for his chosen people, the Jews,” Sprinkle said. “Evangelical Christians are responding by harmonizing their hearts with his so his love can be reflected toward Jewish people.”
Rather than being an act of hostility or intolerance, as some critics claim, praying for the Jewish people is motivated by love, Sprinkle added.
“Intercessory prayer is an act of love,” he said. “Christian intercessors are people of love. They love the Jewish people, even scattered across the earth as they are, because God first loved the Jewish people.
“Christians today are harshly persecuted in many countries of the world,” Sprinkle said. “Our response is not one of bitterness and hatred but a deep burden for the people of that country that leads us to pray for them, because that reflects God’s love for them.
“What we’re doing is not going to change the general Jewish perception of Christians, but the fact is that Christians will continue out of love to go before God on behalf of his chosen people, because that’s his heart.”
A resolution adopted by messengers to the 1996 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans called on Southern Baptists to pray for the salvation of Jewish people and to direct energies and resources toward proclaiming to Jewish people the good news of salvation in Jesus, the Messiah.
That resolution drew national attention and was denounced as intolerant by critics, some of whom said efforts to evangelize Jews amounted to “spiritual genocide.” A Southern Baptist leader at the time responded that the intent was not to convert Jews into Gentiles, but “to convert them from being Jews who do not have a relationship with the God of their fathers to Jews who do.”
Christians, however, have little choice when it comes to sharing their faith with Jews, said Don Kammerdiener, executive vice president of the International Mission Board.
“Many Jewish leaders reject such efforts as being wrongheaded, arrogant or even contributing to the spiritual and cultural equivalent of the holocaust,” Kammerdiener said. “But the Bible is clear regarding the necessity of sharing the gospel with Jews.
“Jesus and the apostles were Jews. Jesus stated clearly that his followers were to begin their witness to him in Jerusalem, the heartland of the Jews. Jesus is the Messiah promised to the Jews, the Savior of all who believe in him. He is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant promises.
“The Bible is explicit in saying, in Romans 1:16, that Jews are not only included in the gospel invitation, but that the gospel is to go to the Jew first and also to the Gentile,” Kammerdiener added. “Obedient Christians have no choice except to invite Jews and all other peoples to come to faith in Christ.”
An estimated 132,000 Jews worldwide follow Jesus — who they call by his Hebrew name, Yeshua — as the Messiah, according to 1998 statistics from David Bogosian of the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, Calif. He puts the number of Messianic Jews in Israel at 5,000, with 110,000 in the United States.
Perhaps 75 percent of the world’s 15 million Jews no longer practice Rabbinic Judaism, and most are secularists or atheists, Bogosian says.
The prayer guide contains 10 vignettes of Jewish life during the Days of Awe, along with brief sketches of Jewish populations around the world and suggestions about how to pray for Jewish people as they seek God.
The International Mission Board has published a similar guide to help Christians pray for Muslims during the annual holy days of Ramadan, Sprinkle noted. Guides also will be published for prayer efforts focusing on Hindus and Buddhists.
With about 4,800 missionaries working among 336 ethnic people groups and in 127 countries, the International Mission Board’s work is supported by nearly 16 million Southern Baptists in more than 40,000 congregations in the United States.
To order the Days of Awe prayer guide, e-mail the IMB resource center at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-866-3621.

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  • Mark Kelly