Peace and how to pray for it


Tough times.

When we are “at war” with some thing or some place or some group, the most difficult things we can do are to pray for peace without also praying for the decimation of our enemies, and also to pray for our enemies. I say often (I probably nag too much about it) that praying for our enemies is advanced Christianity. It’s rubber-meeting-road as to type of spiritual person: remembering to pray / meditate for those who most want to hurt you, to defame you, to kill you in the name of what they think is right.

In peace, pray for your enemies, as I have prayed for you.

I do wish that Jesus would have come right out and said something like that in those red-text parts of the Gospels.

Oh, wait! He did!

“You have heard that it was said ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR BUT HATE YOUR ENEMIES.’ But I say to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your father who is in Heaven; for he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous…” (Mtt. 5:44)

I’m afraid that many folks who think that they are good Christians only read as far as “hate your enemies,” and stop, because that is the part that suits them. That does not make them good Christians, or good people at all, according to the Western Christian view.

Those people are looking for an excuse to hate, and this verse might give them one, claiming it comes directly from Jesus. That decision of theirs is both sad and wrong, and according to what was actually said in the entire passage probably makes them out to be evil and unrighteous,

according to what Jesus really said in this passage.

When you were a kid (hopefully not as an adult) did you ever have to go up to some other kid you got in a playground scruff with, and some teacher who busted you made you both shake hands and make up? How galling was that? Have you ever done something as an adult to someone that was so bad that apologizing to them was so embarrassing you were afraid to do it? So it goes with this praying for stuff you really don’t want to pray for. You have to – you know – but if you didn’t just get busted by God… you wouldn’t.

That’s the way this stuff goes.

When we ask for peace, there’s little use in praying for some impossibility such as asking that it will all just stop. You know better. That’s not the way humans play at war.

Instead spend time in your meditations thinking on what can be done, what parts can be prayed for. It will vary by situation but doesn’t it always revolves around some variation of one side (or all sides) getting their heads out of their butts to understand the errors that brought everybody to violence and fear. From there, work – when possible – for peace.

As you know, it won’t always be possible to find, yet we pray for it anyway.

The Book of Common Prayer gives us this as a peace prayer, comparing the kind of “Stuff” that is going on around us to what Heaven is like:

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: so mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. – Amen

It’s all about the love. No smiting or crushing necessary.

If you’d like to read more about praying for peace when we really don’t want to, you might also read my entry on Mark Twain’s The War Prayer.

Tomorrow I will post a prayer for your enemies, so we don’t mix up the two today. Meanwhile, pray for peace each day in whatever your style of thoughts and meditations. Create the change in yourself to make the peace that extends to all the worlds around you.

Do your part for creating the peace for which we so sorely pray.

Keep the faith!
– Amen

 

 

How to Pray for Peace When You Don’t Know What Peace Is

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, and when that stuff is happening far away, or in another country, it becomes very easy to follow the standard prayer for things that are bad but don’t really effect me:

I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations;
and for the well-being of all people.
Pray for justice and peace.

What if the stuff comes close to home? What if it’s violence or bad feelings or any kind of upset that is so close to your soul that you can feel it? You can smell it?

The best answer is: you can’t.

You can’t pray for peace then because the words don’t come as easy. You’re thinking that if I won’t give God a shopping list of things to fix any other time, how can I do it now.

Look inside yourself and find the peace.

Peace image

One of the prayers that even some non-praying people are familiar with is the St. Francis Prayer. Attributed to St. Francis but we don’t know for sure. The prayer gives a long list of “if this is happening then make me behave in this manner. It’s long enough that folks sort of wander off in thought about midway through. Look at the first line of the prayer:

LORD, make me an instrument of your peace.

In that single line is your answer. If you don’t know how to stop any of the stuff that’s going on outside your door, then ask that – going forward – you have the inspiration to stand above the stuff. Pray that God’s peace show through in your own life and actions.

Repeat as necessary. It’s a wonderful beginning to meditation, thinking to yourself, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

Look inside yourself and be the peace.

A fire cannot burn if there is no fuel. Stand firm and discover the ways that you will become that instrument of Peace that the world needs in just that second. It may be small and trivial at the time. It may be unnoticed by others and maybe even yourself. With practice and time, discernment and prayer, you will become that instrument.

God’s Peace be within you and around you.
May you always seek that which is good, and right.
May angels surround you, and hold you upright with
God’s Peace.

Keep the faith!

 – Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day.

One of the great testaments to anti-war thought in America was expressed in The War Prayer by Mark Twain. In the short story, Twain wrote about  how we must understand exactly what it is we pray for when we pray for war. The horrible, painful, bloody and deadly things we pray for, when we pray for war.

He felt the story so controversial that he would not consent to the publication of the story until after his death.

One of the great novels of the American Civil War is The Red Badge of Courage, and in that book, Stephen Crane speaks of the humanity of war – of how we must look down deeper than the large brigades and the flying flags and the pounding drums driving our forces forward, driving many to their inevitable doom. It’s a book that is both about waiting for death to come on  red-soaked battlefields, and about running away from that useless death, as quickly as a man’s feet can possibly carry him.

Both speak of the bloody uselessness of war, and one is considered a classic of our country’s literature. Neither story came to praise Caesar; they came to bury him.

It is to our great dismay that Caesar – these wars they write of – will never stay buried.

On Memorial Day, when we pause to remember all those who have given that greatest measure of their life in the defense of their country, we dare not say any of those lives were wasted by death. They were all honored but with an honor that is so painful for us all that to bestow it, we must each realize what we have as a country done. And we must live in prayer and meditation that no more such terrible honors must be given in our lifetime.

The Red Badge of Courage opens with one of the greatest scenes in literature, of the great army about to begin its march. Crane shows us the vastness of the horrors about to happen:

The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army awakened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the noise of rumors. It cast its eyes upon the roads, which were growing from long troughs of liquid mud to proper thoroughfares. A river, amber-tinted in the shadow of its banks, purled at the army’s feet; and at night, when the stream had become of a sorrowful blackness, one could see across it the red, eyelike gleam of hostile camp-fires set in the low brows of distant hills.

The setting is chilling in its largeness and in the anticipation of the terrible things to come, coming in the name of flag and freedom. The scene has been repeated many times and on many soils, against many different enemy camps. In snow and in sand. Mountains and islands. Bombed-out cities and incinerated lands. In New York City where thousands choke in a blinding dust. Later when they can breathe and speak they say, “Not here. This was not supposed to happen to us here.”

All scenes of our citizen soldiers. All paying that highest price for which we can only give honor with tears and with memories, with good stories and familiar songs. Warm hugs when needed, and always that vacant chair at the holiday feast.

Crane’s great winding army rose to its feet and marched onward toward the enemy camps. They will again tomorrow. They will next year. And again, we will do our best to remember and to honor their actions. We will cry our best tears and remember that no life – no matter how short – is wasted. No death – no matter what the reason – is to pass by without our remembering how it was that heroes came to be so prevalent in our lives.  You see: we are Americans. We honor our dead, and we praise all our living.

Keep the faith!

 – Amen