August Prayer Prompt
Pursuing peace...

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Published August 2022

Provided by: CCNL (Christian Churches Network of London)
Photo by Tom Shakir on Unsplash

We, as Canadians living in Ontario, may have many iconic “peaceful” summer images in our heads – paddling down a river in early morning mist, hearing the call of a loon… or walking in the woods after a gentle rain hearing only the rustle of the leaves. Maybe peace is sitting on a deck or balcony watching a sunset…or that glorious stillness that happens when the last child has finally gone to bed if you are a parent. If you are a shift worker, it may be an early morning walk around sunrise before the world seems to have awakened…or for many, simply a quiet moment with a cup of tea and a good book uninterrupted in an otherwise busy hectic life.

Peace is at times defined in negative terms – an absence from noise, disturbance, or conflict. It is also described in positive terms by words like serenity, tranquility, an inner calmness, or ability to set aside differences between one another. On a much larger scale, peace means hard work coming to mutual agreement between nations seeking to dwell in degrees of harmony over an extended period time.

In scripture, the word translated as peace is often the Hebrew word “shalom” which carries much deeper, richer meaning: wholeness, a harmony and peace with each other, with oneself and with God. Cornelius Plantiga, an American theologian and author describes it lavishly like this: “Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight – a rich fullness in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” If you want to learn more about shalom and/or peace watch the delightful video by the creative people at The Bible Project (Click HERE)

Shalom is a very beautiful word representing something we should want to yearn to create and share. Throughout the Bible, the people of God - Kingdom people like us - are called upon to pursue peace actively. Is that even possible in our chaotic world? A very radical thought. At times, we seem much more proficient at dividing people. There seems to be conflict everywhere - globally, locally, personally.

Let’s pray together about being peace seekers and peace makers together this summer to honor the Prince of Peace – Jesus.

Father God, Brother Jesus, Holy Spirit, hear our prayers... speak to us as we pray: Calm our spirits and minds Lord. May we find quiet moments to be attentive to your voice. As we talk with you, open us up to all the spaces in our lives where peace is lacking.

1. May we start with our souls. God, we confess that at times we may be unsettled or discouraged, frustrated or distracted, angry or numb, anxious or afraid – definitely not at peace! We bring all that to you. It seems that in those times, we forget and turn away from you, not wanting to talk about whatever it is, large or small. Maybe because we think that either you may not like what we are thinking or that we will not like whatever you have to say to us, somewhat like a reluctant child or stubborn adolescent. Adam McHugh author describes it like this “We must put away convenient notions of God – the one who always agrees with us, the one who always favors our nation or political agenda, the one who feeds us candy and never vegetables.” So we humbly bring any inner turmoil to you and ask you to help us find peace within ourselves, and restore our peace with you. The very old hymn by Horatio Stafford -1873! - comes to mind: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul”. May we turn our faces and hearts towards you in calm times, in joyful times, in difficult times and in confusing times to find our peace in you.

2. Let peace/shalom permeate the words that come out of our mouths Lord. 1 Peter 3:8-12 says it this way in the NLT. “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” The Message translation says to “run after peace”. Imagine what a difference it would make in our families, in our marriages, in our friendships if we ran after peace and worked hard daily to maintain it. Help us to stop and think before we speak and ask ourselves if these are peacemaking, life-giving, affirming, encouraging or instructive words. Are they true words? Truth is such a misused word these days that we easily fall into a hole with what we fondly call “little white lies”, or “mere exaggerations”. May our “yes” be yes and our “no” mean no - and may we keep our promises as much as we are able. Soften our tone of voice and facial expressions too Lord to match the ‘shalom’ we want our words to mean!

3. We ask for peace/shalom within our church communities. Ideally, we would think that churches should be the most peaceful agreeable places on earth. We have common purposes and hope. But churches are made up of imperfect people like us – sinners saved by grace. Paul reminded the early churches and God still reminds us today in Romans 12 (all of Romans 12 is pretty powerful but vs, 16 in particular) : “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” Forgive us when end up arguing over petty things God. In Paul’s case, it was over food. These days, it could be over music or staff changes or vaccines or freedoms or even colour of paint. As we read the bible, please let us hear deeply and personally the frequent salutations for “grace and peace to you” “peace and mercy to you” as reminders of how we should interact with one another. In some churches, there is a beautiful liturgical tradition of passing the peace with each other weekly when gathered together...a simple handshake (or in the last two years maybe a more distant nod!), but always with the spoken expression “Peace be with you...” followed by the response “and with you.” A good habit in our lives together as Christian to earnestly, meaningfully desire peace with each other and speak peace into each other’s lives. Sometimes, we are tempted to “stir up the pot” and cause dissension or foster unfair criticisms. Rebuke us at those times God. And when that bond of peace is broken, we need to seek to restore it in love with much grace. God help us to live out Romans 14:19: “ Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” That indeed means every effort – all the time, each time, good days and bad days!

4. Father God, we pray for peace in our city of London as David prayed for Jerusalem. Just as David prayed for the peace of his city in Psalms 122:6-7 “pray for the for the peace of Jerusalem, may all who love this city prosper. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels”, we too also pray for the peace - the shalom - of London Ontario. We ask God that all may find a welcoming home here, safe community and spaces physically and emotionally to help them thrive. We need more supported housing, we need good governance, we need people who are truly peacemakers and peacekeepers at all levels to help resolve conflicts, not to create controversy for controversy’s sake. We pray for those considering running for public office to seek good for the welfare of our city this fall. We pray especially for our law enforcement officers and leaders – protect them in dangerous places, give them discernment and wisdom to uncover evil. Equip them God to resolve conflicts and reduce harm to our citizens. May we pray for the and encourage them, demonstrating much respect and support. Increased drug usage, deeper addictions and mental health challenges bring greater challenging risks. May we all seek the peace, well-being of London.

5. And we pray for peace/shalom in our world. We pray for those people who seek to be peace makers in many difficult, seemingly impossible situations globally. The age-old symbols of offering an olive branch as a sign of hope after conflict, the chance to grow peace of some kind between warring people is not an easy or simple task. Right now, it appears hopeless in Ukraine for a peaceful resolution to happen after so much destruction and loss has taken place …but we believe in you, a God of hope. Please intervene in ways that we cannot yet imagine or understand. We pray especially God for the negotiators at so many levels…for continued aid, for safety and protection for those who have been forced out of home and country, for renewed courage, strength, and hope for those who have remained. May we learn from their resiliency in such painful times and not give up praying or turn away from them because it makes us sad or distressed. We also pray for Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iran and Yemen, Myanmar and Haiti…the list of current bitter conflicts and wars is always much too long and so much suffering is happening. We ask that you disturb our peace God about their lack of peace when we grow too complacent … we live in a fallen world. Help us not forget our fellow human beings and hide in our own comfort. It is too easy in summertime to block out the injustices in our world – give us sensitive hearts Lord to find this balance.

6. May we literally “rest in peace” as we pray in coming days and months. So many of us lose sleep over fretting and worrying about small things and big things. In one of Jan Karon’s charming Mitford series books, there is a quote about the main character, Father Tim, that may reflect many of our lives. ”He despised losing sleep. Broad daylight was the time for fretting and worrying – if it had to be done. “Don’t worry about anything,” Paul had written to the church at Philippi “but in everything by prayer and supplication, make you requests known to God. And the peace that passes all understanding will fill your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” Yet in the last hour, he had twice given his worries to God... then snatched them right back, only to lie wide awake, still anxious, staring at the ceiling.” Seems an honest reflection of at least some of our sleepless nights as we all have deep cares and concerns. Teach O Sovereign God, as we bring all of these to you, to trust you more and leave them safely, confidently at your feet so indeed we can rest in peace when we ask that Your will be done, even if we do not know how, or when, or who, or what you will do. The habit of a nightly compline, an evening prayer, may be good to consider as you finish each day: “Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”

Our prayer, our benediction for each of you this summer: 2 Thess. 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.” AMEN

May olive branches of peace grow and flourish in our lives abundantly.