I heard on Tuesday that buildings in many cities were boarded up and a fence was erected to surround the block in which our White House sits. All of this was done in anticipation of post-election violence. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be peacemakers. That is never an easy call to fulfill. I was asked to share a prayer for peace as a part of the prayer vigil that our Central Atlantic Conference UCC hosted on Monday evening. After much soul-searching, what is written below is the prayer I wrote. At the bottom of this meditation is a link to A Voice of Peace, performed by a choral group at Clemson University. It is dedicated to the mother of one of my friends from the Charlotte Spirituality Center, and arrived in my inbox as I was writing the prayer. It was a timely gift from our “It Just So Happens” God.
In the name of the Holy One, God of Love and Justice Who is Beyond All Understanding, Light of the World which came into a darkness that cannot put it out, Spirit who sustains all and is the spark of life itself in the sanctuary of our souls, we pray for peace. We confess that there is little peace within us. It is hard to be at peace when we are anxious and afraid. Settle us, wrap us in your presence as a parent bundles an infant, holds that child and shushes them with their breath. We ask that we be aware of the ways that you hold and safely contain all that overwhelms us.
We remember Michelle Obama’s words, “When they go low, we go high.” As much as we thrilled to that advice, we must confess that sometimes – we are they – perhaps not in our outward actions, but in our hearts. It is fear of the “theyness” within own hearts that keeps us from grasping the universal impact of what it is we pray for when we pray for peace.
On the evening of the day of Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples who were hiding in fear, and said the words we desperately need in these times, “Peace be with you. As God has sent me, so I send you.” Then Jesus breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Breathe on us.
We have seen what happens when someone’s breath is taken away, from the pavement of street in Minneapolis, to the tinder-dry lands of the west, to lungs destroyed by the Coronavirus. As we inhale and exhale, we ask that your spirit of forgiveness would fill not only our lungs, but our very souls.
But let us not stop there. Help us to understand the purpose and the power and the privilege of what you said next: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” By your grace help us to begin to unravel the knotted strands of unforgiveness that keep us from forgiving others – as well as ourselves.
Remind us, God, that peace isn’t simply a state of mind and being, but that it must be lived into reality with our words, our actions, our very selves. Give us the radical, passionate, courageous peace incarnate in Jesus, and lived by Francis of Assisi, Detrick Bonhoeffer, Rosa Parks, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and so many others who are a part of the great cloud of witnesses from all time who are praying us along this path until that day when all people dwell in justice and love.
We pray that you, the One who is Peace, would reign in our hearts and fuel our actions so that this beloved nation might become a beloved community in which steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
As we face the days and weeks ahead, may we lie down and sleep in peace each night; for you alone, O Lord, make us lie down in safety. Amen.
As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:15 ~ Anne