In our daily prayers we pray for peace. At home, in church, in our hearts. At evensong the second collect is for peace. Peace is at the top of our petitions to God – peace for ourselves, for the world, for one another. There is a well known collect in the Prayer Book which also prays for peace but it is in combination with a prayer for pardon. For it is when we look at ourselves first and ask for God’s forgiveness that we are better placed to pray for peace – our own or that of others.
This ancient prayer tells us two things before we ask for pardon and peace. Firstly that God is merciful – in other words that we know the character of God, revealed in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. We know that he is merciful and that he will grant us forgiveness, pardon, absolution. And then the collect reminds us of our own faithfulness as God’s people. We are not disconnected from God, but we are faithful. We trust in his mercy, we believe in his power, we stake our lives on this by being faithful – people of faith. It is knowing that God is merciful and knowing that we truly trust in this mercy that we can ask for pardon and peace.
So we pray for pardon and peace. It is tempting to skip the pardon and jump to peace, but our desire for peace is always grounded in our understanding of human frailty. Peace is so elusive at times because of our inability to truly grasp the brokenness of humanity and the sinfulness of human power, desire, and selfishness.
This realisation of our need for honesty is summed up in a prayer which hangs in St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem – a prayer which is relevant as this year we come together for Remembrance Sunday conscious of conflict in the Holy Land:
Pray not for Arab or Jew,
for Palestinian or Israeli,
but pray rather for ourselves,
that we might not
divide them in our prayers
but keep them both together
in our hearts.
The need for clarity and, dare we say, simplicity of mind, often pushes us to divide one from another. As we hold before God today the people of Gaza, the situation in Israel and Palestine, we start with ourselves and our own need for healing and peace. So we pray:
When races fight, peace be among us.
When neighbours argue, peace be among us.
When nations disagree, peace be among us.
Where people struggle for justice, let justice prevail.
Where Christ’s disciples follow, let peace be our way.
- How often do I begin my prayers from a place of presumption, assumption, or division?
- How can I bring my own frailty and brokenness into my prayers for peace and so help unite myself with the suffering throughout the world?