I’m sure you like me have been watching in disbelief as people around the world are killed because of their religion or because of where they live or because they are in the way of someone else’s dreams. And I find myself asking what is the use of praying for peace. I suppose then it is time to debunk another myth if our prayers for the weather don’t seem to have much of an effect, what is the use of praying for peace? Well here I think we might be able to do something worthwhile. It is all too easy, and there is an example of this in the reading from Kings today, to pick on verses from the bible and translate the situations directly to today, than reading them rather more carefully. Israel have rejected the covenant of God are going around killing people and are worshipping other gods. The Prophet Elijah hides away at the top of a mountain and finds the Lord in a quiet voice asking him what does he think he is doing there. There is a job to do, now go and get on with it. And so as we read, the killing continues. What good does it do us to pray for peace or stand on top of a mountain and hide when we see a God of Israel bent on the destruction of those who are unfaithful to the covenant. It seems a hopeless case. Almost as hopeless as the situation in Israel today. Neither Hamas nor the Israeli authority will give way and caught in between are innocent folk who are not only having their lives and destroyed, but are having their future mapped out for them by others. It is a situation based upon fear. And the fear breeds the hatred and then no-one wins. To let go of that fear is a very courageous thing, like stepping out of a boat onto stormy seas, looking down and realising you are sinking, calling out God save me…
A drowning man once cried out in prayer to God, ‘Save me Lord’. Fortunately for him a fishing boat came by and saw the man, but just as they were about to haul him on board the man said, no leave me, God will save me. The man continued his prayer, save me Lord. A lifeguard patrol boat soon found the man in the water, but he sent them away saying, God will save me. He continued his earnest prayer to God when finally a helicopter flew over head. He refused to be winched aboard, saying – God will save me. And so he continued with his prayer. The man drowned. In heaven, the man stood before God and asked, why did you not save me? God looking bemused , as I’m sure God would in such situations, answered, I sent you a fishing boat, a life-boat and then a helicopter. What more did you want?
When we pray, and expect the miraculous, don’t be surprised when the answers may well appear mundane. If we want to see an end to violence and lasting peace around the world, then perhaps that should begin close to home. If we pray for peace, then it might actually mean that we have to do something, rather than watching it all be fixed at a distance. If we want to see peace and reconciliation, we need to speak peace and to be reconciled to those around us. If we pray for harmony between neighbours, we must begin to live in harmony with our neighbours. If our prayer is for an end to violence, then we must condemn all violence, even that in our own lives and the lives of those we are close to. If we pray for the peoples of this world treat each other with compassion, then first we must suffer alongside those who are hurting. Don’t be surprised when we pray for peace that it is us who are called to action, to denounce the violence, to speak truth in the face of lies and to be prepared to challenge those who would prefer the simplicity that a world of violence and retribution brings. For peace is not easy, it requires sacrifice, compromise but above all, it requires us not to be afraid in the face of the coming storm.
If you are interested in taking your prayer into action, follow some of these links:
There are many many more organisations working and striving for peace in the middle east – we are not alone, make the voice of peace count.