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Prayers for Peace

Dove and crossIn the current American Book of Common Prayer, seven optional prayers follow the Collect of the Day in the major services of the Daily Office, Morning and Evening Prayer, Rites I and II. In each case, one of these is called “A Collect for Peace.” Typical of these prayers is the following collect from Morning Prayer, Rite II:

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [page 99]

I have been reading this prayer of late and thinking of the present world situation. (Today is the day President Bush has set as the deadline for diplomatic action from the U.N. Security Council on the matter of Iraq.) Reading the prayer in this context makes it seem jingoistic, dismissing the possibility that we may not be right in our decisions about war and peace and, like the President, simplistically dividing the world into those who are with us and those who are against us. Additional reading of the Prayer Book, however, suggests that the peace referred to here is of a more personal and internal nature. This is clearer in the Evening Prayer rites. For example, in Rite I, we have the following:

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee, we, being defended from the fear of all enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. [page 69]

These prayers, then, do not quite fit the need of those not convinced that sending the army into the Middle East will necessary make the world a safer, better, and more godly place. For individuals like me and for congregations that feel a need for prayers for peace appropriate to this moment, it is not necessary to look beyond the Book of Common Prayer. Under “Prayers and Thanksgivings,” beginning on page 814, are prayers appropriate for many circumstances. The following prayer, for example, #4, is labeled “For Peace”:

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. [page 815]

In a similar vein is #5, “For Peace Among the Nations”:

Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. [page 816]

My personal favorite for these times, which I love for its symmetry, is #6, “For our Enemies” :

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [page 816]

I also recommend prayer #19, “For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority.” Words in italics indicate where substitutions can be made, for example, “your” for “thy”:

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy  merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy  peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy  will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy  fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. [page 820]

As Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold recently said:

Prayer is a dimension of peace-making in which we can all engage. Prayer unites us to God and works in us the mind of Christ. Prayer is an invitation from God to open ourselves to God’s larger desires for us and for humanity and all creation. Prayer can liberate us from our biases and fixed points of view and lead us into a new space where God’s perspective is able to transform and enlarges our own.

Pray for peace.

— LED, 3/17/2003

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