Monday, February 02, 2009

Peace Through Prayer

Peace through Prayer 

The arrogance of power and the impulse to violence have very little to do with prayer. When ones’ teeth are set on edge and seethe with a cry for vengeance, it is not possible to see God other than as a vengeful agent of partisan bloodlust. Thus it was for so long in Ireland. So it is now in Palestine and Israel. In recent months the people of Gaza have suffered untold catastrophic loss of life and destruction. In the meantime, rockets continue to scream their way into Israeli settlements and an unending cycle of reprisal feeds upon itself. 

The Obama Administration is making new initiatives in the area that bring some hope for a break in this violent spiral. George Mitchell, who made such an impact with the Good Friday Accords in Ireland, has been dispatched to the area, and the new President has spoken directly to the Arab world via Middle Eastern News Services. 

Yet we must keep a steady eye and a sober mind on the subject of peace and justice in an area that has suffered atrocities of all sorts for so long from all quarters. The longer the violence continues the more complex its resolution becomes. 

It was into such a world that Jesus was born. A hated occupation force held the land during the times of our Lord’s earthly days. And at the outset of his ministry he proclaimed a message of repentance as the core of his Gospel. It would take nothing less than a complete change in our hearts and souls to effect the kind of change that God envisioned for the world. And Jesus brought that message to us. 

Thus as he made his way around Capernaum and the other cities and towns he traveled to, they brought him all who were sick and beset with unclean spirits. Tirelessly, he healed them whether it was a weekday or even on the Sabbath. Eventually that generosity of spirit would cost Jesus dearly. 

But then after a long day of healing and teaching in their synagogues, Jesus would go to a deserted place by himself to pray. Then Simon and his companions “hunted” him down. They were drawn to him even when he needed to be alone. Naturally they wanted him to know that he was in demand in all the neighboring towns and villages. And so they pressed on. 

As we read on through the Gospels, we realize that Jesus would “steal away” whenever it was possible to be in a deserted place where he could pray. This is so often the missing ingredient. The crowds are often pressing in. The demands of life press upon us like the crowds did for Jesus. There is always a list of things to do as long as our arms…but we need time to catch our wind and remember who it is that sends us into our very busy worlds and why we are sent. 

If we cannot pray we cannot have peace. If don’t pray, we won’t notice injustice and oppression. If we won’t stop and take time for ourselves in a deserted place, we may miss our own need for healing and the wounds of others around us. 

The prophet Isaiah took time to pray as we read in today’s first lesson, and when he did he remembered that the God of history was active even as Cyrus held the nation in captivity. His time alone in a deserted place was the only pathway he knew that could remind him of God’s ultimate judgment in history. 

So then we live in a time of violence and economic crisis. Will we take the time for prayer as Jesus and Isaiah and the ancients did? After all it was in that time of prayer that they all discovered the pathway to peace. They noticed the realities of injustice and oppression. They saw the gaping wounds of a world in desperate need of the healing balm of a Godly touch. 

The Middle East needs a prayerful people. America needs the same. The sacred words of the scripture are so clear. He went to that deserted place to pray. There is perhaps a directive from God in those words in a world that hungers and thirsts for peace.


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