Prayer and Fasting for Peace

james

Today, as I sat contemplating the possibility of (more) war in the Middle East, I realized something: I don’t pray nearly enough for peace.  Sure the deacon recites this prayer every Sunday:

Guide the people of this land, and of all nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good…Lord, in your mercy”

To which I heartily reply: “Hear our prayer.”  But that is by and large the extent of my prayer life concerning peace.  What’s more, I’ve never fasted for peace. 

It occurred to me that there are thousands–maybe tens of thousands–of Christians out there who don’t believe that peace is possible or even beneficial, who believe that America’s wars are blessed by God, who believe that violence toward Muslims, gays and other perceived enemies is just fine, and who pray and fast on a regular basis.    There are National Days of Prayer when God has to listen to (among better things) idolatrous, nationalistic prayers about how He needs to bless America and Israel and destroy China, Iran, and North Korea, and how the Holy Spirit needs to touch Obama’s heart and make him repeal the healthcare bill, and resign, and get “born again.” 

But, when do I (we) pray that God fulfills the prophesy given in Isaiah 2:1-5?  When do I (we) pray that God changes the hearts of human-beings–myself included–who harbor violence and hatred in their hearts toward fellow human-beings? 

I may be an E-whisk-i-palian, and I even voted for George W. Obama (in answer to the billboard: “How can I miss George W. Bush, when we have one of his clones running the country right now!”) but, I still believe that God intervenes in human history.  Don’t get me wrong, I also believe that we are God’s hands and feet, living Icons of Christ and representatives of His coming Kingdom.  Right action must accompany prayer, but it is all too often the prayer part that gets left out in my life.

So, I propose that those of us in our little blog community who a) believe in peace and non-violence, and b) believe that God answers prayer start to assign some action to our beliefs.  Maybe I’m the only one of you guys who isn’t, in which case, I need your guidance.

Shall we set aside one day a week to fast and pray for peace?

Shall we plan a week of fasting and prayer this summer? 

How do you guys pray and fast for peace?  I hope some of my peacenik friends will chime in here…

*PICTURE NOTE: I was looking for a cheesy prayer picture.  I think I did pretty well.  Gotta love lightning emanating from folded hands, accompanied by a dove and and open Bible.  All that’s missing is an American flag and a M-16.

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14 Comments

  1. (Who needs an M-16 when you can shoot Force lightning from your hands?)

    I admit I don’t really pray for peace, but then I don’t really pray much at all, now that I think of it. I suppose I’m due for something like this.

    Forgive me if this sounds too confrontational, but July 4th is coming up, followed in September by Labor Day and Patriot Day. What about planning fasting and prayer around significant national holidays like these. It could be a fun challenge, trying to avoid all those July 4th barbecues.

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  2. James, start a facebook group, then invite us. Whenever we fast, I know that I will forget unless I get an email a day or two before.

    I like Jordan’s idea. I also think we could do something like the Ekklesia Project does, fasting on Friday until supper. So Friday fasts with all-days on Holy Mother State’s holy days?

    At any rate, I’m right there with you. Prayers for peace.

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  3. Fridays and Holy Days of the Empire feels right to me. People could commit to fasting as much or as little as their comfortable with, however. I will start a facebook group, Jordan I looked for you on facebook but there were too many Jordan Acostas. Are you friends with Joey or Reed or Tony?

    Anyway, maybe we also need to compile a prayer list of armed conflicts to pray for?

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  4. I’m actually not on Facebook; I’m not a fan of social networking sites. I’ll look into it though.

    I was half-joking about fasting on “Holy Days of the Empire.” But if you guys are serious, I’m game. As for letting people get as involved as they feel comfortable with, that’s good. I know plenty of people who might be favorable to something like this, but unwilling (or unable) to actually fast on any regular basis.

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  5. Ok,

    I created a facebook group: Prayer and Fasting for Peace

    I also created a little blogsite: prayerforpeace.wordpress.com

    I want to put together a little litany mentioning the various wars, conflicts, and outbreaks of violence across the world. Anyone want to help?

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  6. James,

    I realize the overall gist of Christ’s message was the antithesis of the typical revolutionary during 1st century messianic movements. The people of God were looking for a quick fix over/against the empire, and political revolution was on their minds. The much anticipated once-and-for-all overthrow of Roman rule initiating the kingdom of heaven was, however, unexpectedly replaced or re-routed by a subtle servitude and death at the outergrounds of Golgotha. That same message must ring true in the ears of contemporary global politics, only they have plugged them shut with enriched uranium, walking through the halls of “justice” donning missile proof three piece suits.

    But does this mean non-violence or pacifism at every turn? Even if we grant this, does not our tongues have the ability to do much more evil than a sword or gun or missile? I think it may be a false premise to even say/claim that peace and non-violence is attainable; and it is certainly a rhetorical misstep, I think (the peacenik moniker is usually disregarded pretty quickly). And the latter point is understandable, for no human being can honestly portend peace forevermore..

    -consider Luke 22:36-38? (possible parallel of near Isaac sacrifice?)
    -consider Christ’s handling a bull-whip and overturning tables in the temple?
    -consider the closeness or integral relationship of wrath/love depicted again and again in the sweep of the biblical canon? (i.e. Ex. 32: 7-14)

    In other words, yes compassion and patience against our aggressors; even unto death. This truth undergirds the biblical account and culminates in the person and symbol of Christ. But we must be forever aware or vigil of our ability to gossip or slander or curse at the drop of a hat. Even more, we must be aware that good can, and has (biblically speaking) come from the play of evil; whether that be an evil that is only suggested by the forces of good, or an evil that is done by the forces of good.

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  7. I think you ought to try fasting and praying I did for the first 20yrs of my Christianity and I noticed it gave me a great sensitivity to people that I couldn’t imagine.

    Now that I am a housewife, homemaker, and scientist I don’t have time for fasting and praying.

    My girls need the practical things in life and so do I.

    BTY: My husband and I are doing much better thanks for your prayers they really do work!

    I remember one time I posted here last summer and the following Sunday it felt as if people were trying to do prayer demonic exorcercism style. I laughed because I had enough of that in my evangelical days, I now work with meds. and sleep. Cheers.

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  8. Mike,

    Your point that our words can be a form of violence is very true. I will say that there are some physical weapons more harmful then even the most harmful words, but that should not detract from the violence of our tongues, so I agree that it is absolutely vital to keep our tongues “bridled.”

    I do not believe that peace comes through human action alone. I do believe that Isaiah 2:1-5 will happen, and do believe that it will happen through God’s intervention, that’s why I am advocating prayer and fasting for peace.

    I will agree that God can take evil circumstances and actions (though not his own) and bring good out of them. I disagree that the “forces of good” can do evil (unrepentantly) and still be truthfully called “good.” This sounds very much like the old “ends justify the means” argument, which I do not accept as a viable option for us as Christians. I assert with St. Paul that we are either overcome by evil, or we overcome evil with good. Those are the options before us.

    As to your reference of Luke 22:36-38 and the parallel to Abraham sacrificing Isaac, you’ll have to help me, I’m not understanding what you’re talking about.

    As to Jesus’ scourge in the temple, I believe it to be an act of prophetic non-violence; violence being defined as harm (some non-violence scholars define violence as intentional harm, but, I digress).

    As to wrath/love in the OT (and OT genocide, while we’re at it), I don’t have all the answers there…I have some theories, but no answers. Suffice it to say that I believe Jesus taught us a different way of interacting with God and each other.

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  9. James,

    I guess I am trying to utilize biblical reconciliation as an umbrella term which must involve the good, the bad and the ugly (on toward eschaton). It is I think quite clear the forces of good, as depicted in Scripture, have in fact done evil — but never un-repentantly so, James. I am not sure if that premise is even possible; if such cold evil is even “in us” to begin with.. Is not the action of repentance a natural overflow after the action of sin or evil?

    God himself grieved and repented his action of sending the flood, fastening a rainbow so as to rejoin the heavens and earth once again. But notice that through this tribulation/evil creation forges an even stronger, stalwart covenant therein. God, in another example, also hardeneds the heart, or sped up the process of the already hardening heart, of Pharoah. God gave his son the grave mission of messiahship..

    God loves his creation so much that he is willing to put his own reputation on the line in order to retract humankind’s sin; that sin being the misuse of human power. But this is not an end meant to justify the means, but rather God taking very seriously the mutual interdependency that he wrought in creation with humankind and cosmos. As he goes, we go; his actions determine our actions, that said, the opposite must be true as well.

    The rough-and-ready paralell I drew with Isaac’s near sacrifice and Jesus’ suggesting the disciples trade in their clothes for a sword is based on this above working thesis of mine, that “evil is always at the elbow of good, as this world is pending toward reconciliation.” Christ, like Yahweh, is trying to have his disciples walk in his sandles, so to speak; said differently, he is trying to instill the complex, paradoxical relationship of violence/peace, good/evil, life/death.

    There is a church now in Burundi, just east of Rwanda, which has integrated in their mission statement a relationship between the Hutus and Tutsi’s. Such a mission is wonderfully peaceful and redemptive, yet one can imagine the looming threat of violence and evil in this bid for peace, as history tells us these two peoples do not mix! Do not the church leaders question their decision to make such a bold statement, as many lives in the church may be in danger because of their mission or vision? Yes I think they perhaps do, and prayer is probably quite often on their lips.

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  10. Quickbeam,

    I have toyed with the idea of being a chaplain. However, in my heart of hearts I know it is not something the Holy Spirit would sanction for a couple of reasons. First, whenever I “consider” it, it is always when I am experiencing financial hardship. If I am not mistaken, Air Force chaplains come out of basic as 0-5. It is also not unheard of for them to retire as a two star general. So, that is a whole lot of career stability and a great pension(though perhaps not so much upward mobility – waiting around for your superiors to retire or die so you can move up the food chain takes a while). However, as if my motives being suspect were not enough, the Spirit always puts me in check. I have an uneasy feeling about pledging fealty to an entity whose entire purpose is to wage war. If I could serve in the chaplaincy as a kind of “missionary” from the church to the soldiers, it would probably open it up for discussion more. Nonetheless, I know that God has put some restrictions on me personally, so I would not be able to serve in that capacity as it is currently a military office.

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  11. Mike,

    I still don’t see Jesus or NT authors exhorting Christians to bring about the kingdom of God through use of evil, only good. Now, doing good may well bring violence and oppression down on the heard of the person doing good (i.e. Jesus), but that is not the same thing as doing evil in the hopes of something good to come of it.

    Likewise, living with evil, with the aftermath of war and violence and racism is not the same thing. Healing only happens through love, and self-sacrifice.

    I feel like we’re both talking AT each other, and that’s probably not constructive. So maybe we should take a step back:

    Are my arguments cohesive to you? Do they make sense, or have I not articulated myself well?

    Do you feel like I have understood your arguments?

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  12. Shawn,

    I understand not committing if its just for the money. I don’t understand the description of the military as “entire purpose is to wage war”. Let me just say that the military is in Haiti, it was in Indonesia for relief after the tsunami without which 100,000’s of thousands of people would have died. The only reason we don’t have war in Korea is because we maintain troops there. Same with Taiwan and Japan. Same now with Ukraine and Poland. Obviously we are at the stretching point because the US protects all the shipping lanes as well and we are having pirates develop at the horn of Africa and the South China seas.

    “If I could serve in the chaplaincy as a kind of “missionary” from the church to the soldiers, it would probably open it up for discussion more.”

    Exactly – I wish that pastors could serve as civilians, but I understand that is not a current option. On the other hand untrained pastors can’t go into combat zones and those are the ones who most need ministering too. Like everything else I think one has to be called to it.

    I found out that Father Vakoc was wounded and later died. There is a memorial service in his honor on the first anniversary of his death in St. Paul if your interested.

    http://www.caringbridge.org/mn/timvakoc/index.htm

    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/catholic_stories/cs0077.html

    Reply

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