I have been on the receiving end of a number of negative comments about the sign which encourages people to pray for peace, all of which decry it is a simplistic and inadequate response to the challenges of our world. In one sense, I would agree with them. To simply pray for peace, indeed to simply pray for anything, and then simply do nothing else can, for many of us, be a cop out, in which we simply avoid responsibility for our own actions in contributing to the problem, or lack of them towards creating a solution.
But prayer remains one of the most radical acts that we can undertake. To truly pray is to open ourselves up to the heart of God, not merely to express our own desires, but to engage with God in relation to our own humanity and the challenges which flow from it. To pray is to change. To see things differently. To dare to believe that Godís plan might be unfolded through our own actions.
But how often have we reduced prayer to a mere ritual, or a magical act? We either go through the motions without searching our heart, or Godís, and come away feeling as though we have simply pushed the responsibility into Godís lapÖ job done. Or we search for the right set of words in the hope of manipulating God into an outcome of our choosing. Neither is prayer in its truest sense. We cannot truly pray unless we enter into the problem, and see ourselves as part of both its cause and its resolution. Prayer is more than a mere intellectual exchange of ideas, it is born of a relationship.
In many ways, prayer is not unlike an interaction with a spouseÖ In the context of a loving relationship, we seek together to build a world, a family, a network of relationships which gives affirmation and expression to a set of values and ideals. Dialogue together is a bridge to understanding, but needs to be accompanied by a commitment to action if it is to be of any merit. So as we enter into prayer, there is the process of expression and understanding, both of the commitment we make, and the action required to take it.
We remain committed to the cause of peace. By prayer and in action, we are called to be people whose lives contribute to the cause of peace. Both are necessary for this world to experience the peace which God desires for His creation.
So let us continue to pray for peace.
May 2, 2004