In divine service we regularly speak the words, ‘The peace of the Lord be with you’, responding, ‘And also with you.’ Peace is both a comfort and a constant challenge to the people of the world in their spiritual lives, and in their daily lives. It breaks down all too readily. True peace, we know, comes from God, but it’s not enough just to speak of it. We need constantly to pray for peace, and live in ways that actively promote it.
Around the world this Friday, 21 September, people of faith will focus their prayers on peace. Many Australian and New Zealand Lutherans will be among them, believers who left their homes in other countries because of war, criminal violence and ethnic or religious persecution. Many of these faithful – and many other recent migrants like them – have family, friends and neighbours whom they care for deeply, who continue to live in threatening circumstances at home or as internally displaced peoples or refugees.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, Lutherans understand that the 4th petition, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, is a prayer for peace.’ When asked ‘What does this mean?” the Small Catechism responds, ‘Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs…’ It then provides a list of bodily needs which includes ‘peace and health’. The Large Catechism unpacks that some more, adding that we pray for ‘peace and concord in our daily business’, ‘peaceful government’, ‘protection and peace’, and the thought of ‘enjoying our possessions in peace and quietness.’ This kind of peace, which we enjoy here in Australia and New Zealand, is denied to so many in the world.
Peace is precious because it is so often fragile and temporary. Preserving the peace requires constant vigilance and effort, especially when human beings compete for power, influence and resources. We aren’t exempt from this natural human tendency in Australia and New Zealand, and also even in the church! We must always be vigilant.
This week let’s thank God that as citizens of Australia and New Zealand we enjoy long periods of relative peace, when we can live our lives and organise our affairs without fear. Such long periods of peace have also allowed the church to worship and conduct its mission without interference.
Lord, please bless and guide our leaders that they may act in ways that preserve this peace through the inevitable trials our nations will face from within and without. Help our societies to broaden and deepen the basis of our peace so it is less reliant on complacency borne out of prosperity.
Let us also join our brothers and sisters who came here as refugees in praying for peace in their home countries, as well as in the many other conflict zones around the world.
Jesus, Prince of Peace, we pray
- for ways to effectively address the issues that underlie national and regional conflicts, such as access to power and privilege, land, water and valuable natural resources;
- that people will not give in to those who would turn them against each other;
- for commitment to peace-building and for the success of peace-building efforts;
- for ways to resolve conflict that don’t force people from their homes and communities;
- for the success of efforts to reconcile people who have been in conflict;
- that people who have left their homes but wish to return will be able to do so;
- for just outcomes for people in all conflict resolution processes;
- for peace in the countries of origin of Lutherans who have come to Australia and New Zealand as refugees, such as South Sudan, Congo, Burundi and Myanmar;
- for an end to war, criminal violence and religious intolerance and persecution in other countries, such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, China, North Korea and Mexico;
- for peace between great powers, particularly those that have nuclear weapons and for leaders committed to sorting out disagreements through diplomacy;
- for religions and humanitarian organisations which actively promote peace;
- and for the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Pastor John Henderson,
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia.
18th September 2018