Prayer for the Peace of the Whole World

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Almighty God and Creator, You are the Father of all people on the earth. Guide, I pray, all the nations and their leaders in the ways of justice and peace. Protect us from the evils of injustice, prejudice, exploitation, conflict and war.

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Help us to put away mistrust, bitterness and hatred. Teach us to cease the storing and using of implements of war. Lead us to find justice, peace and freedom.  Unite us in the making and sharing of tools of peace against ignorance, poverty, disease and oppression.

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Grant that we may grow in harmony and friendship as brothers and sisters created in Your image, to Your honor and praise. Amen.

(My Orthodox Prayer Book, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Kindle Location 824-834)

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For the Peace from Above

For the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls . . . . For the peace of the whole world, for the welfare of the holy churches of God, and for the union of all, let us pray to the Lord. (Petitions from the Divine Liturgy)

St. Tikhon, the Enlightener of North America comments:

Therefore the angels at His very birth already sing “on earth peace, good will toward men.” But perhaps you might ask — where is peace on earth, since from the coming of Christ until this day we see conflicts and wars; when at the present time one nation rises against another and one kingdom against another; when even now discord, hostility, and animosity are seen so often among people?

Where are we to look for peace, which was brought and left by Christ (cf. John 14:27)? “It shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains”; “all nations will stream toward it” “and beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks,” “and they will not train for war again” (Is. 2:2, 4); “every man shall sit under his own vine undisturbed” (Mic. 4:4). This kingdom of peace on earth, which was foretold by the Prophets of the Old Testament, is indeed the Church of Christ; and it is in it [the Church] that peace should be sought. Here man is given peace with God, since in the mysteries he is purified from sin and becomes a child of the Lord, pleasant to Him. Here also in the services offered to God, in the mysteries, in the order and life of the Church, a Christian draws peace and delight and calmness for his heart.

The nature of man is transformed and renewed, and into his meek, gentle, truly humble, merciful, and loving soul comes the God of peace and love. And a Christian then experiences the heavenly bliss of which there is nothing higher on earth. No troubles or sufferings of any kind can overshadow this blissful peace in a Christian. On the contrary, we know from the history of the Church of Christ that holy men even rejoiced in suffering and boasted in sorrows, captivity and prisons, deserts and dens of the wicked. Amidst all deprivations they were placid and calm, perhaps more so than people who live with all the comforts and prosperity ever feel. They are not afraid of death itself; they calmly expect its approach and depart to the Lord in peace. Peace is dispersed everywhere in the Church of Christ.

Here people pray for peace in the whole world, for the unity of all; here all call one another brethren, and help one another; here everybody is loved, and even enemies are forgiven and cared for. And when Christians listen to the voice of the Church and live according to its commands, then they truly have peace and love.  (St. Tikhon of Moscow: Instructions and Teachings for the American Orthodox Faithful (1898-1907), Kindle Loc 453-471)

Carrying the Peace of the Holy Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is …. peace…” (Galatians 5:22)

St. Silouan the Athonite teaches us:

“But if we accustom ourselves to praying eagerly for our enemies, and loving them, peace will always dwell in our souls; whereas if we feel hatred toward our brethren, or find fault with them, our minds will be clouded and we shall lose our peace and the confidence to pray to God.  […]  The man who carries the peace of the Holy Spirit in his heart spreads peace around him, too; but he who has a malevolent spirit in him spreads evil.  […]

It is a great thing in the sight of God to pray for those who hurt our feelings and injure us; and for this the Lord will accord us grace, and by the Holy Spirit we shall come to know the Lord, and bear every affliction with joy for His sake, and the Lord will give us love for all the world, and we shall ardently desire the good of all men, and pray for all as for our own soul. The Lord bade us love our enemies, and the man who loves his enemies is like to the Lord.” (St. Silouan the Athonite, pp 316-317)

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  (Mark 11:25)

Passions, Peace and Anger

“If therefore we are to follow the divine laws, we must struggle with all our strength against the demon of anger and against the sickness which lies hidden within us. When we are angry with others we should not seek solitude on the grounds that there, at least, no one will provoke us to anger, and that in the solitude the virtue of long-suffering can easily be acquired.

Our desire to leave our brethren is because of our pride, and because we do not wish to blame ourselves and ascribe to our own laxity the cause of our unruliness. So long as we assign the causes for our weaknesses to others, we cannot attain perfection in long-suffering. Self-reform and peace are not achieved through the patience which others show us, but through our own long-suffering towards our neighbor.

When we try to escape the struggle for long-suffering by retreating into solitude, those unhealed passions we take there with us are merely hidden, not erased; for unless our passions are first purged, solitude and withdrawal from the world not only foster them but also keep them concealed, no longer allowing us to perceive what passion it is that enslaves us. On the contrary, they impose on us an illusion of virtue and persuade us to believe that we have achieved long-suffering and humility, because there is no one present to provoke and test us.

But as soon as something happens which does arouse and challenge us, our hidden and previously unnoticed passions immediately break out like uncontrolled horses that have long been kept and idle, dragging their driver all the more violently and wildly to destruction. Our passions grow fiercer when left idle through lack of contact with other people. Even that shadow of patience and long-suffering which we thought we possessed while we mixed with our brethren is lost in our isolation through not being exercised.

Poisonous creatures that live quietly in their lairs in the desert display their fury only when they detect someone approaching; and likewise passion-filled men, who live quietly not because of their virtuous disposition but because of their solitude, spit forth their venom whenever someone approaches and provokes them. This is why those seeking perfect gentleness must make every effort to avoid not only anger towards men, but also towards animals and even inanimate objects.” (St. John Cassian in The Philokalia: Vol 1, p 85)

Peacemaking In a Troubled World

The Lord Jesus said: “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

In the Orthodox Church liturgies, prayers for peace abound in the litanies.  Additional the celebrant and congregants wish each other peace throughout the services.  When the Gospel is proclaimed, peace is wished upon all those listening.

Yet, we know that peace in the world is elusive, even though Christ our Lord commands us to love even our enemies.  We pray for and hope for and pursue peace with all, and yet we cannot determine how others will act towards us or towards each other.  St. Gregory the Great, (d. 604AD) reflects on the difficulty of wishing to pursue peace in a world in which many are not interested in peace at all, nor are they influenced by or concerned about God.   Are Christians only to be Good Samaritans and come in and help those who are suffering, or do Christians have any mandate to resist or prevent evil from occurring, even by the use of force?

St. Gregory writes:

“Therefore, those who are peaceful should be advised that if they desire human peace too greatly, they might fail to reprove the evil conduct of others. And by condoning that behavior, they will sever themselves from the peace of the Creator – for by avoiding external quarrels, they will be punished for breaking their internal alliance [with God]. For what is transitory peace if not a footprint of eternal peace? Therefore, what could be more demented than to love a footprint, pressed in dust, but not love the one who made the impression?

Thus David, when he would bind himself to the internal footprints of peace, testifies that he did not hold any concord with evil persons, saying: ‘Did I not hate them who hated you, God, and waste away because of your enemies?’ For to hate God’s enemies with a perfect hatred is to love what they were made to be but to reprove what they do; in other words, to reprove the actions of the wicked but to remain of assistance to them. Therefore, we must well consider what a great sin it is if we silence our criticism of the wicked and hold peace with them. […] The peaceful are to be advised that they not fear to disturb the temporal peace by offering words of correction. Again, they should be advised that they keep inwardly with undiminished love that peace that will be disturbed externally by their reproving words. David declares that he has observed both prudently when he says: ‘ With those who hate peace, I was a peacemaker; when I spoke to them, they fought against me without a cause.’ Notice that when he spoke, he became embattled, and yet, despite this opposition, he was peaceful. He did not cease to correct those who were incensed against him, nor did he cease to love those whom he reproved.

Likewise, Paul said: ‘If it is possible, as much as it is in you, have peace with all people.’ For just as he was about to exhort his disciples to have peace with everyone, he began by saying: ‘If it is possible,’ then added: ‘as much as it is in you.’ For indeed, it was difficult for them who were to correct evil acts to have peace with everyone. But when temporal peace is disturbed in the hearts of evil men because of our correction, it is necessary that peace should remain in our own hearts. For it is rightly said: ‘As much as it is in you.’ (The Book of Pastoral Rule, pp 151-153)

Peace is to rule in our hearts, even if we have to confront evildoers and those who disturb the peace.  We should defend what is good and right without losing the peace that comes from Christ.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Preserving the Peace of God Within Yourself

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (d. 1867) writes:

“If you have felt that your mind has come to be at one with the soul and body, that you are no longer cut into pieces by sin but are something unified and whole, that the hallowed peace of Christ is breathing in you, then watch over this gift of God with all possible care. Let prayer and the reading of religious books be your principal occupation; give to other works only a secondary importance, be cold towards earthly activities, and if possible eschew them altogether. Sacred peace, fine as the breath of the Holy Spirit, immediately withdraws from the soul which behaves carelessly in its presence; the soul which lacks reverence, proves disloyal by indulging in sin, and permits itself to grow negligent. Together with the peace of Christ, grace-given prayer withdraws likewise from the unworthy soul: then the passions invade it like hungry beasts, and begin to torment the victim who has given himself to them, and who has been left to himself by God, who has withdrawn from him.

If you become surfeited with food, or still more with drink, the peace of God will cease to act in you.

If you are angry, you will lose this peace for a long while.

If you allow yourself to become irreverent, the Holy Spirit will no longer work within you.

If you begin to love something earthly, if you become infected by a passionate attachment to some object or skill, or by a special liking for some person, holy peace will certainly withdraw from you.

If you allow yourself to take pleasure in impure thoughts, peace will leave you for a long time, because it does not tolerate the evil stench of sin – and especially the sins of lust and vanity.

You will seek this peace and find it not; you will weep for its loss; but it will pay no attention to your tears, that so you may learn to give due value to the divine gift, and to guard it with proper care and reverence. Hate everything that draws your down into distraction or sin. Crucify yourself on the cross of the Gospel commandments; keep yourself always nailed to it. Rebuff all sinful thought and wishes with courage and vigilance; cast away earthly care; try to live the Gospel by zealously fulfilling all its commandments. When you pray, once more crucify yourself on the cross of prayer. Push aside all the memories, however important they may be, which come to your during prayer: ignore every one of them. Do not theologize; do not be carried away by following up brilliant, original, and powerful ideas which suddenly occur to you. Sacred silence, which is induced in the mind at the time of prayer by a sense of God’s greatness, speaks of God more profoundly and more eloquently than any human word. ‘If you pray truly,’ said the Fathers, ‘you are a theologian.’” (The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology compiled by Igumen Chariton of Valamo, pp 207-208)

Charity: The Love of God

St. Jacob of Alaska

“Let the sowers of strife hear what is written: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.’ On the other hand, let them recognize that if those who make peace are called the ‘sons of God’, then those who confound it are the sons of Satan. Moreover, all those who separate themselves, through discord, from the lifeline of love will wither and die.[…] Therefore, let the sowers of strife consider the extent to which they sin. For when they perpetuate this particular sin, they also eradicate every virtue that they may have in their heart. For in this one evil, they beget many others, because by sowing strife they extinguish charity, which is the mother of all the virtues. And because nothing is more revered by God than the virtue of charity. Therefore, whoever destroys the charity of his neighbor by sowing strife acts as though he were in the service of God’s enemy. For he takes from their hearts this very virtue, which the devil lost before his fall, and he cuts them off from the path by which they might return.”   (St. Gregory the Great – d. 604AD, The Book of Pastoral Rule, pps.154-155)’

St. Gregory the Great
St. Gregory the Great

In these weeks of Great Lent we take note of the divine words of St. Gregory the Great: “nothing is more revered by God than the virtue of charity.”   While the ability to fast from food differs greatly from person to person, all of us can practice charity with neighbor and stranger.  We each are able to make it our Lenten effort to protect and preserve “the charity of our neighbor.”  We contribute to the lives of all when we live so as to enable our neighbor to be charitable.

Roman Prosperity’s Opposition to Christ

What is the price of peace and the cost of having peacekeepers?

The cost can be measured in dollars, but that is only part of the price.  It also taxes our moral values.  It takes its toll upon our willingness to love our enemies as Christ taught us and to forgive one another.  We can lose our ideals and settle for what satisfies the bottom line or do what is immediate rather than what is important.  We can buy into false rationalizations that assuage our troubled consciences and prevent us from feeling cognitive dissonance over morally questionable actions.

And in the biblical wisdom that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), we also can learn from history on this point.

Emperor Nero

“The Pax Romana was a time of peace and prosperity for the empire. The development of cobble-stoned Roman roads facilitated commerce and the rapid movement of the Roman army. Anyone or anything that disturbed the Pax Romana was viewed as a threat to the great prosperity of the empire and was dealt with swiftly through violent police actions of the Roman army. Rome created peace through violence, while the emperor himself, Augustus, was the bringer of that peace.” (John Fotopoulos in Thinking Through Faith: New Perspectives from Orthodox Christian Scholars, pg. 22)

The Roman Empire thought Christ, whose Kingdom was not of this world, to be a threat to their peace and prosperity.   They crucified Him, and opposed His Church and martyred many of His followers.   Their vision of ‘national’ peace saw Christian values as a threat to Roman prosperity.  They vigorously and viciously persecuted the Christians.  They relied solely on the might of the army to maintain the peace, but in the end they lost the empire to the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace.

The 40 Martrys of Sebaste: The traded military might for martyrdom while serving Christ.

Limited Government, Limiting War

Sometimes it seems to me that Americans and America trusts in only one thing : the power of its military.  Despite our perpetually coined phrase, “In God we trust”, and despite our claims to be promoting democracy throughout the world, it is the military that we send out on an endless global mission.  It is often American military might that is the only thing some other nations experience about America.

Sadly, it seems that the world, too, doesn’t value our democracy as much as it envies our military jets, missiles and technology.  Nations hope not that America will import democracy to their shores, but they do want to own our military technology.

And so its not in democratic venues that we challenge one another in the world – in debate and in voting, but forever on the battlefield. No nation in the world seems interested in debating American democratic ideals, but all keep an eye on our military, in fear or envy or in imitation.  Militarism seems to be what many in the world think about when they think about America.

Limited government is the genius of the US constitution, but it seems that some of the politicians who tout limited government are the same ones who also favor unlimited support for military growth – as if the military were not government.    But in the Constitution military is clearly part of the government.  James Madison, founding father of the U.S., “Father of the Bill of Rights,” President, commented on the Constitution:

“A declaration that there shall be war is not an execution of laws: it does not suppose pre-existing laws to be executed; it is not in any respect an act merely executive. It is, on the contrary, one of the most deliberative acts that can be performed… In the general distribution of powers, we find that of declaring war expressly vested in the Congress, where every other legislative power is declared to be vested, and without any other qualification than what is common to every other legislative act. The constitutional idea of this power would seem then clearly to be that it is of a legislative and not an executive nature…. Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things be proper or safe judges whether a war ought to be commenced, continued or concluded. They are barred from the latter functions by a great principle in free government analogous to that which separates the sword form the purse, or the power of executing from the power of enacting laws.”

Madison once wrote that those generations who declare war ought to pay for the entire enterprise and not leave expenses to future generations. He thought this would curtail the desire to go to war. He felt the problem with having a standing army is that the government will not be able to resist the temptation to put it to use. No doubt he felt having the congress rather than the president be responsible for declaring and going to war would curtail the number of wars the country declared since it is harder to get a majority to agree than to have one executive officer engage in whatever adventurism he is wont to do. Presidents in the last 50 years have found plenty of reason to go off to war, without the constitutionally mandated approval of congress.  Maybe we have learned some lessons and will in this century restore the balance of power between the branches of government.   The balance of power as brilliantly enshrined in the Constitution is not between Democrats and Republicans (neither party is Constitutionally necessary) but between the legislative, executive and judicial branches.   American power should not be defined or limited to our military.  American power is a government of, by and for the people.

9/11 Prayer for Peace

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As we come to the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States, we who are disciples of the King of Peace, should pause for prayer – for the peace of the whole world and for the salvation of our souls.

MyOrthoPrayerAlmighty God and Creator, You are the Father of all people on the earth. Guide, I pray, all the nations and their leaders in the ways of justice and peace. Protect us from the evils of injustice, prejudice, exploitation, conflict and war. Help us to put away mistrust, bitterness and hatred. Teach us to cease the storing and using of implements of war. Lead us to find justice, peace and freedom. Unite us in the making and sharing of tools of peace against ignorance, poverty, disease and oppression. Grant that we may grow in harmony and friendship as brothers and sisters created in Your image, to Your honor and praise. Amen.

  (My Orthodox Prayer Book, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Kindle Loc. 824-34)

Here is a thought on peace for Christians written by a 4th Century Christian whose identity is not certain, but today he is called Ambrosiaster by many scholars.

“By fearing God and not retaliating for offenses, a peaceable person can maintain  peace with someone who hates peace. This would be overcoming evil with good, overcoming by gentleness a person who does not submit to the commands of the law. If it is possible, so far as it depends upon you, he says, so that by acting well they may display a  love of peace.

You must try to be peaceable, as best you can, even if others do not love peace. If  another person remains disrespectful and blasphemous, and so makes peace impossible,  at least the failure will not be attributed to you…  We are therefore prepared to  be at peace with everyone, if it can be done. However, it can be impossible not through our fault but because others resist and refuse to abandon a conflict with us. So a peaceable person is one who does not harm others.”  (Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators, Kindle Location 6132-38)

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 

(Hebrews 12:14)

Everyone of us can wage war on terrorism by praying to God for the peace of the whole world, which includes peace in our hearts and minds.