I’ve written before on praying for peace and how to pray for peace when you can’t find the words, but I’m still wrestling with how to pray for peace. If faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain (Matt. 17:20-21), then why can’t our prayers bring peace? Is our faith so small, is my faith so microscopic, compared to a mustard seed? What does Scripture say about how to pray powerfully for peace?
Pray often and pray regularly
Over and over again, the Bible teaches praying for peace. So Psalm 122 tells pilgrims on their way to the temple,
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. (verse 6)
Jesus says to his disciples (Luke 6:27-28),
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
1 Tim. 2:1-2 urges:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
These and other parts of Scripture encourage us — urge us — to pray for peace.
The Bible also includes many prayers for peace. Like the letter to the Romans that begins and ends with a prayer for peace:
To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 1:7)
The God of peace be with all of you. Amen. (Rom. 15:33)
And 1 Peter:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)
Peace to all of you who are in Christ Jesus. (1 Peter 5:14)
These prayers for peace appear at various places throughout the entire Bible, written over centuries. Many years before the birth of Christ in Psalm 29:11:
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
And offered in Philippians 1:2 years after the birth of Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
So perhaps the first thing we might learn from the Bible about praying powerfully for peace is to pray often and pray regularly.
Pray peace for those we know and for those who are strangers to us
Ancient Jerusalem was a large city, so pilgrims to the temple may not have known every resident and every pilgrim, but still they were told, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” The book of Ephesians may have been a circular letter that made the rounds to a number of different churches, and the original letter writer may not have known all of the members who would receive it. But still Ephesians 6:23 includes a prayer for peace:
Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
This was a prayer for the whole community — even though the person praying didn’t know everyone, or maybe didn’t know anyone personally.
With that example and encouragement, today we can also pray for people we may not know personally — for public tragedy, for refugees from Syria and other countries, and for other needs in our community and world. Not because we personally know those involved, but because we are called to pray for peace, even when we’re separated by oceans and desert and different language. We can still pray powerfully for peace.
Pray for physical and spiritual well-being
In Psalm 122, the pilgrims to the temple prayed for physical peace — for peace and security within the city walls (verse 7). But the prayer for peace in Rom. 15:13 does not focus on the physical; instead, it centers on the inner peace that comes from believing in Jesus Christ:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So in the Bible, prayers for peace include the physical and the spiritual. Just as peace applies to our total well-being, so when we pray powerfully for peace, our prayers embrace the whole person and the whole world. As 2 Thess. 3:16 says:
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.
Pray for peace and seek peace in action
Scripture is also clear that prayer is more than words, for prayer goes hand in hand with action.
The powerful prayer for peace in Psalm 122 leads to action:
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good. (verses 8-9)
The psalm does not stop with speaking words of peace in verse 8, but points to the active pursuit of peace in verse 9. So in my congregation, when we prayed for Christians imprisoned in Vietnam, we also wrote letters to the Vietnamese authorities and to our own Canadian government, urging respect for freedom of religion. For Peace Sunday last year, we had several members speak of building peace through refugee sponsorship, in teaching and in other practical ways. For when we pray for peace, we are also called to act for peace.
Pray in dependence on God
Finally, when we pray for peace, we need to realize our dependence on God. While we might want to pray powerfully for peace, the power does not lie in our ability to put words together or to hold silence. The power springs forth not from our prayers, but from the glorious power of God. Ephesians 2:14 insists that Jesus “is our peace,” and in John 14:27, Jesus says to his disciples,
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
To pray powerfully for peace, we need to rely on God’s peace and power.
So I’ll continue to pray for peace and hope you will, too. As God guides us, may we pray regularly and often, for those we know and for those we don’t know, for a peace that embraces our world and our whole being, both physical and spiritual. Let’s seek peace by our actions, and depend on the peace and power of God.
Writing/reflection prompt: Which of these five movements of prayer do you find most challenging, and which come more easily to you: (1) praying regularly and often, (2) praying both for those you know and those you don’t, (3) praying for physical and spiritual peace, (4) following prayer with action, (5) relying on God.
April Yamasaki is lead pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford, B.C., and the author of Sacred Pauses (Herald Press, 2013). She blogs at aprilyamasaki.com, where this post originally appeared.