One of the most common prayer requests I get is for peace. Sometimes this request is tied to a specific situation, such as divisiveness in our country or the chaos that comes with raising small children. More often it’s just an overall desire for less stress and more calm.
I’ve heard from an acupuncturist and also a physical therapist that New Yorkers pick up extra stress from just living in the city. As we walk down the street, our bodies absorb and carry a constant sensory overload. Whether you're a city dweller or not, we all have to build things into our schedules that help us relax and recharge. Spiritual practices, exercise, vacation, time away from electronic devices, etc. They can all lead us to cultivate a sense of inner peace.
Then there's a whole other category of peace that people need and pray for -- the peace that passes all understanding. (Phil 4:7). A peace that can only come from God.
People at the end of their ropes often express a desperate need for this peace in dire yet simple ways. I once asked a woman my usual question. “Is there anything in particular you need prayer for?” She responded in a shaky voice, "Me." In the few seconds that followed, I watched her eyes well up with tears behind her sunglasses. She didn't elaborate, and I didn't ask her to. I just nodded and held her hands in mine. Then I began to pray for her to receive the peace that Jesus offered to his disciples when they were scared and huddled behind locked doors in the Upper Room; the peace that angels proclaimed to the shepherds at Christ's birth; the peace that allowed Simeon to depart according to God's word, for his eyes had seen God's salvation in simply beholding our Savior Jesus.
Lately I’ve felt that deep and desperate need for the great gift of God’s peace. For days now, actually. But the good news is that the stronger our need for God’s peace, the more avenues we can find to receive it.
I’ve received peace while proofing the sacred words in our church bulletin before it goes to print. I’ve received peace listening to “Breath of Heaven” by Amy Grant and crying my eyes out. I’ve received peace reading Scripture aloud. I’ve received peace in the compassionate hug of a loved one. And I always receive peace when I consume the Eucharist, taking in the body and blood of Christ who is our peace. (Eph. 2:14).
Finally, I've been reminded that sometimes we must intentionally claim God's peace. When Jesus sends out 70 disciples to evangelize to the villages on his route to Jerusalem, he instructs them to proclaim peace with an exclamation point: “Peace be to this house!” (Luke 10:5). It's a basic Jewish greeting, but the emphasis reminds me of something a clergy friend once said to me: “Don’t let the Devil steal your peace!”
Don’t let anyone steal your peace, for it is a gift from God that shall not be snatched from your hand. May you embrace it, and embody it, in the name and power of Jesus Christ.