One of the most beautiful gifts in Christ Jesus is ^prayer; there is no gift greater, none more sacred, more intimate and holy. Upon the divine injunction: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God”, the Christian in prayer withdraws himself from the world about him and stands face to face with God to Whom he pours out the thoughts of his heart, and in it finds the fullest expression for his soul both in sorrow and in joy.
In discussing the subject “Prayer for peace” we are, therefore, dealing with a very sacred matter. When answering the much asked question, “Should we pray for peace?”, I feel that we are standing on holy ground where it behooves man to take the shoes off his feet and tread carefully lest this can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” gives evidence that he has never considered the sacredness of prayer, the highest and most holy of all Christian duties. Neither has such a person ever stopped to consider the seriousness of the times in which we live.
In discussing the subject of prayer for peace one naturally finds extremists. One might find some who want to be super-ultra-Reformed who would not think of mentioning peace in their prayers because: “God builds His Kingdom by means of war and this thought should suffice and bring us peace.55 Naturally such people forget that God also builds His Kingdom by peace and secondly, they forget that true submission to God and His will is not as simple as all this since we are but men and the holiest has but a small beginning of this obedience,. But there is the other party, which is extremely great in numbers, which desires to be both super-patriotic and pious and storms the throne of grace for peace at any cost. They pollute prayer as to its sacredness, purpose, character and content and are ignorant of the sovereignty of God Who rules in war and peace and have never stopped to consider that, therefore, war and peace are both serious matters.
The last mentioned party proceeds from the idea that prayer is a communication system with heaven whereby sinful men are able to obtain their heart’s desire. Their motto is: “Prayer changes things,” for it is considered as a spiritual lever whereby men can move God and heaven and earth for the purpose of obtaining what they want.
The Scriptural idea of prayer is not to change “things.” Prayer does not center about things, but around God and His Kingdom. This is evident from “The Lord’s Prayer,” it is centered entirely around God, therein we are taught to pray for His Name, His Kingdom, His will; even then when we pray for our own personal needs such as bread and forgiveness of sins and not being led into temptation since we conclude that prayer by saying: “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory.”
How could it be different since not man but the Holy Spirit is the Author of all true prayer. Could the Spirit be conceived of praying for the material things of man entirely disconnected from God and His Kingdom? On the other hand can man, regenerated by this Holy Spirit, pray God that man’s will may be done, his desires realized? Of course not, for a sincere Christian knows only too well that by nature he always desires and wills that which is sin, and even after receiving grace he knows that he often chooses that which is foolish. The true Christian does not desire things, but he desires God and His Kingdom. And when we thus pray prayer does not “change things” but it changes us, that is, in prayer we seek and learn to will God’s will only; we seek to learn and trust that He rules in all things and worketh all things unto our eternal welfare that thus we may have peace, the peace of him “whose mind is stayed on God.”
If, therefore, the Christian’s heart is troubled in these trying days of war he brings his troubles to God in prayer. He pours out his soul to Him. He tells God of his fears and woe, about that son gone far from home who lives in the midst of sin, temptation and death. He tells God all, the thoughts of his heart, the desires of his soul, nothing is withholden. And this the Christian may not only do, he must do it, God wants it so, for Scripture says: “Casting all your cares upon Him” and “let your requests be known unto God.” Did not Christ do the same in Gethsemane? And did He teach His disciples to pray for such a simple matter as that their flight should not be in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day? Should we then not pray in these days when our hearts are burdened, when fear and dread is on every hand? We certainly should.
However, when thus praying in faith we are not telling God what He should do. In the unburdening of our heart we may never once tell God that He ought to do as we think should be done. But we unburden our heart with but one purpose: that God may teach us that His way and will is always best. Therefore, We pray that we may renounce our own will and desire God’s will and way alone and have peace therein knowing that He worketh all things to our salvation. Hence, we conclude our prayer after pouring out our troubled heart, and say: “Lord, not my will but Thine be done”. This means, that if this war has troubled you and you have told God all about those troubles, even telling Him that your flesh desires the war to cease and you then conclude: “Not my will but thine be done”, you have said this: “Lord, though I dread this war and long for it to cease, but Thou dost deem that it must continue, then Lord, I pray, continue this war until Thy will is done and in that way give me the peace of heart and thankful submission to Thee knowing that Thou doest all things well”. Then and then only can we have peace with God and with all things that He sends us for we know that His will is only and always best, while we are oft times foolish and blind.
From this it may be concluded that the common prayer for peace by which men generally storm the throne of grace in their personal prayers as well as those offered in the congregation and in the “Prayer for Peace Mass Meetings” are to be condemned. In hearing these prayers the words of Christ always recur to me: “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light”. Why? Because the world refuses to have peace except the cause for which they fight has been won. In this cause, which they think is a good one, they give their all and desire no peace until it is reached; we, on the other hand, know that God has a good purpose with this war but Christianity will sacrifice nothing but sue for peace at any price.
To all those, therefore, who for patriotic reasons or because of piety implore God that peace may come now and emphasize that it can never come too soon, the warning ought to be sounded that they ought to consider first of all for what kind of peace they are praying. Anyone praying simply for peace is playing (with fire and may be praying for that which will result in something far worse than the present conflict.
It is but too often forgotten that peace is a matter of equally as serious a nature as war. We know only too well that the present conflict of nations is nothing but the outgrowth, of the Peace of Versailles. The men in whose hands rests the government of the nations fully realize that the future of their peoples depends solely on the character of the peace that will follow this war. This is very evident from the famed “Atlantic Charter’’ drawn up by our President and Winston Churchill; and it becomes still more evident in Russia’s past hesitancy in agreeing to the same. The recent decision at Casablanca that the Axis must surrender unconditionally is still another proof that the coming peace involves as much as the war itself. To the Christian this, reasoning should not be strange at all since he knows that all the misery of all men lies in nothing else than the “peace” which man made with Satan in Paradise.
On the other hand it may be worthwhile to consider that the same Bible which teaches that all our misery finds its source in the “peace” which we made with Satan, also teaches that our redemption lies in conflict or war which God brought about by putting enmity between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent; and there is no conflict in which more blood has flowed and will flow than in this one of, a battle in which sinful man will reach the zenith of his cruelty. But bloody and cruel though this battle may be it is no curse but redemption and blessings innumerable for all those who are of the seed of the woman, namely, the children of God.
Now what may be said of the conflict of Gen. 3:15, may also be said of all wars, namely, that they are all by divine appointment and Intended for the eternal peace of all God’s people. Who would dare contend that the present war is not divinely ordained? Emphatically Scripture teaches that God makes both war and peace: “Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?” (). “I form light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil”. ( ). And pointing to a war-like character such as Cyrus, God says: “Whose right hand I have hoi den, to subdue nations before him. . .’’ ( ff). For further proof one need but point to the many citations of like nature in the book of Revelations all proving that both war and peace are of God, who has but one purpose in all these things, namely, the honor and glory of His own name and the salvation of His chosen saints.
Naturally, it must be granted that no man can understand and fathom the marvelous works of Jehovah. Never will we be able to comprehend the depth of Gods wisdom, love and mercy in all His doings and especially not in such terrible things as in sin, death and war. But how can it be different? Can the creature ever understand the Creator? Shall we who by nature are unmerciful and haters-of-one-another be able to understand Him who is love and the God of mercy? Of course not! But does our Incomprehensibility alter the truth of God that in war and peace, in prosperity and adversity, in life and in death He glorifies Himself and saves His people? Certainly not, for He is God and God alone, high above all creatures, worthy of all praise and adoration forever.
To find peace, therefore, we must learn to do His will and submit ourselves to Him in all our ways knowing that He doeth all things well. To the man, woman or child who by grace has learned to say: Lord, not my will but Thine be done”, there shall be peace and joy In all circumstances of life for he Is at peace with the God of peace in Christ Jesus who worketh all things according to His own good pleasure and to the glory of His saints. Hence, the true prayer for true peace is: “Lord, teach me Thy will”.