By Valerie Elverton Dixon
Suppose during the month of January at least a million Christians prayed for peace everyday in both their personal devotional time and in corporate worship. And suppose at least a million Jews and at least a million Muslims, and at least a million Buddhists, and at least a million Hindus, and at least a million neo-pagans and Wiccans, and at least a million people in every faith tradition did, too. Suppose at least a million humanists, agnostics and atheists contemplated peace every day in January.
Suppose conservative and progressives and people of all political parties and ideologies prayed prayers of peace. Suppose these prayers were for peace in the world, beginning in our own homes and communities and towns and cities and states and nation. Suppose all these believers and non-believers prayed for and considered blessings upon their enemies. Suppose they all prayed for people at war to have a change of heart and to pursue peace through nonviolent conflict resolution. Suppose these prayers were not prayers that asked for God to destroy or to punish or to defeat the enemy, but rather prayers that prayed God would help us to examine our own hearts to see if there is any wicked way within ourselves that we need to amend or abandon. (Psalm 139:24)
Prayer is a two-way communication. It is not the moment where we give a Santa Claus God our wish list intended to become God’s to do list. Prayer is a conversation. It is an association with the Divine. Prayer is a risk, because like any conversation, like any association, it has the power to change us. Prayer has the power to change our thinking, to take us where a transcendent mind wants us to go. Prayer challenges us to think anew.
Moreover, prayer is not magic. Magic seeks to manipulate the natural world according to our own will. In prayer we ask for God’s will to be done. Prayer recognizes that our will is too feeble, our knowledge too partial, our sight too short, our hearing to limited, our logic too illogical, our tongues too undisciplined, our touch too harsh, our hearts too hard to righteously shape nature and creation. We do not love well enough to have our personal desires hold sway over other human beings and the world in which we live.
So we pray. We ask God for the things that we want. We ask for God’s wisdom and for strength to face the day with joy and with determination. And we listen. We often hear it said that God always answers our prayers. Sometimes God says yes. Sometimes God says no. Sometimes God says wait. I say God is a God of Yes and Amen. It has been my experience that as I pray, God refines my prayer and changes it to fit God’s own will and purpose. When my prayer changes to a prayer that is the will of God, then God says: “Yes and Amen.” My prayer is answered and God is glorified.
There is an effort to recruit at least a million Christians to pray every day in January for peace. Michael Rosenblum, “an ordinary United Methodist” e-mailed me a few weeks ago to tell me about his idea. He wants people to pray that God will change our hearts from hearts of violence to hearts of peace. He wants us to pray for our enemies as Jesus taught.
I think this is a good idea and ought to be extended to include all believers and anyone who want to join this effort. Suppose millions of people all around the world prayed everyday in January for peace. . .
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder JustPeaceTheory.com. She taught Christian Ethics at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, MA and United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.