• Tomorrow all the kids will be here in Mattoon...with spouses and grandchildren...and it will be the first time everyone will be all together in one house for the night.  My parents will be here the next day to join us for lunch...and I am hoping my brother (Steve) and his family.
  • Started reading Stuart Eizenstat's President Carter:  The White House Years, a fair, but not fawning reappraisal of our 39th president, long overdue.
  • I make reference below to countries where there are wars.  Click here for an interesting website that ranks all the nations in the world, for 2018, from the most peaceful to the most violent. Interesting.

December 23, 2018
Prayers for Peace
May your Christmas...and all the days afterward be filled with joy...and peace!

But...what to get each of you for Christmas...? 

I've decided to simply give you all an invitation: to join me in the coming days...and year...as we pray together for peace. 

I know almost all my readers personally...and happen to know that some of you are the praying types..and some are not.  But I do know that all of  you are in favor of peace.  And so, my gift to you is this collection of prayers for peace.  If you find a chance, I'd welcome having you join me in praying them occasionally.  --Mike
1.   Peace for the sick and injured:  God of kindness, who heals body and soul: mend and revive those weakened by pain and disability.  Pour the peace of your Holy Spirit into their bodies and chase away the troubling spirits that darken the soul. Specifically, we pray for (names) today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus our Lord and Savior.
2. Peace for the lonely:  Divine author of friendships, who has declared that it is not good for any human to be lonely: look mercifully upon those who deeply desire to share this life with a partner, but who have not yet found the right person.  Look favorably upon those who simply want a true friend or two, but see others passing them by.  Look liberally upon those who yearn for community, but instead only know groups whose covenants are weak.  Grant them encouragement to enter relationships with wisdom and open minds. Grant each lonely person the miracle of blossoming acquaintances and opportunities.  Specifically, we pray for (names) today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
3.  Peace for those anxious about loved ones:   Heavenly Father, who feels the pain of every human on earth:  draw near to those who are weighed down with worry because someone they care about is struggling.  If a loved one is being treated badly by others, protect them with your strong arm.  If a loved one is making bad decisions, hasten with your powerful hand to guide them in new paths.  Our love for the most important people in our lives is so limited...your love so mysteriously richer.  For all who worry about loved ones, bring peace to their troubled hearts.  Specifically, we pray for (names) today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
4.  Peace in conflicted congregations:   Great creator, who gave us the fires of Pentecost:  come quickly to rescue those churches that are weighed down by unhappy people, distracted by negative murmuring, and fractured by quarrels and irritations.  Bring the balm of Gilead to those persons wounded by others in the church. Bring the love of Jesus back to the center of every troubled congregation.  Let grace and forgiveness bring release from yesterday's injuries.  Give us instead urgent work that will aid in restoring our fellowship.  Specifically, we pray for (names) today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
5.  Peace in the workplace:   Lord of heaven, who gave work to Adam and Eve in a place we call paradise:  many people are instead working in places that injure their bodies, souls, and families.  People fail to act 'as Christ' toward one another:  co-workers, supervisors, customers.  Thwart injustice and ill-will in every workplace...and rain down empathy and respect as you once sent manna from heaven. Let there be peace in the workplace.  Specifically, we pray for (names) today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
6.  Peace in marriages:   God of resurrection, who sees us die a thousand deaths in this world, and who raises us over and over: because you made us in your own image, we find ourselves drawn into marriage; eager for its companionship, intimacy, and joy.  But marriages suffer from human sin.  Couples get caught in downward spirals of foolishness and discouragement. External troubles batter the family.  Individuals take paths of withdrawal, coldness, escape...  Over and over, there is no shalom left in relationships that were once full of hope. Give resurrection and peace to struggling marriages through nudging people to change and forgive. Help each isolated spouse find you first, and then reconcile with each other. Specifically, we pray for (names) today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
7.  Peace in troubled families:   Father God, you know the pain of prodigal sons, self-righteous siblings, abusive fathers, absent mothers:  you know how vulnerable an individual can be when caught in the complex web of a family. And you know how painful it is when there is no peace in the family.  Teach us the ways of shalom.  Bring your tender love to hardened hearts.  Make us set aside the devices of our own hearts and discover instead your ways of honor, boundaries, fidelity, honesty, and forgiveness.  Specifically, we pray for (names) today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
8.  Peace among neighbors:   O God, who taught us that we should love our neighbors as we do our own selves: many people know very little about their neighbors.  And some neighbors quarrel and make life difficult for each other.  Fill all neighbors with thoughtfulness and an eagerness to serve one another.  Replace the false peace of apathy with a real peace in our neighborhoods: the peace that comes from knowing each other's names, growing in understanding of each other, and sharing and serving one another in ways that put the need of the neighbor first.  Specifically, we pray for (names) today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
9.  Peace in the United Methodist Church:   O God, who has made Jesus Christ the head of the church and so ordered that the church be his body here on earth:  we keep finding ways of marginalizing Christ by marginalizing each other.  We too often fail to think deeply or to probe the deeper thoughts of our adversaries.  We are too quick to boast about our successes and too slow to grapple with our obvious losses.  There is no peace in us. But you can save us by nudging us to open our doors, our hearts, and our minds to each other, especially to those who challenge us the most. Let there be true shalom, wherever it leads us.  Specifically, we pray for (names) today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
10.  Peace between Republicans and Democrats:   King of kings, lord of lords, president of presidents, leader of all parties:  we hear angry words of rhetoric, but you hear the whispers of the conscience.  We see posturing, but you see that it is all a bluff. We are distracted by false Messiahs, but you know the foolishness of those who claim that they and they alone can solve the country's problems.  We feel the alienation and tribalism of our two parties, but you are in control. This is still one nation under you!  Grant us a largeness of spirit so that we will not be so offended by one another.  Grant us truth, so that we can comprehend our issues clearly, despite all the propaganda. Fill us with good and vigorous and healthy arguments.  And give us ears to hear the other side.  Force us to be humble, even if you must punish us to make it so.  And use your might to make us work together, for it will take all our diverse ways of thinking to solve the problems our nation and world faces today.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
11.  Peace between men and women:   God, who created both women and men in your image: we have tried, since the beginning of time, to relate to one another.  But still we keep getting it wrong.  Remind us again that there can be no true peace if there is not also justice for women. Remind us that stereotyping men is counterproductive to genuine amity. Reveal to us the countless ways that the degradation of females is engrained in all our systems.  And also give us eyes to see that the inhumane roles assigned males is inextricably connected with sexism.  When one gender is treated differently than the other, all humanity suffers. Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
12.  Peace between the races:   Spirit of God, who taught us the song about how Jesus loves all the children of the world--red and yellow, black and white: there is a fissure somewhere in our hearts... so that your love keeps leaking away.  In the history of our country, we take monumental steps forward from time to time, but then fear and hostility return with vengeance. We try to keep peace by the devices and desires of our own hearts: with segregation, political correctness, suppressing the powers of minorities, endlessly reciting litanies of wrongs done...  but the terror of racial hostility remains more real to us even than our fears of any foreign terrorist.  We are blinded by our fears.  Open our eyes so that we might see and understand each other.  Strengthen our hearts so that we might march arm in arm to change everything that needs to be reformed in order to have peace with justice. Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
13.  Peace between the human race and the planet:   Creator God: when you made the heavens and the earth, it was all good, very good even.  There was harmony between the environment of Eden and the first humans.  But early on, humans fancied that hubris would make them more godly.  But it turned out that paradise was conditional on human choices.  Then folks tried to build a great tower.  But ironically, the technology of Babel debased human life. We possess great industrial and technological powers in our own times as well.  And the earth and its climate are starting to act weird in this age as we are emitting massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Most of us know very little for certain.  But we do know that we could make sacrifices, that we could change our lifestyles for the sake of our grandchildren, and that we could live humbly on this planet.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
14.  Peace between prisoners and the public:   Eternal judge, before whom all shall stand: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And you alone know how our justice systems are sometimes just...but sometimes unjust. You are also the God who forgave King David and the Apostle Paul for their murderous crimes...blessing them nevertheless, and restoring them so they could be a blessing to others.  Keep us from that pseudo-peace that keeps prisoners out of sight and out of mind.  Keep us from false righteousness that judges others without taking the log from our own eyes.  Save us from coldness of heart that is revealed when we forget and neglect those who are in prison.  And open the hearts of those in prison to face the truth about the wrongs they have done and deliver them from cynicism.  Change their hearts and lives as you changed the Apostle Paul.  And let us find our ways past prison bars that separate us to discover reconciliation and be one human family again.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
15.  Peace between religions and within religions:   Invisible God, full of great mysteries:  you sent Jesus into a world where people differed in many ways.  He came to bring people together.  While many of the religious people of his day sought to differentiate and divide, Jesus came in love for all people.  He gathered people around his own person, not around doctrine or religion.  And yet today we live in a world where religion is a primary cause of division and violence.  As followers of Jesus, let peace and goodwill begin with us.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
16.  Peace between the rich and the poor:   God of ancient prophets, you gave them your words to utter, and they proclaimed that there can be no true peace without justice.  The prophets were faithful to tell us that we should treat the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant as though they were our own kin.  Jesus himself taught us to give to those who are in need, especially the hungry, the sick, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the prisoner, and the immigrant.  But the chasm grows between the rich and the poor.  The game-playing proliferates between the haves and the have-nots.  The hostility swells.  Make Mary's song come true so that we can have true peace in our time:  that the proud be scattered in the imagination of their hearts; that the powerful will be brought down from their thrones; that the lowly will be lifted up; that the hungry will be fed; that the rich will be sent empty away.  As Jesus said that he came to bring a sword before he brings peace, let the sword come, and let us find shalom in your ways, your will; not ours.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
17.  Peace between the wolf and the lamb:   God of genesis, new beginnings, who makes all things new, who is doing a new thing:  you have floated the idea that the wolf might someday lay down in peace with the lamb.  Let it not be the false peace that comes from the lamb being nothing more than an aftertaste.  But let it be the kind of peace that comes from a true miracle, a divine work that none of us saw coming.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
18.  Peace between nations:   God of all peoples, the one who sent the Prince of Peace into the world:  we have several problems on earth that are more than one nation, superpower, or coalition can solve.  We might be able to help if we did more...or less.  But our wisdom often fails us.  Only you can help.  And so we plead with you to intervene in the places where people, especially children, have suffered unspeakable evil.  Thwart the work of all who do wrong, even if we prefer to justify them.  And raise up those who will lead troubled peoples into your goodness. We remember the six nations in the world that are afflicted with the most evil this past year:  Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen.  Keep us from averting our eyes and passing by like the priest and the Levite did in the story of the Good Samaritan.  Stir our lips to prayer and our hearts to compassion.  Even though we can do very little ourselves, do not let us forget our fellow humans.  Have mercy upon us all, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
19.  Peace between the United States and our enemies:  God whose name is on our dollar bill, in whom we trust:  help us to trust in your ways of peace, your gracious strength, your creative ways of overcoming evil.  Our nation has increasing conflict with other nations of the world. As contests of virility increase, both in other lands and our own, help us see its evil and nudge our leaders to pursue ways of wisdom.  Grant us the patriotism that is founded on personal humility and respect for history; deliver us from the nationalism that is a-historical and puffed up with sinful pride. In particular, bring common sense and righteousness and better understanding between our own country and Russia, North Korea, China, Cuba, and Iran. Give us the miracles we need for peace.
20.  Let peace begin with me:   Save me from weak resignation to the evils I deplore.  Love me so deeply that my love for others increases past the point of all my fears and discouragement.  Help me see new mercies morning by morning.  Each day, greet me afresh with purpose and wisdom.  Show me new friends and connect me anew with old ones. And then I shall have the wisdom and power to let peace begin with me.

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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