Prayer is one of the most wonderful gifts that we as Christians have. As we pray, we withdraw ourselves completely from the world around us and stand face to face before the Almighty God. To Him we pour out our every thought, our troubles and our anxieties, our thanksgivings of praise. In prayer we stand closer to God than at any other time. “Take time to be holy; speak oft with thy Lord. Spend much time in secret and think on His Word.” Our Confessions tell us that prayer is the chief part of thankfulness and when it proceeds from a true faith, it is one of the best of our good works.
But as in all parts of our life we are so imperfect, so also our prayers are often foolish and imperfect. I am thinking of one aspect of our prayers which is especially misused today. This is the prayer for peace. A common one goes something like this: “Lord, we pray that the war in Vietnam may stop, so that our soldiers may be spared; grant us a lasting peace between all nations.” This may sound like a perfectly natural and well-meaning request to you. But we must remember that all wars are in God’s Council and serve His purpose—which is the eternal peace of His chosen people. God builds His kingdom by war as well as peace and we must never go against His divine plan. We must expect wars and “rumors of wars” as signs of the end, and a lasting peace will never be fully realized until the saints are all gathered together in heaven.
By nature we all dislike wars, and also by nature we as sinful Christians only will and desire that which is evil. Even with God’s grace, we often choose very foolish things. We don’t stop to think that this is the way God wants it to be.
True prayer does not center around “things”, especially those things that we carnally desire. This is shown by the Lord’s Prayer. Its main subject is God, not us, and in it we are taught to pray for His kingdom, His will and His glory. Even when we pray for our personal needs, such as daily bread and forgiveness, we conclude our prayer with “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory…”
During these troubled times, therefore, especially during the war that is going on, the Christian finds himself often confiding to God in prayer about his problems. He tells Him of the nephew who is far away, exposed to death many times a day, or of the son who needs a guiding hand in the midst of death and temptation far away from home. He tells God all his thoughts, his fears and his desires. This is the way it should be, for didn’t God command us to cast all our cares upon Him and to let our requests be known unto God? However, when we pray in faith, we are not telling God what to do. We may never tell Him to do what we think would be the most desirable for us. In prayer we learn to seek God’s will only. We unburden our hearts with one purpose—that God may teach us that His way is always the best way. If we have a heavy heart about the war and pray to God that we really wish it would stop, we must not forget to say, “But Lord, if you want the war to continue, then let it keep going; but give me a peaceful heart, knowing that Thou doest all things well.”
If we are looking for peace, therefore, we must learn first God’s will and submit ourselves to it in every way. He who prays “Not my will, but thine be done” has not only learned how to pray, but will also experience true peace with God daily in his life.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 5 August 1969