|The Invasion has begun, the headline blares in towering letters, all in bold. |
Shelling. Number dead. Civilians covered in blood.
When I sit quietly this morning, the reading—something about God’s unconditional love—seems flat, distant, untrue. Then the book closes and it is time to settle in, quiet the mind, be still and invite the Presence. But this falls flat, too. How can you sit quietly while the world burns?
The impulse is to say, This is a pressing moment. Just make some coffee and turn on the television. But if prayer is more than a lovely refuge, and instead a place of centering power, then sitting here is more necessary than ever.
Someone said that prayer begins as the place you go to, and gradually becomes the place you come from.
Prayer in time of war feels crazy, irrational, a romantic pastime. Actually, as I think of it, that is what prayer any day looks like to most people. War just heightens the apparent foolishness. What do we think we are accomplishing in the stillness? How does breathing make any difference?
But those are the exact same questions we ask ourselves when we pray, especially in time of crisis and violence. It feels pointless. Yet what is assaulting us out there is always what is roiling us in here. “These conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?” (James 1:4).
Any decent prayer for peace starts by locating the war within. If we are to be, in St. Francis’ eternal words, “instruments of thy peace,” we will have to sit quietly and invite that peace first to quell the selfish conflicts in our own hearts. Then we can get up, make the coffee, read the news, find out where our particular gifts are needed, and go to work for peace.