Reflections on Praying for Peace by a US Air Force Chaplain
“In my prayers, I think of all the people in the world who are affected by war. I wrestle with all the effects of war, both the effects I know about and the ones I am not aware of…
When I was in grade school, I was enamored with the ideas behind the United Nations. I remember listening to Eleanor Roosevelt as she shared the importance of us growing up in a world where people could sit at a table and learn about each other and through communication solve problems of conflict without going to war. A few years later there was the concept of the Peace Corps and how by sharing our ideas and actually going to live in countries to improve living conditions the ideas of peace could find fertile ground to sprout in.
All of these vehicles have a positive direction and can bring about positive results, but they are only the first steps toward peace. What troubles my soul is that the fires of hate, fear, greed and distrust are growing and burning all over the world more fiercely than ever in history. Financial greed, racial, religious and ethnic hatred around our world has led us to the possibility of bloodshed as hideous as any we have seen in this world. Look at all the countries of the world: China, India, Pakistan, every South American and Central American country, Japan, Korea, countries throughout Africa and the Middle East.
As a 22-year veteran of the US Air Force, I know very well we have the strongest military force in the world. We can create more destruction than anyone. I have come to believe that war and the machinery of war will never bring peace. Those things only multiply destruction, killing, mistrust, fear and hatred.
Frank C. Laubach wrote a book long ago entitled Prayer, the Mightiest Force in the World. This book sold hundreds of thousands of copies. His idea was that we need to recruit a new army of ten million and train them to use a weapon as powerful for peace as our massive weapons are for destruction. The weapons our military uses convert enemies into skeletons. This new weapon that Laubach writes about must convert enemies into friends. It must heal horrid open wounds which have been left by planes crashing into buildings, roadside bombs and other means of destruction that have been left across the face of the world. We must teach them to pray. Only prayer, which releases the infinite might of God, can win this final battle for the minds and hearts of all – this battle against hate, this battle for “one world.”
Right praying, Jesus repeatedly declared, can remove mountains, can accomplish anything. We cannot neglect prayer. I think we are being confronted by the gravest crisis in human experience. Only prayer can save us from the terrorist mentality that is gripping our world. We must begin to pray for that permanent peace that has always eluded us. The way to this peace is an untrodden path, but it is not unknown. It is the way that Jesus gave us.
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” not in word but in deed. Let all people spend their lives, as Jesus did, helping others. Let strong people sacrifice their personal advantage so that all may have equal opportunities.
The way of Jesus would be peace itself, if we followed it. We must pray that we will want to change in such radical ways as that. We must pray that
people will turn away from selfish greed. We must pray that counties in peace negotiations will turn away from jostling for special privilege and selfish business interests that will grab advantages that are sure to make other people hate them. We must pray that all countries turn away from the “me first” mentality that continues to cause wars. No one is going to win until we all understand that there will never be peace without accepting that it is for the welfare of all. This will happen through the awesome weapon of prayer.
Jim McGinnis’ book is just the resource we need for launching such a praying for peace campaign. I am convinced that this book will rise up a new generation of prayer warriors for a new day dawning. This book is calling for prayer warriors with new awareness from every corner of God’s creation. As this new generation comes forward in prayer, I am certain that the Spirit of our Creator will nurture the beginning of transforming relationships into relationships of grace. We will begin to think of each other in new way. We can become informed and redeemed where we will no longer see ourselves as just the Smith family, the Christian Community or the family of one particular country. We will begin to see ourselves as the family of the supreme creator, God. The vision I see happening with Jim’s book as a resource is that the family of the world will be a family where all the boundaries of separation will dissolve in our hearts and we can live in the peace and wholeness God has envisioned for us.
Kenneth E. Briggs Jr.,
Retired US Air Force Chaplain
United Church of Christ Pastor
Altoona Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Altoona, Iowa.