In his introduction to the third edition of “Prayers for Private Devotions in War-Time,” a collection of prayers produced by The Memorial Church at Harvard University, Rev. Peter J. Gomes writes, 

“Prayer is most needed when we are most divided, and we need the language of prayer that takes us out of ourselves and into something greater than either ourselves or our cause…we pray not only for ourselves and for our friends and neighbors, but we pray for our enemies and our dangerous world as well, that, in the words of John Keble, ‘we may live more nearly as we pray.’”

I thought of this prayer book and Rev. Gomes’ words (he was a dear mentor of mine in divinity school) this week as the drumbeat of war that had been building for the past several weeks finally crescendoed when Russia invaded Ukraine late Wednesday night.

I write these words on Thursday morning, mindful that much will likely have changed by the time you read them Sunday morning and beyond. And yet I doubt that the images of war in Europe as we have not seen in decades will be any less disorienting.

Rev. Gomes writes, too, “War quickens our senses and makes us mindful of what is most precious and fragile in life.” 

Sadly, we have endured an extended season of such clarifying reflection as our world has been upended by an international pandemic, and so as omenus as these images are, I can’t help but feel as if they are part of a conclusion to which we have been headed for some time.

Of course, the US is not at war, at least not yet. But again as we have reminded, painfully, over the past two years, our world is connected like it’s never been before. And so we will no doubt feel the shockwaves of whatever proceeds half a world over. More importantly, we feel the pain of the people of Ukraine who find themselves in a war not of their own making, and all those who love them.

Yet it may be that by some holy confluence we are given added resources to hold and endure these things as we begin our Lenten journey in the week ahead. Lent began in the early centuries of a church as a time of preparation for those seeking baptism, which would occur during the Easter Vigil. Over time it was expanded to be a time of penance and purification for the entire church, as we recommit ourselves to walk with Jesus to the cross.

Even though our Lenten journey will not officially begin until this coming Wednesday, as Paul reminds us, our life of prayer is “without ceasing.” So it is in that spirit that I offer this prayer “For World Peace” found in the Memorial Church volume, that it would give us words and perspective to draw from as we enter this season ahead:

Look in compassion, O Heavenly Father, upon this troubled and divided world. We cannot trace thy footsteps or understand thy working; yet give us grace to trust thee now with an undoubting faith, and when thine own time is come, reveal, O Lord, that new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, and where the Prince of Peace ruleth; even our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Update: In worship Sunday we lifted up a concern we received late Saturday night from Jonathan and Tina Bailey, CBF Field personnel in Bali, Indonesia, with whom we entered a covenant to support over the past year. They shared with us that a young woman who works with them, whom they have come no know as a daughter, is Ukrainian. Her name is Alexandra, and as of Saturday evening she had lost touch with her parents, who live in Kyiv. They asked if we would join them in prayer, not only for Alexandra and her family, but all the many millions of people whom they represent. We lifted those prayers together, even more aware of how small our world truly is and the ties that bind us across space and time.

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