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Promise and Prayer

Jesus said to his disciples on the night he was betrayed and crucified, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27).

This is one verse of an longer teaching. It goes from chapters 14 through 16 in John's gospel and culminates in Jesus's prayer in John 17. It is a section of Scripture worth deep and sustained attention. But, for now, will focus on the promise and the contrast in John 14:27.

The promise is peace, Jesus's peace. Perhaps I should call it a gift rather than a promise. But the wider context of the gift is Jesus's promise to send the Holy Spirit upon his followers. When the promised Spirit arrives, he brings the gift of Jesus's peace.

The contrast in the verse is a contrast between how Jesus gives and the way the world gives. "The world" is the system of human relationships that operates without God and in opposition to the Kingdom of God. "The world" is where injustice reigns, where "gifts" are really bribes. Jesus doesn't work that way. He gives freely and fully to those who ask. And he teaches us to request the most valuable gift: His peace in God's Kingdom.

"Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

The context of this request is the Lord's Prayer. And I think this prayer, and Jesus's promise (or gift) on John 14:27 belong together. Jesus taught his disciples to ask for what he was planning to give them and secure for them by his passion, cross, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit. Disciples of Jesus are those whose life is caught up in and filled with receiving this gift, live this peace, and sharing its promise with others through praying what Jesus taught us to pray.

Dallas Willard helps us understand this promise and this prayer. He writes a deep yet accessible teaching on "Thy Kingdom Come." I quote it here as an effort to seek for myself and share with others Jesus's peace in a season of conflict that seems ever on the increase. I pray that through informed, spiritual effort Jesus's disciples will become instruments of his peace. Willard's reflection may be a bit lengthy and thick for a blog post. Give it a read. And then offer the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and also the prayer Jesus that taught his disciples to pray.

Thy Kingdom Come The second request follows from the first. The child’s confidence in the “Abba” who supervises everything for good naturally wants his rule, his kingdom, to come into realization in any place where it is not fully present. Recall, now, that the kingdom of God is the range of his effective will: that is, it is the domain where what he prefers is actually what happens. And this very often does not happen on this sad earth—on Gaia, as it is often called nowadays. The clause “Thy will be done, as in heaven so also on earth,” added in the Matthew 6 version of the model prayer, therefore only clarifies what it means to say, “Thy kingdom come.” We have pointed out in earlier chapters that this does not mean “come into existence.” The kingdom of God is from everlastingly earlier to everlastingly later. It does not come into existence, nor does it cease. But in human affairs other “kingdoms” may for a time be in power, and often are. This second request asks for those kingdoms to be displaced, wherever they are, or brought under God’s rule. We are thinking here of the places we spend our lives: of homes, playgrounds, city streets, workplaces, schools, and so forth. These are the places we have in mind, and they are where we are asking for the kingdom, God’s rule, to come, to be in effect. Also, we are thinking of our activities more than of those of other people. We know our weaknesses, our limitations, our habits, and we know how tiny our power of conscious choice is. We are therefore asking that, by means beyond our knowledge and the scope of our will, we be assisted to act within the flow of God’s actions. But we are also praying over the dark deeds of others in the world around us. We see how they are trapped in what they themselves often disown and despise. And we are especially praying about the structural or institutionalized evils that rule so much of the earth. These prevailing circumstances daily bring multitudes to do deeply wicked things they do not even give a thought to. They do not know what they are doing and do not have the ability to distance themselves from it so they can see it for what it is. That is the power of “culture.” Culture is seen in what people do unthinkingly, what is “natural” to them and therefore requires no explanation or justification. Everyone has a culture—or, really, multidimensional cultures of various levels. These cultures structure their lives. And of course by far the most of everyone’s culture is right and good and essential. But not all. For culture is the place where wickedness takes on group form, just as the flesh, good and right in itself, is the place where individual wickedness dwells. We therefore pray for our Father to break up these higher-level patterns of evil. And, among other things, we ask him to help us see the patterns we are involved in. We ask him to help us not cooperate with them, to cast light on them and act effectively to remove them.

-The Divine Conspiracy pp. 285-286 (paperback & Kindle), pp. 258-259 (hardcover)

A Prayer for Participation in the Peace of God

In the Tradition of Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is error, truth; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may seek not so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

-2019 Book of Common Prayer, p 672

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy Name,

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those

who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.