September 21 is United Nations Day of Peace. At noon UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will ring the Peace Bell for the official observation of the day. Also noting this special day is the campaign by “A Million Minutes for Peace.” Its proponents are asking people around the world to take one minute, at noon on the 21st, to pray in their own way for both world peace and for the inner peace that creates harmony. The names of people who pledge to pray will be turned over to the secretary-general after the noon observance.
Such focused prayer has value; first for each individual who participates, because it requires people to take time and pray when they might not otherwise do so. And it has power beyond the local scene. A good example is given in the book of Acts, which tells of a time when the Apostle Peter was imprisoned by the corrupt King Herod, who had already killed Christians. It seemed that Herod planned to keep Peter prisoner until Easter was over and then bring him out, possibly for a show trial and death. The Bible reports an important fact that Herod would have ignored, even if he had known about it: “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5).
The imprisoned Peter was miraculously saved by an angel, which led him out of captivity. Not long after that, the Bible reports that “the word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). The church’s commitment to prayer saved Peter’s life and also helped to advance the cause of peace.
Committed prayer sets people free from fear, suspicion, danger, poverty, hatred, desperation – from every condition that could lead to war. Each individual who loves God and prays for peace – hopefully tomorrow but in the days after also – can consider the promise Christ Jesus gave in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9).
Jesus’ own life defines what it means to be children of God. He taught that each individual has a specific relationship to God and that if we are obedient to Him, God will guide us toward greater spirituality and goodness. Such spiritual progress inevitably leads toward a greater desire for peace, to wanting all people to live safely and in harmony with their neighbors.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science and founded this newspaper, strove to be a peacemaker and to follow Jesus’ example. In 1908, in a brief comment titled “War,” she wrote: “For many years I have prayed daily that there be no more war, no more barbarous slaughtering of our fellow-beings; prayed that all the peoples on earth and the islands of the sea have one God, one Mind; love God supremely, and love their neighbor as themselves” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 286).
For many of us, the challenge of peacemaking may strike closer to home. It might involve resolving a family conflict, establishing peace with a neighbor or a friend at school, or not getting mad at the boss at work. It may require giving up feelings of self-justification that can gnaw away at harmony and drag one into the “he said/she said” mental dialogues that don’t lead to healing.
These individual demands for peace have their own challenges and can do much to prepare one for prayer in the world’s larger arena. The individual and seemingly “smaller” situations contain elements of the larger conflicts. When we see this clearly, the larger issues no longer seem so overwhelming. If we’ve succeeded in healing such instances at the personal or local level, it becomes easier to look for and find God’s guiding presence, leading everyone to harmony in conditions that seem more complex.
Each success, however seemingly small, is important because each one represents a thread in the larger fabric of peace that we are all individually weaving in our thoughts and lives. And if we pray diligently tomorrow, and for many more tomorrows, the fabric of peace will grow out from our lives to embrace all humanity.