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Praying for Peace in the Face of War: Resources for Worship

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he [God] utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

(Psalm 46:6-7, NRSV)

Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 6:12, NRSV)

Pursue peace with everyone. . . . See to it . . .that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble.
(Hebrews 12:14-15, NRSV)

Note: Below you will find orientation for planning services of worship and prayer for peace. There are listings of resources from United Methodist sources, specifically composed resources from Discipleship Ministries staff, digital media links, and numerous online sources. We welcome additional contributions and suggestions for making this page more helpful.

When Christians worship, we step into an alternative world. Liturgy and ritual, hymns and prayers invite us into another landscape. God calls us to give our attention to the divine presence. In the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we encounter a world hidden from our day-to-day perceptions. Jesus' words and the experience of his presence in word, song, art, and sacrament, peel back the rhetoric that pummels our eardrums and clutters our minds so that we are able to hear him say to us, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:27, NRSV)

United Methodists, along with other people of faith and prayer, are stewards of God's shalom. Regardless of our political leanings, we are to pray for peace. We may disagree about the ways to achieve peace, but together we are followers of the Prince of Peace.

Here are some planning helps and resources for you and your congregation to consider for worship.

Planning for Worship in the Face of War

Planning in your context will depend on a number of factors, including:

  1. The current headlines and news that your congregation and community are thinking about.
  2. Whether the service is focused solely on concerns about war and peace or is a regular Sunday service in which such prayers will be integrated.
  3. The congregational constellation: the mix of people's attitudes, political views, and convictions about peace and war, justice and love, how peace is achieved.
  4. The time of day and the size of the gathered community (a few, some, or many of the folk who usually gather).
  5. Whether the service will be that of one congregation, a cluster of churches from several denominations, or an interfaith service.
  6. The style of worship the congregation or gathering is used to: primarily oral, print, digital, or a combination of these.

Approaches:

  1. A simple, "Spirit-led" approach: One approach used at The Upper Room Chapel in January 2003 was to call the people together, read a passage of Scripture (such as Hebrews 12:14-15), and lead a brief prayer followed by an invitation for the people to pray, sing, or be silent as they are prompted. This works well if people are able to be silent and are used to praying aloud. Singing may be accompanied or not, although the support of a strong voice or pianist is a good thing. Remind people that they are welcome to read and pray hymns, prayers, and Psalms from the hymnal or pew Bible.
  2. A Service of Word and Table: One of the great needs of congregations caught up in the controversy over whether war is a right response or not is to know who they are. Holy Communion — the full service of Word and Table — brings Christians together around the person and work of Jesus Christ rather than focusing our reading of the current political tensions. This is not to say that worship is divorced from political realities. Being Christ's disciples is profoundly political because it shifts our attention to the Lord of creation and expands our vision from "my view, my fears, my country, my agenda" to God's will, God's reign (kingdom), God's forgiveness, God's power to lead us out of temptation. The Eucharist is the central Christian ritual that orders our lives to the will and work of the triune God.

    Use "A Service of Word and Table I" or "A Service of Word and Table II" in The United Methodist Hymnal, pages 6-11 and 12-15, respectively. The former is for use in congregations that are oriented to being guided by a printed text. The latter service is for congregations more oriented to being guided by announcement. For specific prayers and relevant acts of worship, see resources listed below from The United Methodist Book of Worship.

  3. An ecumenical or interfaith service: An ecumenical service is a service in which two or more Christian denominations plan and share worship together. An interfaith service is one in which different faith traditions, such as Christians, Jews, and Muslims gather to pray. Such services should be jointly planned and use prayers and practices of each of the participating groups in mutual respect. See the online resources below as well as making use of the worship books and prayer forms of each group.
  4. A series of daily services through a week or one or more days over a period of weeks: These services might be at a time convenient for people in the congregation or community — as people are going to work or during the lunch break in a city center or downtown setting. The services should be simple and brief, including psalms, Scripture readings with canticles, prayers, silence, and song. A simple meal following the time of worship will make such gatherings more inviting and will promote conversation and the building up of community.< ol>

    Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship:

    70-71, "The Great Thanksgiving for the Season after Pentecost"
    428, "Peace with Justice Sunday" resources
    475, General Confession
    492-494, Confession
    515-517, For the Nation
    520-521, For Peace
    526-527, For the World and Its Peoples
    542, For Those in Military Service
    546, For Those Who Suffer (general in nature, yet fitting)

    Hymns and songs in The United Methodist Hymnal

    433, "All Who Love and Serve Your City"
    426, "Behold a Broken World"
    188, "Christ Is the World's Light"
    450, "Creator of the Earth and Skies"
    327, "Crown Him With Many Crowns"
    376, "Dona Nobis Pacem"
    428, "For the Healing of the Nations"
    178, "Hope of the World"
    218, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear"
    580, "Lead On, O King Eternal"
    440, "Let There Be Light"
    431, "Let There Be Peace on Earth"
    159, "Lift High the Cross"
    556, "Litany for Christian Unity"
    211, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"
    730, "O Day of God, Draw Nigh"
    729, "O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines"
    435, "O God of Every Nation"
    449, "Our Earth We Now Lament to See"
    437, "This Is My Song"
    533, "We Shall Overcome"
    439, "We Utter Our Cry"
    442, "Weary of All Trumpeting"

    Hymns and Songs in The Faith We Sing

    2190, "Bring Forth the Kingdom"
    2232, "Come Now, O Prince of Peace" ("O-So-So")
    2185, "For One Great Peace"
    2156, "Give Peace" (very simple Taizé piece; works well as a refrain in a litany)
    2170, "God Made from One Blood"
    2171, "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" (St. Francis)
    2194, "O Freedom" (African American spiritual)
    2184, "Sent Out in Jesus' Name" ("Enviado Soy de Dios")
    2183, "Unsettled World"

    Hymns and songs in Songs of Zion (Abingdon, 1982)

    138, "Study War No More"
    118, "Changed Mah Name" (especially stanza 3, but sing the whole song)

    Specially composed prayers:

    For Peace for Those Intoxicated with War

    God of peace;
    God of shalom;
    God of salaam:
    Save us from intoxication with war.
    Turn down the media's frenzy and
    unquestioning assumption that war will come.
    Pull all peoples back from unstable international policy.
    Deliver the nations from going out of control as the solution to conflict.
    Bring us to sobriety of spirit.
    Turn our hearts to peacemaking.
    Give wisdom and light to our leaders as they choose the way to peace,
    in the name of Jesus. Amen.

    Daniel Benedict
    February 1, 2003


    A Prayer for Protection of Those in Military Service

    God of Love and Compassion,

    We have come to ask for your protection for those who are being sent to faraway places to prepare for our defense. Before this season of unrest, we had grown comfortable with thinking of them only as they relate to us — as our parents and spouses, our sons and daughters, our neighbors and friends. We look forward to a day when no community will ever be asked to release its loved ones for purposes of war. But today, Lord, history and circumstances force us to release them into your care and into our country's service. We pray for their safe return; and not only for theirs, but for the safe return of others who are being sent from communities, so much like ours, in other parts of the world. As they face the myriad challenges and decisions that each day is destined to bring, may they be anchored by their faith, protected by your presence, and comforted by the knowledge that they are loved by you and by this community.

    We bless them in your name, and look forward to their safe return, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Safiyah Fosua
    January 31, 2003


    A Prayer for Armed Forces Personnel and their Families

    Dear Lord,

    Many of the families of those who enlisted in our armed services in peace time...
    Never expected this nation to face a military threat
    Never imagined that as reserves, their loved ones would be called
    to active duty
    Never suspected that war might be declared on their watch

    Many of the men and women who enlisted in our armed services in peace time...
    Have never faced real danger
    Have never been in life or death situations
    Have never been in a war

    No one is...
    Fully prepared for war
    Fully prepared to take another person's life
    Fully prepared to face an untimely death

    As unprepared as we all are for the unthinkable
    We turn to You
    And entrust into Your hands the lives and hearts of our loved ones
    And ask You to comfort our loved ones and us
    in the midst of situations that we cannot control
    And ask that You place an assurance in the souls of our
    loved ones
    that we are continually remembering them in ways that matter
    through our sincerest prayers and our abiding love

    While our loved ones live on the edge...
    Remove from us in this country the luxury of escape into our
    numb routine
    Give us no rest until we express a sober vigilance
    That compels us to pray without ceasing...
    For our leaders whose decisions today
    will impact the future of our children and grandchildren

    Allow us to feel Your love and sorrow, joy and anger at the
    actions of humanity
    In hopes that the next generation
    Will not have to pray
    A wartime prayer
    For their loved ones

    Kwasi Kena

    Copyright © 2003 General Commission on United Methodist Men. Please note this copyright when using the prayer.

    Digital Media Resources:

    • The Text This Week has a wonderful and growing "movie concordance" that can help you locate films for clips to use during services of prayer for peace. Go to www.textweek.com/movies/themeindex.htm. Check out themes of "Peace," "Rationalizing Sin/Evil," and "War and the Effects of War" among others.
    • Lumicon Digital Productions provides the mPower Pack weekly worship media subscription resource. The mPower Pack is an integrated weekly worship media resource designed from the ground up, based on the Bible and rooted in the postmodern culture. The Lumicon mPower Pack is a searchable library that provides a range of resources for music, preaching, drama, and visual ideas to finished graphic, animation, and video productions. Browse the search bank as a subscriber or a guest. For helps with tthe subjects of peace and war, go to the Lumicon website, click on "Resources," and sign up as a guest or a user in the lower right-hand corner of the sign-on screen. Once in, go to the search box, select "Key Words," and type in "War" or "Peace."


    Online Resources — A Small Sampling

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