July ’21: Prayer and Finding Peace
By Deacon Wi-Guan Lim
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
What is this peace that Jesus and the apostle Paul are talking about? Our Lord seems to make a distinction between the peace that He gives and the peace that the world gives. The Greek word translated as peace in the passages above is eirene (i-ray-nay), which in Biblical usage means “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is” (Blue Letter Bible). In contrast, the world’s peace can be described by this summary of dictionary.com’s definition: “nonwarring condition of nations; a state of mutual harmony between people or groups; freedom from civil commotion and violence of a community.”
Furthermore, Paul tells us that the opposite of peace is not the absence of war, violence or disharmony but rather that the opposite of peace is anxiety. Have you ever been gripped by anxiety so severe that you felt you could not function? What you need is God’s eirene, Biblical peace!
In his book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis describes a man who was so burdened by lust that he became essentially non-functional, he was controlled by his lust. This lust was portrayed as a lizard perched on the man’s shoulder that he could not get rid of, even though he wanted to. In the book, the only way he found release from this burden was for the angel of God to kill the lizard. Similarly, anxiety is like that lizard perched on our shoulders – we want to get rid of it but we can’t on our own. The only way we will experience release from our anxiety is for God to kill it, then we can experience eirene, Biblical peace!
So how do we find this eirene?
First, John 14:27 tells us it is something that is given to us by Jesus, it is pure grace. Perhaps you could take a moment to meditate on and thank God for all His blessings freely and graciously given to you. For sure, this includes every blessing found in Scripture. Sometimes, God graciously gifts us with situations and people that He brings into our lives that bless us too.
Secondly, Philippians 4:6-7 tells us that we can receive eirene by prayer and petition with thanksgiving. If we think of prayer as communion with God, then we are instructed by Paul to be constantly “practicing the Presence” of God (see the book The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, I highly recommend it).
Ultimately, it is God who gives us eirene as we live lives that are constantly in fellowship with and aware of Him. That is how we find eirene and kill the “lizard of anxiety.”