The prayer is as old as the Christian Church, and one of its most ancient hymns as well. From the catacombs of first-century Rome to the high-rise apartments of twenty-first century urban life, believers have been imploring the Lord of peace to quiet the “noise without” and the “noise within” through the gift of heavenly peace.
We crave a sense of inner calm as we wrestle with the pressures of daily life: getting—and keeping—a job in difficult economic times; relationships that change and age, sometimes painfully; the feeling that we are “behind” in almost everything—in time, in work completed, in things done for the Lord. One hundred million times a day—or more—believers ask for the peace they do not have.
We pray for peace, hoping that this gift will somehow bring order and quiet to our lives. But the Bible reminds us that the peace of Jesus does not simply settle over our lives like the spring rain that refreshes the land. Peace is one of the greatest spiritual gifts, but as one of my friends likes to say, it is a “spatial” gift as well: it takes up room; it moves things aside; it displaces what was already there. The peace of Jesus does not simply cover up and mask the anxiety and conflict it comes to resolve. It moves them aside; it pushes them away, out of our lives. And it requires that we choose to make the necessary room by setting some things aside and embracing others.
I can increase my peace by doing certain things and avoiding others. If I turn down the media—the newspapers, radio, television, cell phones—I discover a blessed space in my life in which the peace of Christ may rule. If I silence my tongue when I am tempted to respond in anger or pride, the peace of Christ has new room in which to dwell. If I choose, by God’s grace, to mend broken relationships, I spend so much less time worrying about past pain and injury that I am suddenly freed to know God’s joy—and peace—in great abundance.
Next time you find yourself praying for peace in your life, allow the Holy Spirit to remind you of the space you can make in which this wonderful gift of Jesus can find a lasting home.