This article is part of the How to Pray series.
A Promised Peace
Anxiety and fear are powerful emotions. So much so that when we are anxious or afraid, our inner turmoil can make it difficult to think clearly. When we are hurting or confused, the tendency of our fallen hearts and minds is to convince us that our situation is hopeless. In John 14:27 Jesus tells us:
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.
The Bible promises that in Jesus, we have peace. But when our circumstances and our emotions threaten us with despair, it doesn’t always feel like that is the case. When our thoughts are clouded and our hearts are broken, where do we even begin in terms of prayer? It can be difficult to talk to God about our experience in an appropriate way, or to know that he is listening to our prayer with compassion and mercy. To put it more practically, How do we lay hold of the peace that the Bible says is ours in Jesus?
God Stands Ready to Answer
Second Chronicles 20 records a prayer uttered to God by Jehoshaphat, a king of Judah. Jehoshaphat is understandably terrified because he has just been warned that a powerful army is advancing against his people. The king turns to the Lord for help, and he ends his brief prayer with this confession:
We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. (2 Chron. 20:12)
Jehoshaphat recognized his utter dependence on the Lord, and all he knew to do or say in that moment was, “Please help!” God honored Jehoshaphat’s humble prayer for deliverance, and he stands ready to answer ours as well.
Our prayers—whether for peace or for anything else—do not need to be long and beautifully articulated. In fact, Jesus warns us against thinking that God hears us because we sound like we have it together spiritually:
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Matt. 6:7)
We can get right to the point when we pray, because Jesus assures us that “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8). Not only that, but the Bible also promises us that it is the Holy Spirit who communicates with the Father on our behalf through our prayers:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Rom. 8:26)
God knows what we need even when we ourselves do not. We should never hesitate to come to him because we feel like we don’t know what to say.
Pray the Scriptures
If you are struggling to know where to begin to pray for peace, pray the words of Scripture back to God. Using the words of the Bible as the content of our prayers benefits us in a number of ways—especially when we are distressed and struggling to put our thoughts into words. Praying Scripture keeps our minds focused, and it guards against distraction. It also ensures that we are indeed praying for God’s “will [to] be done” (Matt. 6:10).
Where to Begin
As you turn to the Bible to guide your prayers for peace, a good place to start is Philippians 4:4–9.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Bring your requests before him, and ask that his peace will guard your heart and your mind, as he has promised that it will.
Don’t be afraid to admit to the Lord that you are struggling to “rejoice,” if that is the case. Ask him to help you do so. Bring your requests before him, and ask that his peace will guard your heart and your mind, as he has promised that it will. Pray that he will enable you to focus your attention of what is good and beautiful and worthy of praise. God is pleased when we recall his great promises to us, and he delights in fulfilling those promises.
Additional Verses to Guide Your Prayers for Peace
The concept of peace is so foundational to the gospel message that it would be impossible to list all the passages in the Bible that address the topic. While this list is far from comprehensive, here are a few passages to meditate on and to prayerfully bring before the Lord as you seek to experience his peace.
Psalm 4. In this passage, the psalmist cries out to God to come to his aid, while recalling the Lord’s great faithfulness to his people. If your mental, emotional, and even physical distress is making it difficult to sleep at night, meditating on Psalm 4:8, in particular, will help remind your mind and soul of God’s good and faithful care: In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Colossians 1:15–20. At times it can feel as though our entire world is unraveling. If you are in a season where nothing seems to be going well, where there is uncertainty and unrest at every turn, camp out in Colossians 1. Here we are promised that in Jesus “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Jesus is Creator as well as Sustainer. He will not allow the world to fall apart, even when there seems to be every indication that is what is happening. Pray this passage and ask the Lord to draw close to you, reminding you of his sovereign guidance and his providence over all that exists.
Lamentations 3:17–24. It is human, and entirely appropriate, to grieve when we suffer loss or when we are in immense pain, whether emotional or physical. Lamentations 3 helps us know how to do that in a wise and God-honoring way. The author of these verses does not mince words when he describes his agony—but he remembers and acknowledges the ever-renewing mercies of God, and he is thus comforted and given hope, even in the midst of his suffering.
Isaiah 26:3–4 and Psalm 119:65. These passages remind us of the peace that is ours when we fully trust God and obey his commands. There is such peace to be found when our thoughts are steadfastly focused on the Lord—but it is so easy to give our attention to our problems instead. Pray these verses as you ask the Lord to keep your mind focused firmly on him.
Romans 14:17–19, Ephesians 4:1–3, and Hebrews 12:14. In and through Jesus, we have peace with God. We are also to strive to have peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Because all of us still wrestle with our sin nature, conflict with one another is inevitable. It will happen—but God’s Word and his Spirit equip us to handle it when it does. If you need peace to replace anger or hurt in a relationship, ask for God’s help by praying these verses back to him.
2 Thessalonians 3:16. Is there a person in your life in desperate need of the Lord’s peace? If so, pray the benediction found in 2 Thessalonians 3:16 over and for them: Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.
The peace we have as believers in Jesus is sure and steadfast. We will experience this peace fully when Jesus returns, but even now it is available to us in remarkable measure. When the events of our lives leave us deeply and profoundly aware of our need for peace, may we be quick to turn to the Lord and to his word and make that need known. He is faithful, and he will not withhold his peace from us.
Erika Allen is the author of the ESV Prayer Journal: 30 Days on Peace.
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