I just finished Passion for Peace, a collection of articles written by Thomas Merton and I wanted to share this prayer with you. It was written by Merton and read in the House of Representatives in the height of the Cold War. I think that it has a lot to say to our own time as well.
Prayer for Peace
Almighty and merciful God, Father of all men, Creator and ruler of the universe, Lord of all history, whose designs are without blemish, whose compassion for the errors of men is inexhaustible, in your will is our peace.
Mercifully hear this prayer which rises to you from the tumult and desperation of a world in which you are forgotten, in which your name is not invoked, your laws are derided and your presence is ignored. Because we do not know you, we have no peace.
From the heart of an eternal silence, you have watched the rise of empires and have seen the smoke of their downfall. You have seen Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Rome, once powerful, carried away like sand in the wind. You have witnessed the impious fury of ten thousand fratricidal wars, in which great powers have torn whole continents to shreds in the name of peace and justice.
And now our nation itself stands in imminent danger of a war the like of which has never been seen! This nation dedicated to freedom, not to power, has obtained, through freedom, a power it did not desire. And seeking by that power to defend its freedom, it is enslaved by the processes and policies of power. Must we wage a war we do not desire, a war that can do no good, and which our very hatred of war forces us to prepare?
A day of ominous decision has now dawned on this free nation. Armed with a titanic weapon, and convinced of our own right, we face a powerful adversary, armed with the same weapon, equally convinced he is right. In this moment of destiny, this moment we never foresaw, we cannot afford to fail. Our choice of peace or war may decide our judgment and publish it in the eternal record. In this fatal moment of choice in which we might begin the patient architecture of peace. We may also take the last step across the rim of chaos.
Save us then from our obsessions! Open our eyes, dissipate our confusions, teach us to understand ourselves and our adversary. Let us never forget that sins against the law of love are punishable by loss of faith, and those without faith stop at no crime to achieve their ends!
Help us to be masters of the weapons that threaten to master us. Help us to use our science for peace and plenty, not for war and destruction. Show us how to use atomic power to bless our children's children, not to blight them. Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries in all that we most hate, confirming them in their hatred and suspicion of us. Resolve our inner contradictions, which now grow beyond belief and beyond bearing. They are at once a torment and a blessing: for if you had not left us the light of conscience, we would not have to endure them. Teach us to be long-suffering in anguish and insecurity. Teach us to wait and trust.
Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace, to this Congress, our President, our military forces, and our adversaries. Grant us prudence in proportion to our power, wisdom in proportion to our science, humaneness in proportion to our wealth and might. And bless our earnest will to help all races and peoples to travel, in friendship with us, along the road to justice, liberty, and lasting peace; But grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily your ways, that we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of your designs and that the very storm of power now raging on this earth reveals your hidden will and your inscrutable decision.
Grant us to see your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm, O God of holiness, merciful to men. Grant us to seek peace where it is truly found. In your will, O God, is our peace.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)