Praying for Peace And It Does Not Come
- I’ve been a committed Christian for over 40 years.
- I’ve served in vocational ministry for over 30 years.
- I’ve earned a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry.
- I’ve preached over 1,000 sermons.
- I’ve memorized hundreds of Scriptures.
- I practice spiritual disciplines such as prayer, solitude, and fasting on a regular basis.
You’d think that with that spiritual pedigree, I should always experience God’s peace or at least when I lack it, should immediately regain it through prayer, quoting scripture, etc.
Not so in my experience.
One of my all time favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:6-7:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.”
That verse, as do many others, implies that when we feel anxious and lack peace, if we turn to the Lord, cast our anxiety on him, pray, and yield our wills to His, then emotional peace should readily follow.
When I’ve done these things, sometimes I have regained His peace. At other times I haven’t. Not only have these experiences perplexed me, but when I faced difficult times with our oldest daughter’s rebellion and chronic illness with our youngest daughter, no matter how hard I prayed and quoted scripture, peace would sometimes elude me.
When peace didn’t come, an accusing voice inside me would add to my misery by suggesting that something must be wrong with me.
Maybe I didn’t have enough faith (so I would try to muster more of it).
Perhaps unconfessed sin was in the way (so I’d confess any unknown sins that I may have somehow missed).
Possibly I didn’t pray correctly (so I’d reframe my prayers).
Mostly these techniques failed. So I soldiered on, figuring something was still wrong with me.
My neatly packed theology hit a brick wall. It was like when Neo in the movie The Matrix said, “Something was just not right, something was missing, something was lacking, something bothering me like a splinter in your mind.”
My spiritual coping strategies fell short. I don’t mean to imply that we reduce Christianity to pragmatism. We love and obey God simply because He is God and is worthy of our worship and allegiance. Even so, I finally allowed my honest questions to bubble to the surface.
Why, if I did the right things, did peace not come?
Then… I began to understand how our brain works.
I began reading about the brain and enrolled in a master’s program in neuroleadership (a process that applies neuroscience insights to leadership principles). I began to understand that our brain is not simply like a computer, but also like a pharmacy. It’s constantly releasing chemicals into our blood that profoundly affects emotions like peace, anger, fear, and anxiety.
I’m learning that I can be right with God in all respects, and yet not feel emotional peace in the current circumstance. What a relief to learn that lack of peace does not necessarily mean I’m messed up.
As a result of these new insights, I have begun to see how we can use this incredible gift from God, our brain, for healthy living and productive leadership.
Have you ever struggled with this issue? How are you dealing with it?
This week’s article is written by Charles Stone (www.charlesstone.com), author of the book, People Pleasing Pastors. Submitted by Russ Olmon, President of Ministry Advantage, and Deb Mertin, certified Ministry Advantage coach. For more on this and other helpful subjects, go to www.ministryadvantage.org.