The Peace of God

There are many ways of praying and thinking about prayer. A common one is to consider prayer a kind of conversation with God. This conversation can take any shape and last for any amount of time. Sometimes when we’re very intimate with someone a single word is all we need in order to be understood. Sometimes a gesture, a facial expression, or a change in posture will do.

St. Paul offered the lightest description of prayer, yet it still suggests a form that prayer should take for followers of Christ.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry 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. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Paul suggests that prayer should start with rejoicing, be conducted in a spirit of gentleness, should be honest about what we need from God, and should be thankful for what we already have. That’s our part of the conversation. Paul also points to his experience of God’s part of the conversation. We speak, and God responds with peace. Paul doesn’t say that we will be given the exact thing that we ask for. But we will be given a sense of peace that is so profound that we are no longer fidgety with need or distraught with wanting. In a way, our articulating our wants and desires serves a different purpose than simply having them fulfilled. By speaking them to God, we can see them for what they are. Once exposed, they sometimes seem ridiculous, or embarrassing, or inconsequential. They float away, or we decide against them, because we are filled with a sense of peace that puts them in their proper perspective. Or we realize how important they are to us, and choose to pursue them with more intent, and perhaps in a different way. 

The poet Kelly Belmonte offers a beautiful meditation on this simplest form of Christian prayer. Both her part in the conversation and God’s part are sometimes beyond words, are emotive and about perceiving, and are tangled up in ordinary life. God doesn’t meet her on mountaintops or in Damascus moments. Her prayer isn’t reserved for dramatic, or even conventional, moments. It is simply prayer, a talking with God. It is a door into the divine reality, and she brings a sense of awareness and peace back with her from her sojourn through that door.

How I talk to God

by Kelly Belmonte

Coffee in one hand
leaning in to share, listen:
How I talk to God.

“Momma, you’re special.”
Three-year-old touches my cheek.
How God talks to me.

While driving I make
lists: done, do, hope, love, hate, try.
How I talk to God.

Above the highway
hawk: high, alone, free, focused.
How God talks to me.

Rash, impetuous
chatter, followed by silence:
How I talk to God.

First, second, third, fourth
chance to hear, then another:
How God talks to me.

Fetal position
under flannel sheets, weeping
How I talk to God.

Moonlight on pillow
tending to my open wounds
How God talks to me.

Pulling from my heap
of words, the ones that mean yes:
How I talk to God.

Infinite connects
with finite, without words:
How God talks to me.

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