There are many ways to be a peacemaker and an activist for justice in the world. Not everyone can be on the frontlines doing the gritty work of trying to turn things around. Not everyone can be in contact with government decision-makers or march in demonstrations. But we can each make steps for inner and outer peace. We have a relative who reconciled with her family who had violated her in body, mind, and spirit. She made an arduous and painful journey of forgiveness. That, too, was peacemaking.
Jane E. Vennard is ordained to a special ministry of teaching and spiritual direction in the United Church of Christ. She is senior adjunct faculty of prayer and spirituality at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver and the author of Praying for Friends and Enemies, Praying with Body and Soul, and Be Still: Designing and Leading Contemplative Retreats. In this very timely and illuminating work, Vennard writes about the "quiet activism" of bringing peace and justice into being through praying for others and the world, praying with our actions, praying for renewal, praying to be transformed, and praying for discernment. As Richard Foster reminds us: "Praying for justice and peace is a prophetic act that calls us to stretch our arms out wide and embrace the whole world. In holy boldness we cover the earth with the grace and the mercy of God."
Vennard writes poignantly about the incalculable benefits of intercessory prayer. Keeping those who struggle for peace and justice in our hearts is an important contribution to the healing of our communities. She gives many illustrations of the value of praying for one's enemies, reminding us that in the Aramaic the word that is commonly translated as "enemy" can mean "someone with whom we are out of step." This opens up plenty of fresh possibilities for carrying our enemies to God in our prayers.
We were happy to see Zen teacher and peace activist Bernie Glassman's "bearing witness" given as an example of prayerful activism. He has lead retreats at conflicted places that are drenched with the suffering and pain of others. Those who participate in these events "go with empty hands and minds and hearts to simply be present with what is." Glassman calls this loving presence with no words, no actions, and no agenda.
Embracing the World: Praying for Peace and Justice by Jane E. Vennard is the kind of spiritual resource that is empowering. It demonstrates a variety of prayer practices that can help mend the shattered and battered world. These devotional activities open up fresh possibilities for us to incarnate peace and justice in the time and the place where we live and work. The book itself is a sign of hope in these troubled times.