Waging Preemptive Peace.

This past weekend Susan Russell heard word that her son Jamie, serving in Iraq, was OK and not killed or wounded in a helicopter crash that killed 13 US Service personnel. Many of us who visit her blog or read her mail on various lists were worried with her. So the news was good indeed.

But I got to thinking. Somehow the balance is wrong: we pray for the safety of one knowing that that means someone else’s son is dead. It is as if saying yes to Jim is saying no to someone else, someone unnamed, unknown. Such prayer plays havoc with any hope of praying for the good.

The question is how to pray for both Jim and everyone else. That prayer for everyone, Jim included, only makes sense before the bad news comes of this or that attack or disaster. If the prayer of petition is not at the same time a prayer for this rather than that person to be counted among the dead, it has to become a prayer for prevention. Then it can also be a prayer that has active implications.

I rejoice with Susan for Jim’s safety and I stand on the line every Sunday I can, here in Lewes, in a silent vigil for all those who have died in this war.

Another sort of prayer, preventative prayer, gives voice to my wish that I not have to choose in the moment between the son of a friend and the son of someone I don’t know. So today, Saturday, in spite of not wanting to stand around in the cold, Kathryn and I, along with friends from the Lewes Silent Vigil, joined a whole lot of people in Washington in a preventative prayer for all whose lives are in harms way because of this war.

As an active prayer it was only an opening prayer. The real preventative prayer is what we might think of as waging preemptive peace. A lot of the signs today said, “Stop the Surge.” But in the middle of the crowd there were those who cried, “Surge for Peace.” There were quite a lot of us, and the surge will be felt more and more as this war drags on.

A thought: The Heavenly Hosts, the crowd of voices sounding like wings beating, that surround the One who is our Peace, can be imitated by regular paid up folk who wage preemptive peace, who surge forward. And when we do so, it is, among other things, to voce the cry that we will not be content to choose between the child of a friend and the children of all.

Be well, Jim and mother Susan. God protect you. And God help us all.


  1. Thank you, Poet Mark. Indeed, every prayer of thanksgiving for good news received by those of us who wait and watch each night is balanced by a prayer for those who weep -- for those who did NOT receive the longed for email or phone call -- and for the countless Iraqi citizens whose are in jeopardy each and every day as this insanity continues to unfold.

    Bless all who were in vigil and protest yesterday -- may our prayers rise like incense and, like the persistent widow, may our protests finally bring justice.

  2. Mark, thank you for being there in D.C., sharing your prayers and bearing the cold.


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