How to Pray for Peace When You Can’t Find the Words

Like Jacob wrestling with God (Genesis 32:22-32), I sometimes find myself struggling to pray–struggling against doubt, struggling against inertia, struggling for the right words when all the words I know seem hopelessly inadequate. I’ve wondered how to pray for the Syrian refugee crisis when you can’t find the words and how can I pray about this really horrible day? This week I’ve been thinking about how to pray for peace, and once again I’m having trouble with the words.

That makes me doubly glad that prayer is more than talking to God. Prayer is also listening, contemplation, singing, sighing, crying, silence, reading Scripture, and learning to pray from the prayers of others. That means when I have trouble finding the right words to pray, I don’t have to stop praying. And neither do you.

Below are some of the resources that are helping me pray for peace this week. All Scripture quotations come from the New Revised Standard Version, and you can click on the reference to see the chapter context. For the prayer excerpts, click on the link provided to see the entire prayer.

Won’t you please join me in praying for peace?

Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Philippians 4:6-7

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.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Romans 15:5-6

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:33

The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.


Remembrance Day Prayer – Carol Penner

Remember with clear eyes the horrific cost of war.
Remember with deep sorrow those who killed and were killed.
Remember with grief the blood-stained battlefields.
Remember with tears the rending of people from their homes.
Remember with compassion the bereaved and the wounded.
Remember with reverence those who risked their lives for peace.
. . . .
Remember with confidence that faith, hope and love abide.
Remember with joy that our Saviour is the Prince of Peace.


We Cry (a prayer of lament) – Andrew Suderman,
Mennonite World Conference Peace Commission

We cry because of the powerlessness and helplessness we feel because we see the suffering of others.
We cry because we know this is not the way God wants us to treat each other.
We cry because we know that this is not the dream God has for the world.
We cry because we do not know what else to do.


A Prayer for Peace – Jack Knox, pastor of Salem (Oregon) Mennonite Church

Walk with us, Lord, as we answer your call to be peacemakers.
Increase our compassion, our generosity and our hospitality for the least of your children.
Give us the courage, the patience, the serenity, the self-honesty
and the gentleness of spirit that are needed in a world filled with turmoil and terror.  Amen.


A Prayer of Confession – MCC Peace Sunday Packet 2015

Give us the wisdom to examine our privileges and to use them for justice.
Grant us courage to reach beyond our fears and trust that our lives are in your care.
Many times we benefit from systems that oppress others, often in ways we do not know.
Show us, Lord, how to create economies and communities that heal violence and alienation.
We confess all of this to you, O Lord. We place ourselves in your hands and in your mercy.


Peace Litany – Archdiocese of Dublin

When peace is fragile, stay with us, Lord.
When tempers are raised, stay with us, Lord.
When atrocities occur, stay with us, Lord.
When forgiveness is rejected, stay with us, Lord.
When talks break down, stay with us, Lord.
When agreements are broken, stay with us, Lord.
. . . .
When hope seems faint, stay with us, Lord.
When we are weak, stay with us, Lord.
When faith seems difficult, stay with us, Lord.


No Taking Sides Prayer – Carol Penner

God of our side, and God of our enemies’ side,
you are the God of no sides at all.
You call us to a new place,
to step with faith outside this world of taking sides.
You lead us to an inside out world,
an upside down kingdom,
where our enemy is our brother,
where our foe can be our fondest friend.


Litany for Peace – Mennonite World Conference Peace Commission

Reader: Our good God, God the giver of life, Maker of heaven and the earth and everything around us.
All: Lord, we pray for your peace
Reader: We give you this troubled world, full of injustice, inequality and violence.
All: Lord, we pray for your peace


A Prayer for Peace – Rev. Mindi

May we always, always, always
pray for the day
when nation shall not lift up sword against nation
when we shall learn war no more.

May we do more than pray
May we live into this hope by teaching ourselves and our children
How to live in peace with one another
How to build peace between one another
How to teach peace to others
How to live Your peace in our world.



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9 thoughts on “How to Pray for Peace When You Can’t Find the Words

  1. Thank you so much for these references, April! I’ve bookmarked and saved this post for easy reference. With the craziness of life (globally as well as personally), I know I’ll visit it frequently.

    1. I’m glad to share these helpful resources, Sharon. I’ve noticed the craziness too, which means a crazy need for prayer! I’m glad to have your company online and in the community of prayer.

  2. Thank you for sharing these. I think I’m going to start incorporating these into our family meal-time prayers. I am frustrated sometimes at how to teach my boys to pray and live for peace when we are surrounded by things that work against it.

    1. I LOVE your idea of incorporating prayers for peace with meal-tme prayers. I find that meal-time prayers are often focused more immediately as table grace for the food and conversation, but what a great opportunity to pray more broadly and regularly for peace. I hope it will be a good family learning time too. Thanks for sharing a great idea!

    1. Hi Laurie – when my husband was in seminary in Indiana, we always celebrated two Thanksgiving Days–our usual Canadian Thanksgiving in October, plus the U.S. Thanksgiving in November. I still think of these days between the two as a Thanksgiving sandwich full of gratitude 🙂 Thanks for your comment, and may this time continue to be enriched with sacred pauses for you.

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