Prayer for Peace
The first time I prayed for peace, I was thirteen years old.
I don't know if I had ever prayed before. I had said prayers; I said the prayers my mom told me to say at dinner time and before I fell asleep at night. I closed my eyes in church and held hands with the people sitting next to me when the pastor told us to bow our heads—but I almost always peeked. I always found it strange how everyone in a church as big as ours, adults and grandparents and kids and the pastor and the assistant pastor, they all stood together holding hands with their eyes closed and talked to the air as if God was in it. But with just one eye open I could see that God never showed up to listen.
The truth was, I didn't really think God existed.
But when I was thirteen, an age I should have been thinking more about the boy I held hands with in third period than what was going to happen to me when I died, I woke up one night sweating and shaking, positive I was about to die. And I was terrified, because I didn't know what was going to happen to me when that happened.
So I closed my eyes, sure that I wasn't able to breathe, or stand, or shout for my parents, and I started praying. Probably something along the lines of, "God, please be real. Show me you're real."
That was all I wanted to know. I was okay with dying if everything I'd been taught about Him in my thirteen years of life turned out to be true.
To be honest, I don't know how I made it to my Bible that night. But I remember crawling from my bed to my bookshelf, opening up the front page and seeing that there was a verse written on the front page that my pastor had chosen for me as my confirmation verse. John 14:27.
"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid."
I'm not going to try and convince anyone that the peace that flooded through me after I read that verse was God. But from that night on, I closed my eyes when I prayed.
I don't remember waking up in a panic again until I was 21.
There were other times I doubted God's existence. Other times when I was stressed, or scared, or just nervous. There were other times I might have said I felt panicked—but then I turned 21, and I graduated from college, and I watched my life break into pieces too fine for me to catch and piece back together.
A complete loss of control.
That's what it feels like. No control over your body, over your mind. If a hell were created just for me, I would be living in endless panic. I just lay still, like I'm in shock, feeling unable to breathe. Sure I'm about to die. It's a fear so paralyzing you're sure there must be a reason for it, even when you can't find one.
I've prayed for peace a lot during my life, but never so much as I did in 2015. I prayed daily that I wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night like I did back when I was thirteen.
"I know you're there," I yell at Him. "So why does this keep happening?"
It happens on nights when I'm home alone or when my parents are in the next room. When I have the bed to myself or my boyfriend is asleep next to me. On days I've gone on a run, and days when I've meditated; on days when I've watched TV all day and ate McDonald's for dinner; days when I never had to say a word to another person and days when I spent too many hours in meetings and on phone calls with people I'm trying to impress.
I can't find the running theme. I'm mad at Him for not giving me a solution.
I keep a little frame with a quote I came across in a stationery store on my bookshelf, where I can read it every morning. I had just moved to Santa Monica and was exploring Main Street when I it caught my eye; it was knocked off its shelf of a hundred other little framed quotes about wine and friendship and love. But this one had to be for me.
"peace. it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."
Maybe the point is that there is no running theme. Maybe God doesn't always want us to look for the solution to our misery in work, or friends, exercise or sleep. Maybe he wants us to just let Him into our hearts no matter if we are drowning or holding gold.
"Lord, please take control of my heart."
That is my prayer for peace.