Breathe a Small Prayer

As I began this series of articles, I was laboring under the burden of what should have been a blessing. Last year, as I approached my sixtieth birthday, I began having those soul-searching moments. Where had the time gone? What do I want to accomplish in the next few years? And a more sobering inquiry, How much time do I have left?

Wandering through this morass of thoughts, I began to wish for one thing — a clear vision of the opportunities around me. Surely, by knowing what was out there, I could arrive at a plan and enjoy a productive season.

Frighteningly, I was granted my wish. One by one, openings for learning, service, and relationship were being unmasked all around me. And I sat, bewildered and overwhelmed. It was during that time that, as an answer to my unfocused prayers for help, a new strategy emerged. In the face of some pretty big opportunities, I decided to narrow my attention to the small things.

Yet, even with that strategy, I realized that I would need help in dealing with the smallest of things. I needed discernment in choosing the small things to be done. I also needed protection from the thorns and the sharp edges that small things wield against their handlers.

2014-04-29 09.47.52So, I invited a higher power to the party. At first, my prayers were long and filled with detailed accounts of my challenges and the things on my to-do list. My prayer life became bewildering and overwhelming as a result.

In one of those marathon sessions, I paused, took a long breath, and slowly released it. At that instant, I felt at peace. Subconsciously, I petitioned for God’s presence and intervention for the moment. Nothing more. I just asked Him to show up.

It was then that I recognized what peacemakers have known from the beginning of time. God — your Higher Power — is right beside you and He is enough.

Grand visions and intricate plans have their place. But I’m convinced that God chooses to work through even the smallest of us as we achieve the smallest of things, create small spaces for people to come together, and constantly breathe the small prayers of peace. There is an abundance in the smallest of things.

Whatever is before you, breathe a small prayer.

Create a Small Space

In my last post, From the Smallest of Things, I asked you to consider taking on the big things around you without fear — like making peace in a world torn in conflict. Indeed, as I looked at my own shortcomings and wondered what I could ever achieve, I suggested that we all most be willing to do small things.

I believe the first step is learning to create a small space.

In 2007, our Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution hosted the first Residency Session for our graduate students. Over the course of a week in Dallas, we guided and encouraged our new peacemakers to trust their training and their life experiences. We provided opportunities for practice and linked theory to application. And we did not separate the role that our higher power has in bringing and sustaining peace.

On the last day of that session, we gathered our students into a beautiful room with windows that magnified the light of a bright summer day. This place had been designed and used as a church sanctuary. Shortly before that closing ceremony, I had been in that room alone. I was caught up in the idea that this was the perfect place for individuals in conflict to come together, to be joined by something greater than themselves, and to find a resolution that would mutually benefit all.

Yet, as the students and my colleagues made their way in and I saw each of them anew, I realized that the perfect place for peacemaking was anywhere that individuals could create a space — no matter how small — to allow each other room to work together with the other.

And I also discovered that a spiritual moment surfaces in that same place. Even the smallest of places can be blessed with the presence of a higher power — God, nature, a principled system. This presence brings weight to the occasion and, more often than not, the lubricant that allows people to move past their differences in quest of peace. In this space is introduced time for thought and consideration, time for conversation, and a time for building relationship.

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As I’ve thought more and more about this holy place, I’ve realized that every human has the capacity in her or his heart for such space. The worries and demands of our lives often crowd into this sacred territory, but it remains there . . . waiting for its ultimate purpose.

If you can create a small space in your heart and encourage others to do the same, peace will fill it. More importantly, peace will spill from it, spawning greater and greater possibilities.

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