2 Thessalonians 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.
In his second letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul ends his letter with the benediction and prayer above, sending peace “at all times and in all ways.”
I am so envious of that kind of peace. It reminds me of the Hebrew word shalom. Although shalom is often translated as “peace,” the term can also refer to completeness and well-being. Shalom can be translated as wholeness, intactness, and/or prosperity. Shalom is a popular word throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
Similiarly, Paul often offers his readers “grace and peace” in his letters. Throughout the Bible, God seems to be pointing us toward a holistic vision of peace and wellness. Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant when He said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
In 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Paul seems to be equating holistic peace with God’s presence: the Lord give you peace at all times in all ways; the Lord be with you. And if that’s true, perhaps it really is God who breaks into my fear and anxiety with brief moments of peace and breath. When I remember to pause and breathe, perhaps I should give God thanks for God’s presence in my stress. Perhaps, too, I can offer God’s presence to others through my own simple, peaceful presence. And, perhaps, I need to think about God’s peace in an expansive way, like God’s shalom, entering every aspect of my life like water surrounds and invades a stone.
I’m a devout believer in breath prayers (counting slowly as you inhale and then exhale to a certain number). I love that as I count and pray through my breath, I can feel whole sections of my body relax until, eventually, I’ve found a new centeredness and grounding (only then can I really manage to pray successfully with words).
I like to imagine whole areas of my life and concerns relaxing along with my body. I breathe in and out, counting, and I feel my shoulders come down, as well as my fears about money. I continue to count and feel my legs relax along with my anger at hurting relationships. I count further and feel my hands soften as I let go of all the things I meant to do today but failed to finish.
This Lent, I’m trying to pray more frequently with my breath, and connect my breathing with my concerns and celebrations. I hope you’ll breathe, count, and pray with me.
May God give you peace in grace-filled, full-life-flooding ways. May God be especially near to you.
Here’s a prayer for today: Try praying with your breath. Start by slowly breathing in and out while counting to 5. See if you can go to 7 or 8 counts with your breath. Notice what concerns and celebrations come to you as you center yourself with your breath.