Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
This is one of the world's most known and beloved prayers. It is attributed to the medieval saint Francis of Assisi, although there is no known manuscript from Francis himself, and it didn't appear in modern times until 1912 (a copy written in French). However, let me say right from the start that its exact origin makes no difference to me. This prayer so captures the spirit of that wonderful leader and servant Francis, and more importantly, it is a prayer that can be uttered by any human being regardless of creed or affiliation.
The prayer first appeared in English translation following the carnage of the First World War and was published by a Quaker printing house. At that awful moment in history, there was such a need for an expression of longing for peace and of a commitment of the human soul to reconciliation and renewal. How appropriate that it was one of the great peace traditions of religion, the Quaker/Friends community, that shared it so broadly in English.
Yes, it was so important at that moment in the early 20th century that this expression and prayer of peace and wholeness be prayed, and it is so important at this moment in the early 21st century that this expression and prayer of peace and wholeness be offered. There is still carnage. There is still war. There is still frightening and full violence among nations, in nations, in communities, and in the human heart. We still receive news of violent death from far away and, so very recently, from our own neighboring Connecticut community.
There are many things we need to do in response to the violence unleashed in our world. We need to work for peace and hold our leaders accountable for ending war. We need to turn around our trigger-happy culture through responsible gun legislation. We need to care for people who are deeply troubled and suffer mental illness, instead of isolating and neglecting them. And... we need to look to our own heart and souls and PRAY diligently, ardently, and sincerely.
In our religious traditions, we are called to pray for peace in the world, a peace that comes from God. And we are to go a step further. We are to pray for peace in our souls and in our hearts. We are to work on the anger that is in us, asking God to transform that into peace, charity, generosity, and love. That's what the Prayer of St. Francis does for me every time I pray it. I ask God to make ME an instrument of peace. I ask God to make US (for me that means my family, friends, community, and fellow people of faith) instruments of peace.
And then... then... if my life is changed to love, pardon, union, faith, hope, light, and joy, then there is some hope for me and my life in the world. If I can become an instrument of consolation, understanding, giving, pardon, and life, then my witness and contribution to the world will be greater. If God creates these things in me, then I can share them with those around me.
We need this prayer and this sentiment in 2013, just as in 1913, just as in 1313. It can change us and make for a better world. "Lord, make us instruments of your peace."
Try praying it today.