My favorite prayers... 3 of 3

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;


O divine Master,grant that I 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.
Amen.


This prayer is the measure of a man (or woman).  It is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which is always fun to say and giggle...  So often our prayers focus on ourselves.  Sure, we offer them to God.  But they are about our problems or our lives or our friends/family/world.  A great prayer has a way of pulling your focus from yourself to God.  Sometimes Christians I talk to feel selfish to pray for themselves.  Sometimes Christians I talk to feel the whole point of prayer is to get God to do things in your life.


There is a beautiful paradox in reclaiming the ungodly for God's purposes.  I can't say that I fully understand what this prayer asks for but I appreciate the black and white no-nonsense division between the holy and the profane.  It plays a trick on you.  First you start asking for a difference in your life.  Then you say, "hey, yeah, I can do that.  Now I can help my neighbor." and then, BOOM - you are praying for death.  Not a self-destructive death, but the kind of end that brings a new beginning.  You can't have a resurrection without someone/thing dying.  And it's a good thing.  So, care to pull this prayer apart with me?


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

This part is plenty self explanatory.  In a world packed full of hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness, and sadness we need God's love, pardon (forgiveness), faith, hope, light, and joy.  But the prayer calls first and foremost for God's peace.  Peace?  Really?  I thought peace was a promise of a cessation of movement (chaos)?  I thought it was a promise of a lack of conflict (comfort)?

The obvious answer is God's peace is not like any peace you've experienced.  God gives - not as the world gives.  Our path to godly living begins by not hoarding God's blessings - but by being an active participant in meting out those blessings.  God's peace is a direct response to these evils that destroy our lives.  And God's peace has no room for apathy.  We become godly this way.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;

What are you seeking in your prayer?  Let's say your dog passes.  You call a loved one and you talk to them.  What are we wanting?  To be consoled, to be understood, and to be loved.  These are the deepest desires of our hearts.  These things make us human.  Don't believe me?  The great lure of money (and all forms of power) is that it will either negate the need for these *or* provide them.

We spend our lives looking for someone who comforts us.  You know how hard it is to be understood?  Corporate customer service thrives on not *doing* anything, it thrives on making sure the customer/client feels *understood* in their concern.  As a pastor, one of the coolest things I can do for someone is to understand where they are.  We all want to be loved.  It is, after all, God's greatest gift.

And yet, this prayer requests God to change our hearts to want these things for others.  Not ourselves.  What a bummer.  No wonder no one understands Jesus.

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.
Amen.




Now we discover why and how these transformations happen.  It cuts to the heart because this is why we pray.  We pray to receive - we pray to be forgiven - we pray for new life.  The prayer paradoxically acknowledges that you cannot receive God's grace, you cannot be forgiven, and you cannot taste and see that the Lord is good without letting go.


Well, to say it right, God's grace, forgiveness, and life is always available and nothing can separate us from that love but those things we hold on to so tightly (good or bad) are no comparison to God's riches.


So let go.  Be born to eternal life.


By the way, the second prayer (2 of 3) is here.