A fierce contender for my all-time favorite prayer is one that’s frequently attributed to the 13th century friar St. Francis of Assisi. According to Wikipedia, there is no record of the prayer prior to 1912. So it’s certainly not Francis’ actual prayer, but its power has resonated for a century regardless of who may have penned the words:
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;
and 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.
I recently wrote a song based on this prayer which I hope to share in video form before too long.
What draws me to this prayer is how it frames the Christian identity in terms of function. Being a Christian involves:
- First accepting your identity (that you are loved by God, saved by the blood of Christ, imbued with the Spirit, and welcomed as a family member into the fellowship of the Holy Trinity), and
- Second, engaging your functionality. A “child of God” and “disciple of Christ” is both something you are and something you do. God recruits us into his grand project of reconciling the fallen universe to himself (2 Cor. 5:17-21). We join the Lord in reclaiming creation and transmogrifying the world of frustration back into a garden of paradise.
My highest calling then is to be an instrument. No, not this kind of instrument:
By “instrument,” the author of this prayer means a “tool.” A useful implement. Being a tool in God’s hand is a more meaningful avocation than anything I could ever conceive for myself. Keep in mind that every tool in a toolbox is different, and serves a different function. God will use me in unique ways to do things others cannot, and I ought not judge myself against other, different, tools.
If I am a tool, then what is God’s project? The prayer says I am an instrument of his peace. Peace (shalom) is a key biblical concept. God’s endgame is to brush away the animosity and anxiety, suffering and dysfunction from the world, in order to bring his beloved people into an existence characterized by wholeness and rewarding relationships.
Peace. That is what we’re working toward. Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers. They are the sons and daughters of God. They are the ones who are fulfilling their function. Does your life bring more wholeness, more shalom to the world?
I encourage you to pray this prayer often. May it transform you. “Make me an instrument of your peace” has become a mantra I whisper to God as I walk around the city on my work breaks.
Oh, Lord, let me comfort. Oh, Lord, let me understand. Let me pardon. Let me die to my ego. Let me love.