“The following prayer, known as the Prayer of St Francis, is a perfect one to pray when you are seeking to live in peace and joy. As Christians, Jesus tells us to “let our light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:6) The prayer of St Francis reminds us just how we can do that! This is such an encouraging and uplifting prayer that teaches us how we can live like Jesus Christ and serve those around us, putting others’ needs first.” (Online article: Crosswalk.com.)
The Prayer of St. Francis
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.
If we understand the biblical word for “peace”—“shalom” in the Hebrew, it will help us grasp the full significance of this famous prayer, written by that rich son turned mendicant troubadour of Jesus and all nature, and founder of the Franciscan Order for followers of Our Lord, some 900 years ago.
Shalom means much more than the absence of hostility between family members, neighbors, and nations. It means order, care for one another, and justice—the major theme of the biblical prophets, involving things like caring for the orphan, the widow and the homeless, the “stranger at your gate.” It is seen supremely in the one who suffered the most insane, vicious hostility in the world in order to bring shalom to all nations, to everyone. (See also James 1: 27.)
The common idea about peace would be likened to siblings in a household who neither speak to each other or use “bad words” on each other, and say they are at peace, but there’s no love shown between them. Or two neighbors, of different ethnic or religious backgrounds, who just leave each other alone.
“Shalom” would be these same neighbors all out together, with others in their neighborhood, maybe Catholics, Baptists, “Born Againers” and Mormons and agnostics, all enjoying a barbecue together, and then working together to upgrade their neighborhoods, especially in terms of security. Some of my fondest memories of back in California go back to when we gathered everyone in the neighborhood for such barbecue parties, and were visited by a firetruck and a policeman who helped us set up a “Neighborhood Watch” program. We pledged to keep watch on each other’s homes, especially when they were gone. Strangely, perhaps, I sensed the peace of God, then, as much or more than when I was in church!
Christianity is both personal and communal. A personal experience with the crucified and risen Christ is the key—not just going to church and taking communion—. But it is also communal; you are the body of Christ, says St. Paul. In Acts, the Holy Spirit spoke to and guided individuals (see Acts 9, the conversion of Saul to Paul), but also to the church—“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us. . .” (Acts 15: 28).
Indeed, we all have a calling—not just to go to heaven some day, but to be instruments of thy peace. Jesus said we are to be “salt” and “light” in the world. In other words, leaders in the causes of righteousness and love and justice.
Ex-President Jimmy Carter experienced this “shalom” when he successfully got Anwar Sadat from Egypt and Menachem Begin from Israel—after tremendous difficulties—to negotiate a lasting peace settlement between the two countries back in the 70’s. It was called The Camp David Accords. When the announcement was made, Carter, a devout Baptist, quoted the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
Look around you, or towards the life in front of you. How can you make a difference for the Kingdom of Heaven—which He tells us to seek first, above all else—which is Shalom? For instance, in terms of human relationships, do we ever try to “seek first to understand, rather than to be understood”? “To love, more than to be loved?”
“He is our peace”, says St. Paul. There is a peace that passes all understanding, beyond that which the world cannot give. So let not your hearts be troubled, says Jesus. Isn’t this just a bit of what He means when he says “You believe in God; believe also in me”? Indeed, faith matters.
If you do not have it, you can ask God for it, and experience forgiveness of sins, those things on our conscience which so quickly destroys peace. Plus find the blessings of the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, self-control, etc. (Gal. 5:22) And even His guidance (Romans 8:14)
He, the good shepherd, leads us in paths of righteousness for his name sake. (Psalm 1). This Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep, and thus proves He can be trusted to save us from our sins, our fears, our lovelessness, and so lead us that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.