Is The Prayer of St. Francis the Most Significant Verse Ever?

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy 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.

Oh, 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;

It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

Much has been written of these words in the nearly eight centuries since they were first published, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m covering new ground here. Still, even from a not-precisely-Christian point of view, there is undeniable gold herein.

Read it through a few times.   Read it from your personal perspective, irrespective of faith or religion. Read it and see, read it and feel…

The Beetles were right. All you need is Love. St. Francis knew it in the thirteenth century, and the truth is ALWAYS the truth.

I’d like to examine each line individually.

“Make me an instrument of Thy peace”

Not asking or praying for peace, but pleading to be peace.

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love”

To return love for hate is perhaps the most difficult thing a person can do. It’s also one of the most important. Being love means just that; hatred and anger simply aren’t in your wheelhouse of reactions. It is inevitable that we’ll all occasionally feel these things, but letting them control us is a choice. So is deciding not to.

“Where there is injury, pardon”

Simple forgiveness. Including (perhaps most importantly) forgiveness of self. Carrying bitterness and resentment colors your every action and decision. As we’ve all heard in pop culture lately, “let it go”.

“Where there is doubt, faith”

Faith means belief in oneself, belief in one’s God, belief in one’s very belief. Faith is KNOWING, not thinking. Faith is sowing faith (a.k.a. love) everywhere one travels, and most conspicuously in the face of doubt.

I feel it is important to note here that this very line, as well as many biblical quotes of similar context have been cited in countless mass “conversions”, also known as crusades and inquisitions. One can not sow faith with violence or force. And religion is not faith. Those differences may very well be the subject of a future essay.

“Where there is despair, hope”

It sounds easy, doesn’t it?   Of course, it’s more than “it’ll be okay”. to embody and communicate the hope even as we assuage the fear can be an herculean task.   Hence the prayer. As with each line, the goal is to truly be, not just bring, but to BE the blessing you wish to bestow.

“Where there is darkness, light”

How does one embody light?   How does one dispel another’s darkness?   You don’t. You join them in their darkness and demonstrate the light.   You show them how to be their own light. After all, the goal isn’t to be needed, it’s to end need.

“Where there is sadness, joy”

Sadness, mourning, and loss are inevitable and key ingredients in the human experience. To avoid them is false and harmful, but so is to let them rule you. Learn from your grief; hear what it has to teach you, then release it. Love its lesson, be true to your heart, and move on. This doesn’t diminish your loss or your love, rather it honors it and makes it more meaningful as you grow from it and learn to love even more deeply.

“Oh, 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;

It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”

This entire second stanza, deep and rich as it is, asks of God and us as well one simple thing, teaching us one vital lesson: We receive only by giving. Give freely and from the depths of your heart and you will be repaid both in this life and the next. Be love, and you will feel more love directed towards you than you can possibly prepare for. Surrender ego and see the universe open itself to you. Don’t ask to get, ask to do and to be.

Serve and be served.

What I take from this immortal and revered prayer is as simple as it is (to me at least) beautiful, and it has been said in every spiritual text of any weight in any language: Be the change you want to see. Bring joy and love to every encounter. It is the only true wealth and in only in sharing does it multiply, just as surely as in hoarding it diminishes. Take your bliss with you everywhere you go. Throw it to the wind and feel it grow within you. It is as inevitable as the dawn, and as unstoppable as the tide.

All you need,

Is love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s