By Hal Green
Of all those disciples who came after Jesus, none understood, lived and made peace better than Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). Born the son of a wealthy merchant in Assisi, Italy, St. Francis was as a youth a lover of pleasure and sport. He became a soldier and was captured and imprisoned. While in prison and weakened by serious illness, Francis’ religious conversion began. Once released, and during a worship service, Francis heard the Lord tell him to “rebuild my church.”
After abandoning his former life and realizing what the Lord was asking of him, Francis sought to establish a religious order to evangelize among the poor, to bring the joy and love of the Lord to those who needed it most — to the last, the least and the lost.
The great prayer attributed to him is ageless, just like the Gospel Francis sought to live all his days. Note: this man of slight frame and ill health was a layperson, whose great love for Jesus Christ affected his whole generation, from the pope to the poor. This prayer, surely among the most powerful and poignant of all time, continues to affect deeply all who pray it:
“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.”
This prayer reveals what peacemaking looks like in practice, what its elements are and what we must do to make it real, to live it fully, both within and without, peace with ourselves, with God and with others. The prayer begins with our being made instruments of peace. This happens through God’s work in Christ, who has secured our forgiveness, and peace with God through the cross. The way of peace begins with our reception of God’s unconditional offer of forgiveness, life and love through Christ. Peace received must become peace acted on, given to others — or it may be lost.
You can begin the peace process through seeking to live out this prayer, which really has no beginning or ending; rather, its message is self-repeating and timeless. The first stanza always brings me to silent stillness when I hear or read it: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. I open afresh to God and say, “Yes, Lord; please do so.”
(Hal Green, Ph.D., is author of “Pray This Way to Connect with God” (2022). A podcast version is on “Pray This Way. With Dr. Hal Green”)