When you don’t know what to pray, here’s a useful prayer.
You know how when you’re praying in a group, and the prayer leader says something really profound which you wholly agree with, and you can definitely say amen to that? Rote prayers are the same way. Some of them just nail it: It’s exactly what you wanna tell God. So go ahead and borrow their words. They don’t mind. God doesn’t either.
One of the more popular rote prayers floating around out there is “the peace prayer of St. Francis.” Which, let’s be honest, was never written by Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone of Assisi (1181-1226), the Catholic layman-evangelist who founded the Franciscan order. True, those of us who know about Francis’s life can certainly imagine him saying stuff like this, but just like a whole lot of popular internet quotes, ’twasn’t him. The Italians call this la preghiera semplice/“the simple prayer.” I don’t find it all that simple, but it’s a good one to pray.
I prefer translating these things myself, so I took this from the original French. That’s right, French, not vulgar Latin or Italian like Francis spoke. The prayer was anonymously submitted to the magazine La Clochette and published December 1912.
- Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
- Where there’s hatred I’ll place love.
- Where there’s offense I’ll place forgiveness.
- Where there’s discord I’ll place union.
- Where there’s error I’ll place truth.
- Where there’s doubt I’ll place faith.
- Where there’s despair I’ll place hope.
- Where there’s darkness I’ll place your light.
- Where there’s sadness I’ll place joy.
- Oh Master, I don’t seek to be comforted as much as to comfort,
- To be understood as much as to understand,
- To be loved as much as to love.
- For it’s in giving that we receive.
- It’s in forgetting that one is found.
- It’s in pardoning that we’re pardoned.
- It’s in dying that we’re raised to eternal life.
’Cause we wanna do as Jesus does.
There’s a lot of similarity between the St. Francis prayer and “John Wesley’s Rule,” another popular rote prayer attributed to the wrong guy. (Seriously; Wesley didn’t write this prayer either. And you thought misattribution was a recent thing.)
- Do all the good you can
- By all the means you can
- In all the ways you can
- In all the places you can
- At all the times you can
- To all the people you can
- As long as ever you can.
Another nice way to stretch out “Love your neighbor.”
Basically the St. Francis prayer is about trying to minister to others, trying to spread the Spirit’s fruit instead of throwing poop like a monkey. As humans do. It’s about how we oughta act on God’s gifts, rather than just pray they happen, while we sit by passively and wait for God to reprogram or smite sinners. It’s about how we oughta use the fruit the Spirit gave us, rather than store them up for a rainy day… whenever that comes.
The purpose of the Spirit’s gifts are to pay ’em forward. This prayer helps us adjust our attitudes so we’re reminded we’re meant to share, not hoard. Give, not just receive.
So when you’re at a loss for words with God, pray this prayer.