Rev. Nola Woodbury, The Register-Guard: Twenty years ago, I went through a devastating divorce. The pain and sadness forced me to look at life differently and to seek out a truth on which I could rebuild my life. Although I was raised as a Christian, I turned to the teachings of Buddha, chanted Hindu prayers at retreats with Ram Dass, and read the three-volume commentary on the Bhagavad Gita written by Sri Eknath Easwaran.
I started meditating on my own, and then I attended The Blue Mountain Meditation Center in California to deepen my practice.
There, Sri Easwaran taught what is known as “passage meditation.” He teaches you to memorize an inspirational passage from any sacred text. Then, in your meditation, you go through the words of the passage in your mind as slowly as you can, letting each word drop singly into your consciousness.
Your repetitions drive the words deeper and deeper into your consciousness, so that they eventually become an integral part of you. The secret of this meditation is that you become what you meditate on.
I began my practice using The St. Francis Prayer. This simple prayer is one of the most well-known of all the prayers in recorded history. In it, St. Francis describes the essential content of our highest self. He expresses the deep yearning that we all have to be the spiritual being who inhabits our physical form. It expresses a wish to be an instrument for God’s will.
To ask for the strength to sow love where there is hatred, hope where there is despair, and light where there is darkness is to ask to be free from the pettiness and judgments that so often imprison us. This prayer is a way of seeking to practice in everyday life consoling, understanding, pardoning and giving. It is a request to be an expression of the powerful love that we attribute to the Creator and that is part of our own being.
Each morning for 20 years, I have recited the words of this prayer. It has become a touchstone for me, connecting me to the highest, most sacred aspect of my being – and connecting me to God.
When I first started memorizing the prayer, I had to start from the beginning again and again. Hundreds of times I began with the words, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
It finally dawned on me that this was the essence of the prayer. The rest of the prayer is all “how-tos.”
Seeing myself as an instrument of peace and holding that pure intent in my heart started dissolving thoughts that were not peaceful.
Those eight words alone can improve every relationship we have, starting with our relationship with ourself. They can help promote peace in our family, our workplace, our community and our world.
The practice of prayer is an incredibly powerful force for transformation in our lives. Imagine a world in which all people lived The St. Francis Prayer.
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The St. Francis Prayer
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life