Contemplative prayer is not just a request FOR something outside oneself, but actually it takes an opportunity line by line to read something such as this Serenity Prayer of St. Francis ( below) and digest it fully, taking it into the body, breathing it and allowing it to breathe you. It is taking it into the eyes, allowing you to see it, and to be seen. It is taking it into the depths of the soul, and line by line, as if it were your only food, to be eaten and digested one morsel at a time, and to become you. A prayer so deep that you are compelled to make it personal, to make it a living word that cannot help but spill out to the World around you. It will affect every thought you think, every word you say, and every life you touch. For it is not a powerless prayer, rather it is the kind of prayer that invites you to the depth of your own being and changes you there , if you will have it. It is a deep listening at the very heart of God
What I intend to be a 14 day journey, may actually turn into more, but I will go line by line and share what this stillness that speaks, speaks to me about being an instrument of peace, not only to others, but to myself as well.
“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.
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;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.”
The questions I asked myself were: ” What kind of peace does God have?
What does it mean to be an instrument in the hands of God?
How do I breathe this portion of this prayer and how do I allow it to breathe me?
As soon as I asked these questions with a full intention of hearing God speak, six words came to me instantly. ” Take the dogs for a walk.” Someone might say, ” God had to tell you to take your dogs for a walk?” Well, the last two weeks we have been house-bound because my dog became suddenly ill with valley fever. I was to go on vacation but had to cancel because of all the med needs as well as my personal attention. He’s one of my kids! I’m his human and I couldn’t give this job to someone else. So, he was to get no excersize at all which was fine with me because it’s hot outside.
I’m not a good dog walker in the summer and I’m not a good morning walker at all though it’s the best time. The reason being is that I get up, have coffee, and read , study , and pray for a few hours and I feel like I NEED that space for myself. SO, today, as I asked that question, ” How can I be an instrument of your peace?” The words came easily and as soon as I heard them, my dog Jake came right up to me and just stared me in the eye as if saying, ” Really? You are taking us for a walk?”
Now, mind you, I hadn’t said anything out-loud. But, Jake is my very in-tune dog. He senses stuff immediately that might be going on in others so it was funny to me as well as just being amazed that God would hold me accountable through the eyes of my Jake. It would bring me peace to the guilt I had for not allowing him to get out and run, and it would bring him peace ( and Jude as well because he has SO much energy that has been stifled ) because he loves to get out and walk.
During our walk, I was reminded of what I read before taking off in my Deep Yoga book.
” Take time to be thankful for the sunrise, the air you breathe, the mountains, the sky, everything around you.” This walk afforded me all that and also to pray for others who came to mind that were struggling.
I thought of another prayer that would go with the first line of making me an instrument of God’s peace:
I can’t change that my dog has valley fever right now, but I can change how much joy I can give to him when he feels lousy.
I may not be able to change what my friends are going through, but I can hold space for them and their suffering through prayer, and just maybe I will come to sense there is something practical I can do for them too.
I may not have wisdom in everything I seek, but I can have the courage to seek changes in what I can.
It isn’t the Earth shattering things that we might expect prayer to be. It’s the simplicity of just being with ourselves, with our God, and allowing that still small voice to give us even the smallest direction for the moment. The simple little things done on a daily basis add up, and with all that is going on in the World today, each of us can be an instrument of peace and it begins with us asking, ” HOW?”