It’s amazing how important our own words have become to us. The advent of social media how allows all of us to have “followers,” for each of us to see how many people “like” what we have to say. It’s brought to light a lot of great writers who might otherwise have found themselves struggling for an audience, but it’s also given a lot more of us the impression that we’re a much bigger deal than we really are.
Prayer is no different. Do you know that, less than 100 years ago, prayer was largely an experience of reading? In more orthodox and liturgical circles, it still plays a huge role. I’m not from one of those, so I grew up hearing guys come to the front of the church and make up what they said on the spot.
There’s nothing wrong with that. We have a direct channel to God, we’re free to use it as we see fit. God honors those requests just the same as he does read prayers.
Stop, though, and take into account that fact: we have a direct channel to God. In the time of creation, God set stars on fire in the billions. He came up with the plans for a kangaroo. He sculpted us all in his own image. That being, the one with all that power, is who we can approach “boldly” (Hebrews 4:16). Shouldn’t we take what we say to him seriously?
I’ve certainly been guilty of empty words. We’re human, our brains are only capable of so much serious thought. God realizes that we cannot take in all of his glory, which is why he never shows anyone all of it for fear of killing them. Every now and then, though, I feel like I get close to getting it right. It’s in those times that I sense the breadth and width of God’s splendor and stop blabbering on. Many times, I wish I had prepared what I had to say a little better.
It also seems like arrogance not to, at least sometimes, break out the prayers of the faithful before us. The entire line of the church from Peter to now is filled with people who are more eloquent, more faithful, and more connected to the spirit of God than I am. Why wouldn’t I want to make some of their words my own occasionally?
Here’s one that I think might fill the bill.
Franciscan Prayer of Peace
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the 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. Amen.