• 55°

COLUMN — Dona nobis pacem

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;

where there is sadness, joy.

This anonymous prayer is usually called the “Prayer of Saint Francis” or the “Peace Prayer.” It has been frequently set to music and quoted by prominent leaders. This prayer for peace seems especially appropriate this week as our country is ensnared in the clutches of COVID-19 and recovering from the shock of seeing our nation’s capitol overrun by angry protestors. Peace is desperately needed amidst deep political and cultural divisions.

Jesus said, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

The church can and should play an important role in healing our nation, but churches face their own divisions and conflicts. Yet, Jesus calls us to be peacemakers during times of crisis. In fact, our ability to work for and encourage peace could be the most important witness we present to the world.

The writer of Hebrews wants us to encourage and motivate one another. The letter is explicit in this desire and hope, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” (Heb. 10:24)

So how do we do that? For the answer we look at the rest of the “Peace Prayer.”

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.

How do we “work for peace?” How do we motivate one another to acts of love and good works? The prayer provides the answer. We learn to move away from selfish and move toward selfless. We move away from constantly seeking consolation, trying to be understood, maneuvering to be loved and move toward consoling others, understanding others and loving others.

When we learn to give, we receive far more. When we learn to forgive, we truly feel forgiven. Ultimately when we put our selfish ways to death, is when we understand the meaning of eternal life.

We have a two-fold responsibility as the church: 1. To present a testimony of “Godly peace” within our community and world. 2. To provide a safe sanctuary of encouragement. A support allowing differences of opinion to work out peacefully as we successfully learn to model “Godly peace” to the outside world.

This is so much easier for me to write than accomplish. The proof will be in how we model “peace.”

I read of a pastor who whenever eating in a restaurant, said to the server, “When you bring the food, we’re going to have a prayer. If there is anything you’d like us to pray for, let me know.” Almost always, the server would ask for prayers for a child, a friend, or a parent. Most were touched by the offer. Often servers would speak with him as he was leaving and ask, “How did you know I needed prayer?”

Sean Dietrich wrote, “On the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021 while demonstrators were threatening our nation’s capitol, a prayer group decided to meet. “This country needs healing,” one said. There were nine members in the group. They texted each other and decided to meet in the front yard of one of the members. But instead of nine people driving up, hundreds began to show up from all over town. The street was full of cars filled with young and old, families and individuals. One member looked out at the sea of people gathered expectantly and asked, “What do we do now?”

Another said, “Let’s hold hands.” But no one knew what to do next? They remained still. Engines off. Mouths quiet. Heads low. Silence overtook them. But one young person knew what to do. She began, Our Father “who art in heaven…”

Immediately her voice was drowned out by a choir of voices, rising earnestly to join hers, like a song. The people recited words. Old words. Words that historically carried us through hell, have forgiven us our trespasses, taught us to forgive and will continue to deliver us from evil.

After the last “Amen” the young person said, “Please, heal our country.”

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.