One of my greatest personal weaknesses as a Christian of late has been a nearly absent prayer life. I remember years ago when I worked in Nashville, TN how I would come to a certain point in my commute and begin praying aloud—my eyes open, of course. Sometimes my praying would last the entire forty-five-minute commute, and I’d be sitting in the parking lot of work still praying. Other times, I’d get only a few minutes down the road and would have concluded my prayer.
A few weeks ago, I finished reading an excellent book by Brian Zahnd entitled Water to Wine. The book is Zahnd’s telling of his spiritual reformation as the founder and pastor of a church that he’d led since his early twenties. By the time he was in his forties, he felt so empty and incomplete with the charismatic, American-centered faith of his. He had preached the American gospel more so than the ancient, biblical gospel of the apostles and church fathers. In his quest to rid himself of this brand of Christianity and adopt a more primitive Christianity, Zahnd gave particular attention to his prayer life.
Of prayer, he noted, “The primary purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what we think God ought to do but to be properly formed.” I hadn’t thought of prayer as spiritual formation, but as Zahnd gave his defense of prayer as such, I became convinced that he made some solid points. I’ve often preached of late that prayer doesn’t get our will done in heaven, but God’s will done on earth. We being duly formed as Christians, I’d say, fits that sentiment.
In one particular chapter, Zahnd gave his prayer regimen, or as he called it, his prayer “liturgy.” Among all that he prayed is a prayer of Francis of Assisi often referred to as the prayer of peace. It reads as such:
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; 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. (p. 87)
In my self-examination, and after reading this chapter, I concluded that my prayer life needed revitalizing. I’ve adopted a prayer regimen that somewhat mirrors Zahnd’s, and I’ve included this prayer of Francis of Assisi. It’s more about being who God wants us all to be than anything—and that’s an instrument of peace. The world desperately needs peace, and we Christians can show the world how to get to the Prince of Peace by mirroring it in our selves.