St. Francis Prayer Meditations

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,
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that
I do 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.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;

Why is peace the first attribute Francis wants? Because without peace, how can you come to God? Without peace, there is fear. Fear is chased away by one who is an embodiment of peace. Ramana Maharshi, a sage of India, said that to know who your teacher is, you must feel peace around him or her. To be an instrument of peace is to know you are with God right now. Not sometime in the future. To be in peace is to feel the wings of angels around you, and as you walk through the world, their wings will blow a soft breeze in the familiar world where suffering abides. When you feel that Presence of peace, you feel your divine nature that has never changed, nor ever will. As A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states: I am as God created me. All I need to do is to remember who I AM.

where there is hatred let me sow love;

From out of peace, love flows. Out of the peace of Being comes the Awareness that God is my love and that I am God’s love and that love explodes into all creation. There is only one Parent, and all creatures are His/Her children. There is only the one body of God and all creatures God’s parts. How can there exist hatred? How can there be the cutting away that enmity demands when all is God? Where is the shadow of hate in the light of love?

Francis warns us that hatred is the first step that will lead a soul onto a very dark path. To hate anything is a sword that cuts away your connection to God. Not in Truth, but in Awareness. To hate any part becomes a seed of great suffering. Having no hatred does not mean that you must like everything and everyone and every circumstance. The Dalai Lama found no joy in the destruction of his country and the atrocities committed there. Nor did Victor Frankle enjoy being in the concentration camps and watching the murders of his family and people. However, both men went beyond the actions and remembered the Essence of those who appeared to be persecuting. They deplored the actions and loved the Divine in those who were acting in hate. And by their love, they transformed many who lived in hostility and offered light to those darkened minds.

where there is injury, pardon;

When you come from the peace of Being and the Love of being Aware of God’s Presence everywhere, who can be injured? In one of the Upanishads, it states that the slayer who thinks he slays and the slain who thinks he has been slain neither know the way of Truth; for the Eternal in Man cannot slay nor the Eternal in Man cannot be slain. The world of men is based on bodies doing good or bad to other bodies. The evil deeds require punishment, retribution of some sort: An eye for an eye syndrome, leaving only a world blind with vengeance. Francis asks us to be as Jesus, who came to remind us that whatever you do to the body, it does not mar God’s love for His creation.

No matter what happens to your body has no bearing on who you are, whether you are nailed to a cross or thrown into the lion pit, as were the martyrs. Thieves one day assaulted Ramana at his ashram. When his followers tried to intervene and stop the beating, Ramana told them that they had no right to attack his beaters because his followers were seeing with their body’s eyes and saw not the whole picture of debts having to be repaid. I counseled a woman who told me that a man had broken into her apartment and proceeded to rape her. As he was on top of her, she felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for the suffering of this man and told him that she loved him and that he need not do this. He stopped and was ready to execute her. As she closed her eyes, prepared for the bullet, while feeling an incredible calmness, she heard him apologize and disappear. This rape was the most powerful experience of her life. For the man, no doubt, he had a hatred for women, and when hatred is not transformed by love, it will lead to giving injury.

where there is doubt, faith;

Doubt is one of the weapons of the mind. What is this doubt? It is the doubt that you are worthy of God's love of God's protection. If you have caused injury, you will believe you are deserving of retribution and that what you have done has caused God not to call you His own. When in doubt, no miracles are possible: it is just cause and effect in a mechanistic universe. Doubt is a box of limitations imposed on your mind, suffocating you to death, shutting out God's infinite love and mercy. Faith is the whispering of Truth that God can do anything through you. God can melt away all errors of the mind, all sin in an instant. Faith is the flag that proclaims you are God's Child and that no matter what you do, God dwells within you and will make use of every thought, word, and deed (even the most loveless mistakes) that wherever you go, you are inside of the omnipresent Lord. Faith is the paintbrush by which you are to paint your life free of any judgment. Another word for faith is certainty. When you have belief in God's omniscience and your innate Divinity, you will have certainty about you and will thus possess real Self-confidence. Look how much faith people place in other people who have excellent reputations, like hiring some agent to get a book published, or the insurance company to take care of you if misfortune happens or the police to make your life safe. How feeble are such refuges in comparison of taking refuge in God, in All That Is!

where there is despair, hope;

Despair and die. Despair is an acute case of doubt. Whereas doubt will confuse you on life's road, slowing you down, sending you in wrong directions; despair cuts away your very legs, sucking out all of your life force. Despair is Sisyphus pushing the boulder, his sin, up the immense mountain and watching it roll back down, again and again, and again. Hope is knowing that all conditions will pass. All pain will end. Thomas a Kempis encouraged the monks of the Middle Ages to bear with whatever hardship that was sent their way because what did a short time of pain compared to the bliss of Heaven that awaited them. This is not a hope that is, Gee, I hope this happens. This is the hope that comes from knowing of faith that has no doubt. Despair is the thought, the feeling, that this pain will never end. Tibetan monks have a practice that can get them through torture by focusing the mind on the moment of pain, on just one increment of pain. Despair is the mind remembering all the past increments of pain and projecting all those increments into the future. Instead of one increment of pain that is bearable, you are dealing with massive pain that will seem to be endless.

where there is darkness light.

From despair, darkness follows. No ray of hope to the end of suffering can penetrate this gloom. This is the general condition of humanity, hopeless suffering, war after war, disease after disease, failure after failure, loss after loss, and finally, death after death. This is what the Buddha saw when he was prince Siddartha, that no earthly condition could alleviate man's suffering, for all are doomed to experience the turning of the wheel of matter. So only by becoming enlightened, to be filled with light--a light beyond the duality of the world, the light of the Truth of one's Being, one's Nature--then does darkness and suffering end.

and where there is sadness, joy.

Sad spelled backward is das. Das is a Sanskrit word meaning servant. When you are sad, you are not serving. To get out of malaise is to find someone to help. The book Love is Letting Go of Fear, by Gerald Jampolsky, abounds in anecdotes of people overcoming terminal diseases by getting out of their poor me-ness and reaching out to help others who suffered. Sadness results from sinking into the shadows of believing you are just a pathetic body, unloved in an unforgiving world with the belief you have nothing to give. Look at the faces of passers-by on a city street. So many mouths turned down by habitual frowns.

You do not have to be a Mother Theresa to bring joy to the suffering. A smile is a fantastic gift. Smile as you walk down one of those streets and bless all you pass, and you will give a flower to every heart. Leela is the word the Hindus give to the world describing life as God's Play or Game. God is seen as a Child creating for just the sake of creating. Jesus asked us to be as little children. What does that mean? To have joy. Look into the eyes of a young child as she picks up a sand dollar on the beach or finds a shiny pebble. Her eyes will sparkle with the creation of stars. Joy is the participation in this great dance of life, letting your little self go into this Dervish dance.

Jesus has left the cross behind, his hand with the stigmata raised in blessing.

O Divine Master,

The first half of the prayer is Francis telling us what qualities of character we need to foster. This latter part informs us of what the right actions we need to take to come back to the Awareness of God.

Immediately, he calls upon the Master. Who is the Master? The Christ. The Divine Child created exactly like God, utterly unaffected by matter, yet found in all forms. And for Francis, he saw that Jesus and Christ were the same. Francis renounced intellectualism as a way to God, despite the great minds in his order of monks. His road was the path of simplicity, the path of love, of devotion. He so loved his teacher that he received the stigmata. His mind became wholly absorbed in Jesus, and since Jesus was ultimately one with Christ and Christ in God, so Francis, through Jesus, realized his Divine Nature. This is the importance of having an enlightened teacher to focus on, to call upon, whether in a body or without.

grant that I do not so much seek

He does not say that I may not seek, but not so much seek. Why? What is the difference? Because he asks for us to be balanced. Francis knew about extremes. His first part of his life was living the worldly life to the hilt. After his conversion, he swung to the spiritual life, never compromising, pushing his body that it wasted away with austerities. The Buddha, too, did the same, swinging from one side to the other of the mind until he realized that a string too tight on a vina would snap, yet if too loose, will be off-key. It is the middle way, the path of moderation. At least on the outer forms of expression. On the inside, however, the intensity for God should never slacken.

To say that you will never receive, or never ask to be consoled or to be understood would be to become dogmatic and not responsive to what life might be asking. To be only one way does not allow others in your life their opportunity to give or to console. Plus, it can be humbling to ask for help, safeguarding you from spiritual pride.

to be consoled as to console;

We, as people, have a habit of seeking our friends when we are in pain. Frequently this is out of the need to get others to sympathize with our pain, our grievance. This does not help us to go beyond the condition of our suffering. It may make us feel better in the short run, like a shot of booze may, but it does not get to the cause. And the cause is not some action that may have inflicted pain on us; for what is the cause behind that action that caused pain? Such actions are but symptoms. The root cause is our feeling separate from the Whole, from God. Our only consolation ultimately lies with God. If we have the habit of seeking solace from people, or possessions (going shopping, for instance), eating, or entertainment, what will happen at the time of death when none of them will be there to find solace? Where will our refuge be then? Only God will be there for eternity.

However, there are times when it is beneficial to share our suffering with others on the path, so they can remind you about who you really are. Francis had his brothers go out two by two to remind each other when the cloud of forgetfulness would block the sun of knowing. Here is where confession is helpful. It is important to speak one's ills to another who will listen without judgment, standing in equanimity.

How do we console? By listening. In the novel Siddartha, by Herman Hesse, the ferryman Vasudeva helped ease the pain of Siddartha by just listening, which he had learned from the river, for in the river, the saint and the sinner are but its bends on the way to the Ocean. ACIM counsels us not to get caught up in one's troubles, but to silently affirm for the other who appears to be suffering that she is as God created her, that, in Truth, in God, she is not suffering; it is only in her mind. In the Arthurian legends, Parsival misses his chance to drink from the Grail and to heal the Fisher King because he fails to ask what ails the king. In Buddhism, there is a call for compassion, recognizing that there is suffering (at least in this world of duality), and to meet it with kindness and not condemnation or even with the desire to fix the problem.

to be understood as to understand;

What a joke seeking to be understood! What a hopeless request! Our true Self is beyond any definition, any understanding. How many times in a relationship will there be the cry, You don't understand me! Yet does the one who cries so understand herself? No. Otherwise, she would not require understanding. She would not be in lack. What is under the standing of each of us? It is Beingness, the Godhead, the Noumenon. It is by having the Awareness and Experience of this Being under our standing that we no longer will demand to be understood. While we cannot be understood by someone else, we can reach out in compassion to understand. To truly understand is to see their suffering as a cry for help and the need to connect in Awareness to God. It is not to get wrapped up in their drama and overly sympathize when they are in distress. It is a passive reaching out of listening without judgment, and remembering and being witness to the One Divinity we all are in every moment. All that can be understood is that we all are suffering, every one of us, regardless of our station in society, if we do not have the Awareness of our true Nature.

to be loved as to love;

Again, if we are demanding that life love us, our parents, friends, family, colleagues, politicians, police, we believe that we are not loved. However, every breath we breathe is God's whisper that each one of us is loved as Himself. No creature can give us infinitely, unconditional love. Every person or thing will pass away and turn into another form as all forms must do in this beautiful life of dancing particles and surging waves, just as the cute baby will turn into the yelling two-year-old, youth into an adult, and old age to dust. To ask for love from a source other than from God only invites suffering, for it turns your Awareness from the real Source and focuses on the futile.

When you turn towards God in your Awareness, it is life turning on the valve on the divine faucet. Love will just flow. And when you turn towards creatures, the tap closes. When love flows in, it cannot be contained. The individual identified with the body/mind organism is too small of a vessel for true love. There becomes no choice but to share it with all humanity because love overflows. To ask to love is to be filled with God's love to share with all of the world. It cannot be confined by blood, race, nationality, religion, affiliations, etc. It suffers no limitations. If it is limited in any way, then the focus goes back to creatures and upon whatever definition that may be placed on them (such as whether this type is worthy of love or not). When this happens, this focusing away from All That Is, then, one small step away, will be the demands that those who are deemed worthy of receiving your love must return that love in kind. Quid pro quo ensues, and instead of love, it becomes politics, and the faucet turns off. Waiting to be turned on again.

for it is in giving that we receive;

Once more, we have Francis encouraging us to get out of the me-me way of living that we so commonly do. When we give without the thought of reward, we let go of what we have been clutching. It seems that the more we have, perhaps in the form of money, possessions, fame, power, the more we are less likely to give away without thought of gain, and we will set up mighty defenses to guard these treasures. However, it is like the tale of catching monkeys where the monkey becomes captured because it will not let go of the banana it holds in the trap. Those who hold less are held less by such things and are freer to give. And when we are not clutching at what has come our way, what life needs to provide can come in. Nature abhors a vacuum, says the old physics adage. When we are filled with things and goals and desires for grabbing anything of what the world offers, God has no room to come into Awareness.

On the other hand, while giving is seen by Francis as a virtue to cultivate, again we must remember the caution of moderation, of being balanced. Many feel that they have to give and not receive to become good enough to be loved, either by others or even by God. Some will give away everything indiscriminately because they think God loves that best. However, deep below the surface of the action, guilt will most likely be found. ACIM says that giving is no greater than receiving, nor is it any less. Why does receiving have an equal part to play? Because giving can be done with pride. A subtle You owe me one or God will surely reward me will grow in the personality.

Francis and his brothers received whatever food that was given as a humble act of accepting what God provided them for them to live and carry on their spiritual mission. Here in the West, in the land of the strong and independent, those who receive help, support may be seen as those who lack drive. There is such a strong current in America of being self-sufficient where one needs nothing from anyone else. But this becomes only ego-sufficiency, not Self-sufficiency. There exists a partnership with life, the manifested, of receiving and giving. Yet, with God, there is nothing to give to God in the sense that God, Who is All, has any need. However, it is good to give up the idea to God that we have anything that we own so that we are not owned by anything. After all, we are all renters of these bodies; thus, all things we seem to own are really but rentals, used for a brief moment in time. We must only want to be owned by God. God only wants our Awareness.

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

We return to forgiveness. To say that someone has struck us has attacked us and that we, out of righteousness, will forgive our attackers, is not forgiveness, for there is still the belief that we can be attacked. In Truth, there can be no attacking or being a victim. No two exist to act because only the One exists. When you can say to somebody who acts in an unconscious, hurtful manner that You are as divine as God created you; you are the holy Child of God, then you see (or you are asking to see, for it may not be easy for such a perception) beyond the body, beyond time. And by seeing not with the eyes of the body the happenings in temporal space, you can see your Self with the I of Spirit. If you see others as only loved by God, not because of their actions, but due to their innate Nature, so you will remember your Nature. If you see a world of sinners, how can you but join them?

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Indeed Francis is not speaking of the physical body dying that promises salvation. When your body falls away, you will be left with a naked mind. What was the habit of the mind throughout life? That is, did it run rampantly like some wild beast, pursuing this and that of the world, ever watchful of dangers; or was it trained to think only of God and was used as a tool for God's Will? If the former, untrained and unruly, the mind existed to preserve the notion of being a body, separate from the Universal Mind of God. And with such an existence, there can only be life and death of bodies in a world of fear and brief moments of pleasure. This is not the dying that Francis asks us to do or in which to prepare. It is the latter, of cultivating a focused mind and heart on the Divine; for when we think of God and His Glory, we will experience the Joy of God, bereft of anything the world has to offer; and then the body-conscious mind will fade in the Eternal Light of God. This is the dying of the ignorance of separation to the Wisdom of the Unity of All That Is.


May all Men, all humans, end their suffering and find the Happiness of their Divine Nature. May we find inspiration in the life of Francis and all lovers of God or Truth, in all traditions, that we may lead our lives devoted to bringing Love and Wisdom to the world.

Janaka Stagnaro

Saint Francis Meditation: My God, my All
Christian Meditation on the Lord's Prayer
Nonduality and Environmentalism
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