Posted by: rcottrill | March 24, 2017

Lord, Make Me an Instrument

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Words: (unknown, see Note below)
Music: Eternal Life, by Olive Dungan (b. _____, 1903; d. _____, 1997)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)

Note: This is a lovely song often called the Prayer of St. Francis–though there isn’t any evidence that Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) wrote it. It does, however, have some similarities to the words of a companion of Francis’s, named Giles of Assisi:

“Blessed is he who loves and does not therefore desire to be loved; blessed is he who fears and does not therefore desire to be feared; blessed is he who serves and does not therefore desire to be served; blessed is he who behaves well toward others and does not desire that others behave well toward him; and because these are great things, the foolish do not rise to them.”

The actual text in question here can’t be traced back further than 1912, when it was printed in Paris, in a small magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell). Around 1920, a French Franciscan priest printed the prayer on the back of an image of St. Francis, without attributing it to him. And in 1927 it appeared in the Quaker magazine, Friends’ Intelligencer, under the mistaken title “A Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.” This seems to be how the false idea of its origin grew. There are many versions of the prayer on YouTube, some with Dungan’s melody. But you will have to endure the repeated assertion that the words are Francis’s, which they, almost to a certainty, are not.

As the overall heading of these articles suggests, we are dealing with words here, their meaning, and application. We consider many words we use every day, but particularly the ones found in our traditional hymns, and used in the Bible.

This time, the word is instrument. An instrument is a tool, an implement, a piece of equipment which provides the means, or medium to do something. Often the word is associated with musical instruments. Whether something small, such as a harmonica, or massive like a cathedral pipe organ, these are devices used to make music.

“Praise the Lord with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings” (Ps. 33:2).

There are other kinds of instruments–though we may not commonly associate the word with them. In Scripture, the Hebrew word for implements or utensils is also used of weapons of war (I Chron. 12:37). And today a surgeon’s scalpel is an instrument used for doing surgery; a stove is an instrument for preparing meals; a plow is an instrument used to prepare fields for planting.

But now we come to an especially exciting use of the word. Christians can think of themselves as instruments of God to be employed in His service.

“We are His workmanship [handiwork], created in Christ Jesus [i.e. through faith in Christ] for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Early on, the Apostle Paul (then called Saul) was described by the Lord as, “a chosen vessel [or implement] of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Speaking later of our human frailty, Paul wrote, “we have this treasure [the gospel of grace] in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (II Cor. 4:7).

And we are responsible to make sure we keep that vessel clean, so the work of God through us will not be hindered. “Each of you should know how to possess his own vessel [body] in sanctification and honour, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (I Thess. 4:4-5). “If anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honour, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (II Tim. 2:21).

Our bodies are an instrument that can be used to accomplish the will of God. Another word that is sometimes used is channel (related to the word canal). Just as a channel or canal is the means by which water is delivered to where it is needed, so we become channels of God’s love and grace to others. What a privilege that is! And, yes, what a responsibility!

Though Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace is sometimes thought of as a Roman Catholic prayer, it is also found in several Protestant hymnals, including Hymns for the Family of God (Paragon Associates Incorporated, 1976), and Worship and Rejoice (Hope Publishing Company, 2001), where it is called Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.

Its message is biblical (e.g. Romans 12:1-21; II Pet. 1:1-11), and it has been widely accepted as a fine description of what it means to live a God honouring life.

As to the last statement, that “it is in dying that we are born to eternal life,” if the author intended this to say that eternal life will be granted to those who live good lives, that is not what the Bible teaches. Eternal life is ours as a free gift of God, when we put our faith in Christ (Jn. 3:16, 36; Acts 16:30-31; Gal. 3:26; etc). But it is true that dying in Christ, and being raised in Christ, by faith, are the basis for eternal life (Rom. 6:5; Gal. 2:10).

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.

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.

1) Which of the things listed in the song stands out as something you have tried to do?

2) Which of the things in the song is a thing you especially need to work on more?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)


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