To Understand

I am preparing a class on the St. Francis prayer. This prayer while not necessarily straight from St. Francis is a portrait of the life he led. This was his life. From the moment he saw his first vision until his death he lived the words of this prayer. He was and still is a vibrant example of the gospel life. While this prayer may or may not be original with St. Francis it describes not only who St. Francis was, but also what a life following Christ really looks like.

I would like to reflect on each line. I have posted my thoughts on this prayer once before and you can find that blog here:

I may even write a book based on this prayer.

In the second half, the prayer goes deeper into what it means to pray and live the first seven imperatives. The tenth line of this prayer is asking that we seek to understand others before demanding that we are understood. As we understand others, we ourselves find the same thing. The more and better we understand others the more understanding we find and the wider our view of life becomes. The tenth line like the rest of the of the St. Francis Prayer is about being a presence of God’s love and grace to a broken, dark world perishing. It’s about being present to others and seeking their good over our own and listening to them without any agenda attached. It’s about being a living presence for others who are struggling. There will be times when praying this prayer that we need God’s love, hope, and peace in our life, as much if not more than we want to share these aspects of the Kingdom with others. God won’t zap us with these attitudes, but will give us moments in which to experience them in our life and the lives of those around us.

We all want to be understood, but this line doesn’t ask that we be understood and find acceptance as much as we understand and accept others. Jesus showed us how we should live our lives—loving and welcoming all without asking that they conform to our image of what is proper and decent. This has the power to build and strengthen community and fellowship, to make friends, and to deepen life. A Chinese Proverb says, “Different flowers look good to different people.” We should honor and welcome the differences in each other. When we are able to see through another eye, we will be able to see the world anew and might find that we have missed something quite wonderful. When we affirm our differences and don’t let it come between us, then we will know how to understand the other accepting them for who they are not for what we could gain from them or make them into a copy of us. The very last thing we should want or seek is to make another into a carbon copy of ourselves. We should seek to honor each other for who we really are.

Dietrich Bonheoffer said, “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” To understand someone means knowing that each of us are in the midst of a great battle and seek to make life easier. When life is easier for us and we see another struggling we should help them, maybe when the tables are turned they will come to our aid. Yet, we don’t it for that reason. We do it because God first loved us. Jesus came to our aid when we most needed and we should show our faith in Jesus and our gratitude for what God did and does for us by extending love and understanding to others. This prayer, line after line prays that we be God’s peace in the world.  



  1. It’s incredible how a few simple words can have such meaning. I really appreciate you’ve been able to bring out so much of that deep meaning. I do hope that you will write that book! I had never heard of the St. Francis Prayer, and I’ll bet that’s true for a lot of other people. Your class should be great!

    • Thank you! If I do write that book I will send you copy. I appreciate all your comments.

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