Lead me from death to Life
from falsehood to Truth.
Lead me from despair to Hope,
from fear to Trust.
Lead me from hate to Love,
from war to Peace.
Let Peace fill our hearts,
our world, our universe.
~ from the World Peace Prayer
When I lived at Shalom Catholic Worker house, a homeless shelter for men, this prayer was said at the end of every morning and evening prayer. Shalom is a Hebrew term for peace, but this word means so much more. I have heard it explained as “being in right relationship with everyone.” Thus, this prayer was our communal call to be in right relationship with each other and the men we served.
I have always liked the pattern of this prayer. Each line begins with the opening word “Lead” from one state of life to another. Those states of life or mind are usually presented as opposites and are in conflict with each other. However, this prayer allows for movement between the two words. Let’s look at “fear” and “trust.” If I take an honest look inside myself, I know both fear and trust inhabit me. However, by praying the words “Lead me from fear to trust,” I am taking a posture of humility, recognizing I need God’s help and assistance in moving from the state of fear to trust. This is the process of transformation.
It is the necessary gift of God’s grace that allows me to move away from fear of a situation or person and move towards trust in God or another person. A posture of humility and God’s grace are necessary so one can move through the fear of the unknown into trust of the new.
I am constantly called, with God’s grace, to show up as my best self each day. Saying this prayer opens me up to receive God’s gift of grace, which will lead me to show up in any situation, to be my best self and work towards that peaceful/ right relationship. This takes a lot of inner work and honest communication.
I find it wonderful that the first 3 lines of the prayer are all about the “I,” and the last line is about the collective “we.” If each of us showed up as our best selves, we would enter right relationship with each other because we would value the richness, depth, and beauty of each culture. Sister Pat Murray, IBVM, said it best at an award acceptance speech: “The Holy Spirit is unifying us in our diversity and diversifying us in our unity. This is the reality we must make present in our daily living and must witness to others.”
I prayed this prayer twice a day for two years and in that daily repetition, the words became a mantra woven into the fabric of my inner life.