One of the 3 traditional disciplines of Lent is prayer (or, at least, more prayer than usual). A growing trend among modern Christians is away from memorized or "rote" prayer toward "inspired" or spontaneous prayer. However, there are reasons why memorized prayer can be more helpful than spontaneous prayer (i.e., prayer consisting of words that come to mind on the spot). One of the reasons is that these "standardized" prayers were crafted, redesigned, and translated over many years, resulting in beautiful, succinct prayers that not only state precisely what we desire to speak with God about, but also (by being standard and repeated so often by the faithful) allow the mind and soul to focus less on what words are being used and focus more on the spirit in which they are being said. (The Psalms are all standardized prayers, in song form, that Jews and Christians have been praying for thousands of years – the frequency and breadth of their use has not at all diminished their efficacy at focusing the human mind toward the divine.)
The prayer that sprang to my mind upon reading the Gospel for today is one that is credited to St. Francis of Assisi. It is an excellent example of a prayer with layers of meanings upon which to meditate. For those that don’t know it, I have reproduced it here:
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 darkness, light;Where there is sadness, joy;Where there is despair, hope.O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seekTo 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.