Nearly a hundred prominent men and women from every religious tradition and around the globe here share a favorite prayer, while reflecting on its personal meaning.
Contributors to this book of prayers come from Christianity, Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Daoism, Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism and Indigenous religions, Interfaith Ministers and practitioners and Sikhism.
Other contributors to this book include an Environmentalist, a Progressive Theologian, a Burmese Human Rights Activist, Quakers, Baha'i's, American folk singer, a comparative religions scholar, an International Statesman and Visionary, an anti-trafficking campaigner, an author on American Religion, a GoodWill Ambassador for Education, Human Rights Activists, a Potter, Poet, Visual Artist and Dancer, a Woman of All Faiths, and an author, journalist and Broadcaster of Chinese Culture.
The format of the contributions to this book of prayer opens with a short introduction to the person and their activities; then comes the prayerful or reflective contribution; thereafter, the contributor gives a short synopsis of their life path or a small excursus on the prayer or reflection to provide context and focus.
This is an extraordinary, small book, mapping out the multiple human pathways to life, the reverence of life, the celebration of being, the comiseration with the downtrodden and the bonded poor, and the unity, solidary - call - it - what - you- will - type of oneness, identifying, compassion with those whose path is filled with failure, despondency and suffering.
This is an extraordinary, small book, for another reason – it maps the aspirations of many who lead by their lives and give example to follow; many who have travelled the inner regions of the heart and the self – in the body-mind-spirit complex which we call home, our human body. They come back, and struggle with words to convey meaning, to express experience and bring a sense of the peace and serenity they have experienced. How could you use such a book? It is certainly not for reading from cover to cover in one session. It is something one could dip into in times of need, to select - perhaps at random - one or another account, and read, and make contact with the narrative. Whenever we read about sacred, serene experiences, we recreate that within; thus, we could take time to allow the story-telling to settle within us and become a parto of our own story. Prometheus, who stole the fire and come back to all to tell: There is Light! Thus we have light within. All religions speak of a light that never fails.
A number of contributors speak of the spiritual life - that which has no boundaries and is common to all who are seekers, whatever their tradition, church, religion or pathway. Ditto Tariq Ramadan, who explained his contribution thus:
I have chosen a very short prayer that comes from Islamic prophetic tradition. It translates from Arabic to English roughly as this. Although it is short, I beleive that it encompasses all dimensions that are essential for a spiritual life.
T.S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land, and therein he put forth the imagery of those who engage in the endless treadmill of 9-to-5 work; hard yakka as we say in Australia. however, Eliot also gave another metaphor. On the stoke of 9 by the bells of St Mary Woolnoth, everyone took up their duty and died to themselves. The peal of the bells announced the end of human living, and the transition of man - and women - into units of human work, ergs. Meaning, purpose and existence ceased. Not so for the contributors of this book; their contributions are contextual with their lives, their situations, their worship, their committment to living, serving, being activists, and often, what they saw, heard and experienced in their family and community, whilst growing up.
During the recent Olympic Games, I noticed one website which mimicked and tried to take the mickey out of the BBC 4's Thought for the Day. These were mimicked as Platitude of the Day. Platitudes are of little use to any one, for they emerge from those who are heroes on the stage and zeroes in practice. No platitudes here; rather, markers of meaning on the human journey.
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