- 28 November 2012: Canon Frank Sheehan, Director Ethics Centre, Christ Church Grammar School, Perth in Dialogue Australasia
In July 2005, four home-grown terrorists detonated bombs on the London Underground and in a double-decker bus. Fifty-two people were killed; hundreds injured. Rosalind Bradley was staying in London at the time. She knew that her response had to have something to do with prayer. Returning to Australia, she wrote to 450 prominent people inviting them to share spiritual resources. 165 people responded and the result was a beautiful book called Mosaic: Favourite Prayers and reflections from Inspiring Australians. It was published by Harper Collins. Men and women from a variety of backgrounds and faiths contributed to Mosaic. In collecting material for the book, Rosalind aimed to build bridges, foster mutual respect and assist in the “dialogue of living” in Australia’s multicultural and spiritually diverse society. It’s a little gem. I have often used it in class and for chapel services.
Rosalind has edited a new collection entitled A World of Prayer: Spiritual Leaders, Activists and Humanitarians Share their Favourite Prayers. It is published by Orbis Books. Orbis endeavors to publish works that enlighten the mind, nourish the spirit, and challenge the conscience. They seek to explore the global dimensions of Christian faith and mission, to invite dialogue with diverse cultures and religious traditions, and serve the cause of reconciliation and peace. Again with this collection, more than one hundred people from a very wide background responded. They most often contributed a favourite prayer, sometimes simply a scriptural text or a poem and almost always added some insightful remarks about the choice they made. These remarks are fascinating and add great depth to the book.
Prayers, texts and insights are from Bahaiis, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Taoists. We hear from men and women in Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey, The United Kingdom, El Salvador, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, Israel, Cambodia, the Philippines, Syria, Mali, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Samoa, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Korea, Ireland, South Africa, Denmark, Malaysia, France, Burma, Switzerland, Norway, Peru, Costa Rica, Bhutan, Norway, Greece, Indonesia, Poland, Haiti, China and Afghanistan.
The first prayer, which is included as a sort of epigraph to the collection, is from Hazrat Inayat Khan who founded the Sufi Order of the West in London in 1914. His message of divine unity (Tawid) focuses on the themes of love, harmony and beauty. Khan taught that blind adherence to any book rendered religion void of spirit. He wrote:
Your light is in all forms,
Your love in all beings.
Allow us to recognize You
In all Your holy names and forms.
Five Nobel Peace Prize laureates have made contributions. His Holiness, The Dalai Lama selected the following from the 8th century Buddhist scholar Shantideva:
For as long as space endures,
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide,
To dispel the misery of the world.
The Dalai Lama’s remarks are brief: “I say this prayer daily because it gives me great inspiration and determination.” It is profoundly simple and it is enough.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire was awarded the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize. She selected the Prayer of St Francis. Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, chose two pieces. The first was that chosen by the Dalai Lama and the second that selected by Mairead Corrigan Maguire. Sogyal Rinpoche writes:
I have chosen these prayers because they capture the essence of love, compassion and altruism that lie at the heart of all the great spiritual traditions. The words from these two great traditions, one Buddhist and one Christian, seem to come from the same source and convey the enactment of compassion at the most profound level. The most powerful prayers are the ones that touch, inspire and bring out the best in us, the goodness that we all have, as Buddhists call it bodhichitta, or the heart of the enlightened mind. If we can truly embody the meaning of these great prayers, we can bring such benefit both to ourselves and to others.
I can’t help but feel that he has captured in his comments the very vision that was Rosalind Bradley’s when she edited both Mosaic and A World of Prayer.
I was particularly taken by the contribution of James Alison. Alison is a Catholic priest and theologian. In writing theology and in lecturing around the world, he draws on the work of the French historian, literary critic and philosopher, Rene Girard. James Alison is known for his firm but gentle persistence in promoting dialogue and understanding in the Church regarding homosexuality. He quotes from Teresa of Avila. You can read the Spanish version in the book. The following is his own liberal, rather than literal translation.
May nothing wind you up,
Nothing affright you;
Everything comes and goes
God, still, just there;
All will be achieved.
If you have God,
You lack nothing:
God alone will do.
Alison describes himself as “someone who lives with a deep sense of panic just below the surface of things.” He is driven to agitation by any crowd and finds Teresa’s pithy call back to God very comforting.
There are several selections from the Qur’an. Amina Wadud is an academic who focuses on feminist scholarship, Sufism and activism for gender sensitive policy reforms as they relate to the lives of Muslim women. She chose a passage that asks God not to demand too much of us.
Do not place a burden upon us like you
upon others before us
Our Lord: Do not place upon us what we
(Qur’an 2: 286)
Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford, opted for a few lines from the Al-Bukhari Collection of prophetic traditions:
O God, we ask you to provide us with
Godconsciousness, human detachment,
spiritual richness and love of the poor.
Zainab Salbi is the author of Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing up in the Shadow of Saddam. She founded Women for Women International, a humanitarian organisation that helps women survivors of wars rebuild their lives. She has two quotes from Jalal al-Din Rumi. The first includes these words:
Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
Zainib believes in the oneness of humanity and the power of joy:
It is joy that makes me grateful for all I have been through and all that I have become and may still become. It is with joy that I choose to live.
Deborah Weissman is the first Jewish woman to be elected president of the International Council of Christians and Jews. She chose some lines from the Unetaneh Tokef, a liturgical poem from the Middle Ages. She remarks: “May we all recognize the preciousness and precariousness of everyday life.”
Christina Rees looks to Julian of Norwich. Rowan Williams quotes from an old Lutheran hymn “Schmucke dich o liebe Seele” by Johann Franck. The Archbishop prays these words every day. Kirsty Sword Gusmao selects a Taoist meditation. Miriam-Rose Ununmerr-Baumann, teacher, artist and writer from Daly River community in the Northern Territory has written her own reflection on inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. She writes:
There are deep springs within each of us. Within this deep spring, which is the very spirit of God, is a sound. The sound of Deep calling to Deep.
Contributors include Brother Alois, Prior of Taizé, Robina Courtin, founder of Liberation Prison Project, Zoya Phan a Burmese human rights activist and Dr Sunitha Krishnan, an anti-trafficking campaigner in India. Others are Archbishop Elias Chacour, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Desmond Tutu, Richard Rohr, Joan Chittister, Timothy Radcliffe, Sheila Cassidy and Swami Niranjan Sarawati.
“Blasts from the past” include Daniel Berrigan SJ, Pete Seeger and Canon Paul Oestreicher.
People used to talk about the Church of England as the Tory Party at Prayer. This collection is more like the Greens in meditation and mindfulness. Indeed, Elizabeth May, an Anglican who is leader of the Green Party in Canada, has picked out some lines from E.F. Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful.
I love this book and thoroughly recommend it. It is full of great riches from people who are trying to make the world a better place, and whose spirituality comes out of an extraordinary variety of religious experience within so many traditions.
Many readers will be familiar with Stephen Prothero’s book God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World – and Why Their Differences Matter. It’s a work that makes a fresh and provocative argument that, contrary to much popular understanding, all religions are not simply “different paths to the same God.” Prothero asks us to consider the uniqueness of each religion, and to acknowledge that they ask different questions, tackle different problems and aim at different goals. On the other hand, many will be familiar with Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion, a document which urges the peoples and religions of the world to embrace the core value of compassion which she believes is found in every religion. A World of Prayer is closer to Karen Armstrong than to Stephen Prothero. It is well worth having all three on your shelf.
A final word goes to the renowned surgeon Professor Chris O’Brien, who died in 2009 after a long and valiant struggle with a brain tumour. He had helped many people as they faced cancer. During his own illness, Professor O’Brien received a visit from the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who presented him with some rosary beads that had been blessed and given to him by Pope Benedict XVI. Chris O’Brien had agreed to contribute to A World of Prayer and he chose the Hail Mary.
Chris’ wife, Gail O’Brien, wrote and submitted the prayer after his death.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee,
Blessed are thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners now
And at the hour of our death.
For a full list of contributors and to order A World Of Prayer see: http://rosbradley.com/aworldofprayer/book.htm
Profits from this book will go to St. Elthelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace based in London.
- 5 November 2012: Timothy O’Brien, S.J., America, The National Catholic Weekly
Rosalind Bradley’s edited volume, A World of Prayer, approaches the spiritual life from an interreligious angle, offering a collection of favorite prayers from noted individuals rather than a how-to manual for spiritual types. Herself part of an Australian interfaith organization, Bradley does this with an eye towards “finding ways to transcend religious divides and foster understanding and mutual respect between the world’s religions.”
The prayers themselves point to areas of commonality among religious traditions as diverse as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism, Quakerism, Hinduism, Baha’ism and Taoism. Submissions from over 100 individuals of note — mostly humanitarians and religious leaders — are included, and the array of personalities surveyed is truly remarkable. It is no small feat to assemble reflections from Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., Archbishop Rowan Williams and Yusuf Islam (the performer formerly known as Cat Stevens).
Bradley’s book is successful at giving a sense of how other people pray. Just reading the selections challenges rigid distinctions between “our” prayers and “their” prayers, however conceived. On the other hand, the text’s utility for deepening one’s own prayer life is somewhat less apparent. And though the goal of the text is to increase understanding across faiths, the entries included sometimes give a better sense of the individual practitioner than of his or her religious tradition.
These issues are minor, however, and Bradley is surely correct on a major point: that prayer, common to all faiths, can lead individuals to bridge religious divides. In that spirit, this text can serve as a valuable resource for those who work in interreligious dialogue or who are interested in it. Better still, it is of use for all of us who seek to deepen our religious literacy in a world that is growing increasingly more diverse.
- Ryan Marr, Catholic Books Review
In the introduction to A World of Prayer, Rosalind Bradley writes the following about the purpose of her book: “Our current global situation with its ongoing tensions, wars, and conflicts has convinced me of the importance of finding ways to transcend religious divides and foster greater understanding and mutual respect between the world’s religions” (xxiv). Bradley’s motivation is commendable, and I do think this publication has the potential of fostering greater understanding among people of different religious backgrounds. Rather than approaching faith traditions from a detached, observational perspective, A World of Prayer ushers readers into the more intimate realm of devotional experience, thereby encouraging readers to understand, as it were, from within—that is, to approach the transcendent from the perspective of the various religions’ actual practitioners.
What remains uncertain to me is how valuable this collection of prayers can serve as a devotional resource. While the diversity of prayers constitutes a manifest strength as far as promoting greater understanding, it represents somewhat of a drawback in terms of the book’s usefulness as a prayer tool. While most of us desire a deeper appreciation for the positive elements in religions outside of our own, the nature of spiritual experience normally demands a certain coherency in religious outlook that grows out of a single-minded commitment to a specific faith tradition. Because religious practice is not a proverbial cap that one puts on according to one’s mood, but, instead, an entire way of life, to experience true growth in a particular tradition requires totally immersing oneself in that faith—in its rhythms, liturgical practices, and unique moral obligations. And, as with any facet of life, commitment to one path necessarily requires turning away from others, even while sometimes acknowledging that those other paths present certain benefits of their own. In attempting to utilize A World of Prayer as a devotional resource, some readers might feel pulled in different directions, or perhaps simply that they lack any direction at all.
On a different note, the diversity of contributors is quite impressive. The collection can truly be described as global, and Bradley does a noteworthy job of striking a healthy balance between female and male contributors. Some of the more notable contributors include Desmond Tutu, Elizabeth May, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the XIV Dalai Lama, Hans Küng, Nelson Mandela, and Joan Chittister—though Bradley has also tapped a number of figures who are, in her words, “quiet achievers” (xxv). Each contributor includes not only a prayer, but also a brief comment about why the prayer is meaningful to them. Furthermore, for each prayer Bradley provides an introductory paragraph with biographical information about the contributor of the prayer. In spite of my skepticism about the usefulness of this book for devotional purposes, I can see its value in other regards. Clearly, a great deal of time and care was put into the compilation of the work, and not only in terms of content: the book is aesthetically attractive and seems to have sturdy binding. Those who are interested in questions of religious pluralism and also spiritual seekers would do well to add it to their personal library.
- 5 July 2012: Melanie Carroll, The Good Bookstall
This is not a Christian prayer book, there are Christian prayers in it – indeed many of them – but there are also Muslim prayers, Hindu prayers etc and even some prayers that are of no faith at all.
Even in these prayers we see a wonder and a beauty, for these are the chosen prayers, the favourite prayers of people, that impact our lives and that have fought for the lives and rights of others, and in that there is an amazing beauty and resonance for all people with the Gospel of the Kingdom preached and taught by Jesus.
Each entry contains first a short biography of the person who chose it, some names you will know, many you will not and in the many you don’t you will meet amazing people that it would be a privilege to know, people who have been tortured and faced extreme hardships, others that have simply worked hard for the betterment of fellow man and the world we live in. Then comes the prayer, sometimes a very short one, sometimes longer, sometimes more than one. Then after the prayer a short piece by the person who chose it that tells us why they chose it, its significance to them and/or the history of the prayer.
This is a wonderful book and should be an essential for any school to have to hand, the number of ways it could be used would be great, also fantastic for any after dinner speaker or for a justice and peace group to use.
- June 2012: Rev. Seforosa Carroll, Relations with Other Faiths
On Thursday May 10th I had the very special honour of being part of the launch (as MC) of Rosalind Bradley’s book A world of prayer (AWOP) which was held at St Francis Xavier Church hall, Lavender Bay. AWOP was launched by Dr Julian Doogan, lecturer in religions at Macquarie University and a regular writer on issues of religion and violence for The Australian, who not only did a brilliant job of launching the book, he also inspired and humoured the audience with his launch speech.
AWOP is a collection of favourite prayers chosen by spiritual leaders, activists and humanitarians and their reflections about their choice of prayer. Contributors to AWOP are from different faith traditions: Muslim Christian Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Tao and Bahai from around the world. AWOP is a sequel to Mosaic, which is a collection of favourite prayers by Australian writers of different faiths and backgrounds. Ros began working on Mosaic in the wake of the London bombings in 2006 which was for her a catalyst for her interest in other faiths. For Ros, the motivation for AWOP was inspired by the belief that “each of the world’s main religions offers a specific and different insight into the mystery of human life. Every major religion – from Judaism to Islam or Buddhism to Hinduism – embraces peace and harmony in its own way yet their underlying values of humanity are the same.”
It is Ros’ hope that the book will encourage understanding and respect of different faith traditions. As she states “prayers of strength, hope and courage from all main religious traditions are the essence of this book. AWOP is a glimpse into the heart and soul of other faiths and how they connect with the Divine.”
In launching the book Julian stated that one of the strengths of AWOP is that it does not attempt to universalise or represent the Divine as one and the same for all different traditions. It allows the prayers of each contributors of each faith traidtion to stand on its own integrity.
AWOP has a number of practical uses. It is a wonderful and practical resource for interfaith, multi faith and multicultural gatherings, a text for courses on interfaith dialogue, a resource for reflection on prayer from different faith traditions and a perfect gift for any occasion!
For information on AWOP and Mosaic you can visit http://www.rosbradley.com/.
Profits of AWOP will go to St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London. St Ethelburga’s is a living symbol of hope. A centre rebuilt from the ruins of a city church destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1993. St Ethelburga’s sees itself beyond just being a building – and describes itself as ‘a growing community of people supporting each other and learning how to build relationships across divisions of conflict, culture and religion in their own situations.’ For more information on St Ethelburga’s visit http://stethelburgas.org/
- June 2012: Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice
Editor Rosalind Bradley has chosen the perfect lead-off quotation by the Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan for this top-drawer collection of prayers from more than 100 spiritual leaders, activists, humanitarians and others:
“Your Light is in all forms,
Your Love in all beings.
Allow us to recognize You
in all Your holy names and forms.”
This multifaith anthology contains prayers of praise and thanksgiving from Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Taoists. Using these offerings, we can celebrate what the religions of the world have in common while at the same time we salute their diversity.
It is very gratifying to see in this devotional collection an affirmation of both contemplation and social action. This emphasis comes across in the prayer choices of those who are active in social justice, human rights, peacemaking, and environmentalism.
We were also pleased to see some of our favorite spiritual teachers and writers represented here including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Joan Chittister, John Dear, Richard Rohr, Desmond Tutu, Huston Smith, Leonardo Boff, Ernesto Cardenal, Joanna Macy, and John Shelby Spong.
Here are two few examples of the prayers in this superb book:
“Goodness is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate
Light is stronger than darkness
Life is stronger than death
Victory is ours through
Him who loves us.
— Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“God of life
Every act of violence
Between myself and others
Destroys a part of your creation
Stir in my heart
A renewed sense of reverence
For all life
Give me vision to recognize your spirit
In every human being,
However they behave towards me
Make possible the impossible
By cultivating in me
The fertile seed of healing love
May I play my part
In breaking the cycle of violence
By realizing that
Peace begins with me.”
— The team at St. Elthelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace