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Since we started to send out Words of Connection last year, I have acquired an extraordinary collection of prayer books. Some of them seem a bit dreary, some weird, some traditional and some inspirational. Leaving out the dreary ones… it seemed like a great idea to delve into them, and discover five unusual prayers.
The absolute wizards of prayer are Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon whose three volumes entitled Earth Prayers, Life Prayers and Prayer for a Thousand Years are full of superb readings. I suspect Earth Prayers is the most widely read: it celebrates the glory of the planet in 365 prayers, poems and invocations for honouring the earth. I have seen it on many bookshelves and used it many times, for everything from funerals to weddings and baby-blessings. We open with a meditation taken from Earth Prayers by the Japanese poet Nanao Sakaki. This is followed by a poem/prayer by Iyamidé Hazely taken from Life Prayers. Staying with the theme of prayer from Africa, but venturing into another collection… an short extract from a Swahili prayer entitled Utendi wa Mwana Kupona, by the 19th century poet Mwana Kupona binti Msham, who died in 1865. Written on her death-bed for her daughter, this Islamic poem is much loved in the Swahili tradition.
In complete contrast, The Invocation of the Graces, from Carmena Gadelica. A collection of poetry, sacred hymns and songs, Carmena Gadelica comes from the ancient Gaelic spoken tradition. The original language texts were translated into English by Alexander Carmichael between 1860 and 1909. This extract comes from A Book of Uncommon Prayer, edited by Theo Dorgan.
We close with something totally different, from Quaker Faith & Practice. Taken from the section on worship and prayer, it’s a fascinating observation on power groups and power prayer. It was written by Damaris Parker-Rhodes in 1985.
I hope this diverse selection of prayers resonates with you, and also hope that the sunnier weather and the prospect of being able to see each other is improving your life.
Very best wishes
Naneo Sakaki (1923-2008)
Within a circle of one metre
You sit, pray and sing.
Within a shelter of ten metres large
You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.
Within a field a hundred metres large
Raise rice and goats.
Within a valley a thousand metres large
Gather firewood, water, wild vegetables, and Amanitas.
Within a forest ten kilometres large
Play with raccoons, hawks,
Poison snakes and butterflies.
Mountainous country Shinano
A hundred kilometres large
Where someone lives leisurely, they say.
Within a circle ten thousand kilometres large
Go to see the southern coral reef in summer
Or winter drifting ices in the sea of Okhotsk.
Within a circle ten thousand kilometres large
Walking somewhere on the Earth.
Within a circle one hundred thousand kilometres large
Swimming in the sea of shooting stars.
Within a circle a million kilometres large
Upon the spaced-out yellow mustard blossoms
The moon in the east, the sun west.
Within a circle ten billion kilometres large
Pop far out of the solar system mandala.
Within a cycle ten thousand light years large
The Galaxy full blooming in spring.
Within a circle one billion light years large
Andromeda is melting away into snowing cherry flowers.
Now within a circle ten billion light years large
All thoughts of time, space are burnt away
There again you sit, pray and sing
You sit, pray and sing.
From Women of Africa
There will be a morning song
for those who clean the dust
from the children’s bruises
the blood of the wounds from bullets
those who wipe the sleep
from the eyes of the weary
and whose labour shields
the frail bodies of the old
those whose pain is multiplied
by the pleas of their young
scarred by the precision
of their inquisitors
who refuse to retreat in battle
and who are dying with the sum of this knowledge
There will be a future.
Extract from Utendi wa MwanaKupona
The Book of Utendi MwanaKupona
Come forward and sit down
with paper and ink.
In my heart I have something
that I want to say to you.
When done, start by writing
In the Name of God;
send supplications to the beloved
together with his Companions.
When you have recorded
the Name of Almighty God,
now we pray for His bounty
and God will be pleased with us.
Man is nothing
and the world does not belong to us;
there is none
that shall endure.
accept my admonition
and God will preserve you
and keep you from ill.
Take the amulet that I give you;
tie it firmly with cord;
honour it and
pay attention to it.
I will make you a necklace
of pearl and coral
to dress you as a noble lady
when it shines upon your neck.
I would love to give you a clasp,
fine without flaw,
to wear on your neck,
and you will see its usefulness for yourself.
If you heed my advice,
my child, you will have no trouble;
you will pass safely through this world
and ascend to the next.
The first thing is to hold fast to your religion,
not rejecting the ordinances and obligations of God,
and when possible it is your duty to follow the Traditions,
it is a must you obey.
The second is to behave
properly and discreetly,
so that you are a welcome creature
wherever you go.
The third is to be trustworthy;
what you do,
do it conscientiously,
and do not make friends with a dishonest person.
Then, my child,
give respect to people of quality,
and wherever you see them,
make haste to greet them.
Talk with them cheerfully
so as to give them pleasure;
but it is better to be silent
than to give offence….
…O God, O God, O Lord, O Lord,
Thou to Whom prayer is made
and by Whom it is fulfilled,
answer me when I call upon Thee.
I pray to Thee, O Lord,
by Thy Beautiful
one hundred less one.
I have listened to the learned
and they tell me
that if a Muslim prays
the prayer will be answered.
I, Thy feeble servant,
pray to Thee in my troubles to ease them;
Lord, for me.
The Invocation of the Graces
From Carmena Gadelica
I bathe thy palms
In showers of wine,
In the lustral fire,
In the seven elements,
In the juice of the rasps,
In the milk of honey,
And I place the nine pure choice graces
In thy fair fond face:
The grace of form,
The grace of voice,
The grace of fortune,
The grace of goodness,
The grace of wisdom,
The grace of charity,
The grace of choice maidenliness,
The grace of whole-souled loveliness,
The grace of goodly speech.
Dark is yonder town,
Dark are those therein,
Thou art the brown swan,
Going in among them.
Their hearts are under thy control,
Their tongues are beneath thy sole,
Nor will they ever utter a word
To give thee offence.
A shade art thou in the heat,
A shelter art thou in the cold,
Eyes art thou to the blind,
As staff art thou to the pilgrim,
An island art thou at sea,
A fortress art thou on land,
A well art thou in the desert,
Health art thou to the ailing.
Thine is the skill of the Fairy Woman,
Thine is a virtue of Bride the calm,
Thine is the faith of Mary the mild,
Thine is the tact of the woman of Greece,
Thine is the beauty of Emir the lovely,
Thine is the tenderness of Darthula delightful,
Thine is the courage of Maedbh the strong,
Thine is the charm of Binne-bheul.
Thou art the joy of all joyous things,
Thou art the light of the beam of the sun,
Thou art the door of the chief of hospitality,
Thou art the surpassing star of guidance,
Thou art the step of the deer of the hill,
Thou art the step of the steed on the plain,
Thou art the grace of the swan swimming,
Thou art the loveliness all lovely desires.
The lovely likeness of the Lord
Is in thy pure face,
The loveliest likeness that
Was upon earth.
The best hour of the day be thine,
The best day of the week be thine,
The best week of the year be thine,
That best year in the Son of God’s domain be thine.
Peter has come and Paul has come,
James has come and John has come,
Muriel and Virgin Mary have come,
Uriel the all-beneficent has come,
Ariel the beauteousness of the young has
Gabriel the seer of the virgin has come,
Raphael the prince of the valiant has come,
And Michael the chief of the hosts has come,
And Jesus Christ the mild has come,
And the Spirit of true guidance has come,
And the King of kings has come to the helm,
To bestow on thee their affection and their love,
To bestow on thee their affection and their love.
From Quaker Faith and Practice
Approaches to God – worship and prayer
Power of the inner kind increases with use. It is not unusual for telepathy to develop between those who are close to each other in love. Again, prayer groups increase prayer power, and as the bonds of friendship and trust develop, charismatic healing gifts arise. This type of spiritual study and prayer fellowship has been the most precious part of my life for many years. Such groups sustain and bind people together so that when one falls ill, feels depressed or suffers a bereavement, he or she may count upon the friendship of the others. It is this kind of relationship, where there is both giving and receiving at an inner level, which sometimes extends beyond the grave.
Damaris Parker-Rhodes 1985