“Cometh the hour, cometh the man.” Or in this case, the latest powerfully healing offering by well known spiritual writer and thinker Stephanie Dowrick entitled Heaven on Earth: Timeless Prayers of Wisdom and Love.
I can’t help but think this book is perfectly timed as our world seems to be grappling with so many challenges that rarely allow us any breathing space before the next one is upon us. Even in this luckiest of countries, we’re in danger of losing our carefree confidence as the harsh reality of what a scorching summer ahead may bring us hits home with terrifying fires we’ve never seen before in spring.
Against that backdrop and much more, Heaven on Earth is a cool and soothing balm, even to someone not given to praying very much at all. Dowrick, celebrated for such original and thought provoking books as Intimacy and Solitude, Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love, Choosing Happiness and Seeking the Sacred recognises that so many people feel constricted by traditional forms of prayer and probably, too, are pressured to find the quiet time and space to devote to it.
She tells us that in 21st century life, we are free to choose our own words so we should choose those words that serve us best. As Dowrick says, the act of praying pays us back far more because we are “prayed” by what we choose to have on our lips and in our hearts. It opens up the potential for joy and hope and forgiveness and much more besides that perhaps we had thought were denied us.
Heaven on Earth is mostly a compilation of prayers from many different faiths and belief systems, many of them interpreted by Dowrick, reflecting her own eclectic journey through spirituality including her leadership of an interfaith congregation at Sydney’s Pitt Street Uniting Church since 2006.
We learn for instance that Buddhism, which has no belief in God, nevertheless offers its followers the opportunity to pray, as Dowrick says, “with commitment and fervour”. I enjoyed the words of a young man from a secular Jewish family who’s become a Buddhist meditation teacher who tells us that in praying to the outer Buddha or bodhisattvas, he knows he is awakening his own “inner Buddha”.
Elsewhere, Dowrick assures us that we can shed our feelings of inadequacy simply by realising we can be a channel for all those wonderful qualities we aspire to by cultivating our inner world, our “soul strength”, through prayer. And there are so many beautiful prayers to choose as our guides. Here are two or three to take away with you for the day ahead:
“ All over the world the supreme Spirit has left signs of his presence.” - Dom Bede Griffiths
“If your only prayer was thank you, it would be enough.” - Meister Eckhart
“Get over your hesitations! Don’t dwell on disappointments. Delight in your life. Be an example to those who need it. Reveal the path to many.” - Adapted from the Sutta Nipata
Margaret Evans has a background in teaching, journalism and publishing. She is the editor of NOVA Holistic Journal.