Bridge to the Sacred: A Collection of Interfaith Prayers
Edited by L. E. McCullough and Rev. Elizabeth Bansavage
Silver Spear Publications, 2016
Paperback, 120 pages
Reviewed by Ruth Hoppin
Two features set this book apart from other collections of prayers and meditations. First, they are organized into 40 sections, according to theme, such as courage, grief, loneliness, and safe travel. Most are little-known gems from diverse religious traditions. Second, 44 vibrant photos grace the pages augmenting their spiritual message.
Here are some examples that I especially liked.
Almighty God, the Giver of Wisdom,
Without whose help resolutions are vain,
Without whose blessing study is ineffectual;
Enable me, if it be Thy will,
To attain such knowledge as may qualify me
To direct the doubtful and instruct the ignorant,
To prevent wrongs and terminate contentions;
And grant that I may use that knowledge which I shall attain,
To Thy glory and my own salvation.
—Samuel Johnson (1709–1784), English author
Let His grace emancipate you.
Let your life be that of a rose.
Through silence it speaks in the language of fragrance.
—Babaji (19th-century CE), Indian mystic
Elizabeth Bansavage’s garden in New Jersey, source of the photos, is a site often used for weddings. Therefore, it is appropriate to include a selection from “Marriage”:
Praise God, my soul, who has assigned
A partner now to cheer thy mind;
May I improve the blessing given
And thus in time prepare for heaven.
Make us, O lord in spirit one;
May all our works in Thee be done;
Grant us Thy smiles I humbly pray
That we may walk in Christ the way.
Our souls united may they be
And rise in Christian liberty;
O, may we soar to things above
And ever live in peace and love.
—Rev. Gilbert Lyon (1788–1852), American Methodist minister
I was curious to know how the collaboration between the authors came about and initiated email correspondence with them. Lisa and Larry are a married couple, each with a story of spiritual quest that deepened their understanding of the human impulse for transcendence.
Larry is widely published in many genres, and a musician as well. Though he was raised Roman Catholic, from childhood he was intrigued by Eastern and Middle Eastern culture. Let him tell his story in his own words:
[A]s a teenager, I began to read widely about the history of religion in the world and avidly followed the upsurge in mainstream media coverage of Eastern religions. . . . My purpose in co-creating Bridge to the Sacred is to show that faiths all over the world—no matter how different their origin, dogma, practice, history—share the same goal of finding a way to speak with The Divine . . .
Lisa is the daughter of a Jewish mother and Catholic father; the family attending a Unitarian church. As a child, she was curious about and appreciative of other religious traditions and liked worshiping with her friends. At age thirteen, she spent a summer in Israel on a group trip. She relates that that summer “sparked a new level of interest in religious practices” and set her on a path leading to ordination as an interfaith minister.
While she was in seminary, Larry read most of her assigned material as well: “We enjoyed frequent discussions about the function and form of spiritual practices in different faiths. I believe that seeds were planted during this time for our eventual collaboration on this collection of prayers.”
She credits Larry with the idea of organizing the prayers by topic of concern, “a wonderful way to show the vast scope of universal human needs.”
Lisa has this to say about prayer: “Prayer provides a venue that gives voice to our concerns and sufferings . . . can reassure us, clear our minds, and reconnect us to a higher power. What a surprise it can be to sometimes find the words of prayer spoken in another faith might perfectly address our own longing or anguish.”
Lisa and Larry’s delightful book is eminently suitable as a gift, but you will want a copy for yourself to refer to again and again.
Ruth Hoppin is the author of Priscilla’s Letter: Finding the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews and Spinning the Arrow of Time. She is a contributor to the IVP Women’s Bible Commentary and A Feminist Companion to the Catholic Epistles and Hebrews (T&T Clark Intl). You can read more about Ruth’s work here. (Photo © John Swanda 2008)
© 2016 by Christian Feminism Today