Is there anything new here? Why not just use the old prayersmany of them, frankly, much better written than most of what is in this book?
Because some things have changed. Without doing a formal head count, it's obvious that in Prayers for a Thousand Years the voices of women are fully present. The awareness that the earth is sacred comes in hundreds of the selections, and not just from explicitly "environmental" writers like Joanna Macy, Thomas Berry, and Terry Tempest Williams. I also like the many direct warnings against using spiritual practices or experiences as an escape from our collective troubles. Riane Eisler counsels that "faith is not enough. We must act on our faith. Inner healing is not enough. We must heal our world."
Unfortunately, although I found myself in spiritual, political, social, ethical, and ecological agreement, the book rarely moved me. How hard it is, I think, to write a prayerto inscribe out of the depths of one's own joy and anguish, ecstasy and grief, words that will move another's soul. How hard to write for that abstract worldwide collection of politically correct spiritual seekers...all too conscious of all the issues, "isms," and problems we faceinstead of for one very particular, very concrete, community. The thoughts are true, the values solid, but the spiritual and emotional power of the 23rd Psalm, the Dammapada, or the Sermon on the Mount rarely arise.
Read an Excerpt
Visions of Hope
And all shall be well
and all shall be well
and all manner of thing shall be well.
Prayers for a Thousand Years begins with visions of hope. It is upon visions such as these, and upon the intentions they reveal, that a new world can be built. The visioning process is not a task that is done once and then forgotten; again and again we must attempt to restate our hopes and reimagine the possibilities open to us. We must continually call forth visions, even if they are just glimpses, of how we might align our lives more closely with our dreams and values.
The prayers in Part 1 focus beyond the immediate and real problems of our time, offering images of hope that will support us on the longer journey But this hope is not Pollyanna sentimentality. The men and women who offer their prayers in this section have witnessed the suffering caused by fear, greed, and anger and have reached deep within themselves and within our common humanity to find resilience and patience. "I am filled with hope for the future," writes Archbishop Desmond Tutu. "In spite of much to the contrary, the world is becoming a kinder, safer place." This is radical optimism. And it is heartening, giving us courage to persevere in the work that calls us.
In the archbishop's words, notice the phrase "in spite of much to the contrary." This phrase reveals an important quality of unsentimental hope: it is not blind to the darker sides of our nature. As we look in the millennium mirror, we must admit that the human species is capable ofboth nobility and horror. We cannot ignore the horror and pretend that all is well as we walk into the future. We know we carry our failings along with our dreams. Yet this knowledge does not have to paralyze us with foreboding or despair. Our individual destinies and the destiny of life on earth are by no means sealed. The great spiritual traditions of the world understand this, and each in its own way seeks to reveal hope and meaning in the midst of the profound changes experienced by all societies.
The most compelling visions offer images that we can see in our mind's eye. True visions are not simply ideas or goals; they carry layers of meaning and intention that communicate more directly than a corporate five-year plan. Listen here to a young Cambodian, Chath Piersath, praying for his war-torn country:
There will be playgrounds instead of war zones.Such images communicate a vision that touches and motivates. The new world we build will emerge from individual glimpses of a more just and beautiful world being created step by step. To facilitate that creation, we need to let go of preconceived notions of what is possible or customary and allow ourselves to imagine our deepest dreams come true. "Everywhere the transformation will look different," Bill McKibben tells us, "just as spring comes to each spot with subtly different signs and vestiges."
There will be more schools instead of brothels and nightclubs.
The children will sing songs of joy instead of terror.
They will learn how to read love instead of hate.
This is our work: to dare to envision a more just and beautiful tomorrow and to be glad for the diverse ways spring comes to our world. The voices rising from Part 1 foretell the coming of spring, gently assuring us that "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Prayers for a Thousand Years. Copyright © by Elizabeth Roberts. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.