Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth;
lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust;
lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart,
our world, our universe.
This prayer is found in A New Zealand Prayer Book/He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (p.164).
Although it has also been credited as an adaptation by the Hindu Swami Chidananda Saraswati, it is a well known adaptation of the famous mantra from the Hindu Upanishads by Satish Kumar. Satish Kumar is a former Jain monk. Since 1973 he has lived in England, where he is married to June Mitchell and they have a son.
Jainism is a relatively small religion originating in India. It has approximately four million adherents world wide. Satish Kumar’s adaptation was designed to be able to be used by all people of all languages and beliefs.
The prayer was first publicly used in July 1981 by Mother Teresa in the Anglican Church, St. James’, Piccadilly in London.
Each day at noon people of all faiths and none use this ‘Universal Prayer for Peace’. This forms a wave of prayer and hope rippling each day around the globe. Hence its positioning in our Prayer Book’s Midday Prayer. There is a world peace prayer society encouraging its use.
In the Prayer Book this prayer follows an adaptation by Jim Cotter of a 1976 Buddhist litany for peace (p163). This litany originates with the famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Nhât Hanh (Jim Cotter, Thursday, Prayer in the Day).
It has always fascinated me that these prayers of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain source sit alongside those of Jewish origin within our Prayer Book, part of the formularies to which Anglican leaders must give assent as expressing our doctrine.
There is much food for reflection here in a world of prejudice, violence, and disunity. This is an invitation to daily prayer, and a challenge for Christians to live and work together as salt, light, and leaven with people of other great faiths, and all people of goodwill.