Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stumble Upon a Lost Prayer

I have the tendency to be a Socratic tourist, inquisitive, curious and excited to learn more. I love history, exploring places and not just by listening to what the guide has to say, but by going and getting a feel for myself about how the place must have been back in the old days, by exploring the hidden nooks and corners. Holy sites form a huge part of history and culture of most places in our world. I have had the opportunity to visit Muslim mosques, Christian churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples, Sikh gurdwaras and even pagan worship sites such as Stonehenge. I am a Muslim and I visit the sites of other religions as a tourist, yet respectful towards them as I would like others to be respectful when visiting Muslim holy sites.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity of visiting one of the old churches in London, Southwark Cathedral. My visiting the site, which later turned out to be the oldest cathedral church building in London, was quite an accident. I was coming back from someplace, and this was literally in my way. I decided instead of going around the church, I may as well go through it. It was a nice, beautiful cathedral and my curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to explore it. While exploring it, I came across a small old tomb, with some inscription on the wall besides it, containing information regarding who was buried there. I had really liked what was written there and had taken a picture with my cell phone. While browsing through my images gallery in my cell today, I came across that picture and decided it was definitely worth sharing on my blog.

The inscription informed us that the person buried there was Bishop Lancelot Andrewes. It then went on to quote a prayer by him, and I quote verbatim:

'Thou, O Lord, art the Helper of the helpless,
the Hope of the hopeless,
the Savior of them who are tossed with the tempests,
the Haven of them who sail, be thou all to all,
the glorious majesty of the Lord, our God be upon us,
prosper thou the work of our hands upon us,
oh! prosper thou our handiwork.
Lord, be thou within us, to strengthen us,
without us to keep us, above us to protect us,
beneath us to uphold us, before us to direct us,
behind us to keep us from straying,
round about us to defend us.
Blessed be Thou, O Lord our father, for ever and ever.'

I don't know if it was just the soothing aura of the place, the peaceful ambiance or just the sincere beauty in these words, but they touched me and I stopped to capture the moment with my phone camera. Apart from the last line, which is Christian specific considering the 'our father' bit, this is actually a beautiful and simple prayer that transcends religious boundaries. That is of course just my opinion, however the sincerity in it has definitely stood the test of time, and enchanted many a tourists visiting Southwark Cathedral. God bless.

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