Over the centuries, certain words or short phrases have taken on a sacred character because of their use as repetitive prayers or mantras. Here are a few examples of traditional mantras.
- Buddhism: Om Mani Padme Hum (the jewel in the lotus of the heart)
- Christianity: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner (known as the Jesus Prayer); Maranatha (Come Lord); Hail Mary (Mother of God).
- Hinduism: Om (the sound of ultimate reality); Hare Krishna Rama (three holy names of God); Aum Namah Sivaya (Adoration to Siva).
- Islam: La ilaha il Allah (There is no god but God); Allahu akbar (God is great)
A New Approach
One way to enrich your prayer life is to try out some of the names other people and religions have given the Divine. Try names that are outside your traditional vocabulary. You might consider the ninety-nine names, or attributes, Muslims use for the Holy One. I keep a list of these names in my office because I find them so very meaningful – especially in this time of great misunderstanding about what Muslims believe. I’ve listed the names here in English (in Arabic, the written words themselves are words of art!), and I encourage you to prayerfully consider them, being especially aware of what images of God come alive for you as you say each name and of new ways you feel connected to the Holy.
The All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful, the Absolute Ruler, the Pure One, the Source of Peace, the Inspirer of Faith, the Guardian, the Victorious, the Compeller, the Greatest, the Creator, the Maker of Order, the Shaper of Beauty, the Forgiving, the Subduer, the Giver of All, the Sustainer, the Opener, the Knower of All, the Constrictor, the Reliever, the Abaser, the Exalter, the Bestower of Honors, the Humiliator, the Hearer of All, the Seer of All, the Judge, the Just, the Subtle One, the All-Aware, the Forbearing, the Magnificent, the Forgiver and Hider of Faults, the Rewarder of Thankfulness, the Highest, the Greatest, the Preserver, the Nourisher, the Accounter, the Mighty, the Generous, the Watchful One, the Responder to Prayer, the All-Comprehending, the Perfectly Wise, the Loving One, the Majestic One, the Resurrector, the Witness, the Truth, the Trustee, the Possessor of All Strength, the Forceful One, the Governor, the Praised One, the Appraiser, the Originator, the Restorer, the Giver of Life, the Taker of Life, the Ever Living One, the Self-Existing One, the Finder, the Glorious, the Only One, the One, the Satisfier of All Needs, the All Powerful, the Creator of All Power, the Expediter, the Delayer, the First, the Last, the Manifest One, the Hidden One, the Protecting Friend, the Supreme One, the Doer of Good, the Guide to Repentance, the Avenger, the Forgiver, the Clement, the Owner of All, the Lord of Majesty and Bounty, the Equitable One, the Gatherer, the Rich One, the Enricher, the Preventer of Harm, the Creator of the Harmful, the Creator of Good, the Light, the Guide, the Originator, the Everlasting One, the Inheritor of All, the Righteous Teacher, the Patient One.
Let Me Hear
Let me hear, O God, the words that are good and sweet.
Let me see the beautiful things that fill my heart with joy.
Let me have a strong body,
to sing thy glories and devote my life to your work.
— Mahendra Jani, Vandana Jani in What You Will See Inside A Hindu Temple
What You Want
Creator, whatever it is you want me to do today, that is what I want to do. Whatever it is you want me to say, today, Creator, that is what I want to say. Wherever you want me to go today, Creator, that is where I want to go.
— Sequoyah in Learning to Pray by Wayne Muller