The connection one has with the Jewish faith can waver when prayer doesn’t come easy. It is such a central part of Judaism. It can be frustrating, overwhelming, or even a roadblock for people who have a difficult time with prayer.
The Oxford American Dictionary defines prayer as a "solemn request for help or an expression of thanks addressed to G-d". Jewish prayer is a pathway to G-d. It is an expression of our belief in G-d and our dependence upon G-d for all that we have. Prayer is a mode to build relationship with G-d, and prayer enlivens our souls.
The conflict of doing before believing, acting before understanding, or reciting before feeling is a common one. The Nike commercial that tells us to “JUST DO IT” is quite fitting. The Torah tells us that we accepted the Torah based upon Naaseh, we will do, before V’nishma, we will understand.
Praying can take many forms and if you don’t connect with the traditional prayers, it’s time to explore new avenues. Here are five out of the box Pathways to prayer:
If you can’t offer up thanks to G-d, you can express your gratitude for things that exist in your life. Start a gratitude journal. Before going to sleep, reflect on your day and all that you are thankful for.
Take a walk in nature – go to the mountains, the forest, or the beach. Appreciate what you see and all that is a part of our world. Bring a camera, a journal, or just your thoughts.
Journal. Five minutes of free flow writing – that means no planning, no thinking, just start writing. You might see praise, thanks, and request (the three typical expressions of praying found in Jewish daily prayer) stemming from a journal exercise.
Listen to music. Pick a song that really moves you. Put together an entire play list of songs. Find prayers that have been reworked into music with tunes that pick you up and lift your soul.
Use the stalled moments. Take advantage of the times you are out and about in life. Rather than waiting for the designated time – find the time when you are stuck in traffic, observing a beautiful phenomenon in nature, or the last few moments before your children return from school.
Rewrite the current prayers. If the prayers you recite in synagogue or before eating a meal don’t speak to you or don’t speak for you – try rewriting them. What would you say to express your thanks for the food you are about to eat? What would you tell the King of the world or the Creator of the world about what you think of it? How might you express your gratitude?
In today’s busy, fast-paced climate, prayer offers us an opportunity to slow down and “smell the roses”. It offers us a moment to reflect from within, to connect with a greater purpose, and – even – to relinquish a bit of control over to ‘something’ else.