Forms of Prayer 5: The Conversation Continues
1. Lou Fridkis: “I changed my prayer – help me to be worthy to have another child. I.e. even if its not the right thing to actually have the child, helping me to improve myself is more likely to be something that is appropriate.”
Rabbi Weinberg: I mention again that “L’hitpallel” – to Pray – is reflexive. Prayer is a process of affecting inner change and growth. We do not pray only in order to receive. We pray, as you so powerfully described, in order to change and grow into someone who will merit receiving further blessings. A successful prayer is not measured by whether we are granted our request. A successful prayer is one that helped us grow as human beings and allowed us to develop a closer relationship with God. In fact, an accurate measure of successful prayer is to simply evaluate whether my current prayer is different than my prayers of a year ago. My prayer will be different if I have grown. My prayers were not successful if I did not grow.
2. LF: “I believe that Hashem communicates with me through prayer.”
RW: I have no doubt that the siddur was composed in order to communicate with us and guide us in hearing when God is communicating with us in our lives. For me, the Siddur is a workbook. I take absolutely everything I learn and “plug it” into my siddur. The next time I pray, I use the thought to enhance my Kavanah – Awareness – and, inevitably, I will receive a deeper insight. I use the new insight the next time I daven, and the process continues. I also take each life experience and apply it to my siddur in the same manner. The siddur offers insights into my experiences that add deeper dimensions to my life.
3. LF: “perhaps instead of teaching: here are the rules for skipping if you are late; teach: here are the rules for skipping if you are slow. Or, here are the rules for skipping if you just spent 5 minutes thinking what a miracle it is that Hashem makes a distinction between day and night. What a miracle it is that the sunrise/sunset is so beautiful, when you said the prayer, “bayn Yom oo vayn layla”
RW: It seems to me that you are addressing the struggle between formal and informal prayer. There are times when formal prayer seems to restrict spontaneous expression. I invite people to comment on Lou’s point, so we can dedicate a full essay to this important issue.
4. Chana Geiss: Every morning in my school, we say Perek (Chapter) 20 of Tehillim (Psalms) and then go through a list of about 50 names of wounded soldiers and sick people to ask for their refuah (healing). Do you think it is effective at all? It’s hard for me to believe that saying dozens of names of people I never met is helpful… But is it?
RW: Is it hard for you to believe that your prayers can bring merit to someone?