Forms of Prayer
Tens of people gathered to pray for the young mother of three who was mortally ill. The tears flowed. Everyone cried to God to save the family from tragedy.
They prayed for thirty minutes and left. No one was smiling. It seemed to the rabbi that no one believed their prayers even mattered.
They gathered again on the next day when they heard that the young woman’s situation was much worse. All were ready to pray with cries and tears. They waited for the rabbi to begin the emergency prayer session.
Rather than rise to face the Ark and lead the prayers, the rabbi stood up to face the congregation:
“Is there anyone here who believes that our prayers of yesterday helped?”
People were shocked, even horrified that a rabbi could ask such a question, especially in such a desperate situation, but no one raised a hand to say he believed that the prayers were effective.
“Is there anyone here who left yesterday believing that God had listened?”
A few hesitant hands that went half way up, then down. No hand was raised in confidence.
“Let’s try a different approach,” said the rabbi, “any suggestions?”
One person stood up to say, “I would like to argue her case before God! She is so young. She has three babies! God, this isn’t fair!”
Someone shouted out, “I’ll tell God that I won’t stop pestering Him until He responds!”
A woman shyly stood up to say, “You love me. Please, do it for me.”
“No,” said the woman next to her, “You love her. You love her children. Do it for them!”
“You can do it like this,” said another as she snapped her fingers. “What’s the big deal?”
A quiet man rose to whisper, “You guys can’t argue with God. He knows best. I would say, ‘Look, God, You know best, but I’m begging You to use the Nike approach; Just Do It!”
“Hey! Rabbi! Didn’t you say that we can pray with joy and confidence; ‘You are the Healer and we are confident that You will Heal her’?”
They spent thirty minutes describing how they would pray. There was no time left to pray. Everyone had to get to work. “We spent so much time discussing how to pray that we have no time left,” a woman moaned.
The rabbi said, “What do you think we were just doing? We just had one of the greatest prayer sessions in history!”
Everyone left inspired. They were hopeful. Each had a sense that his prayers were heard.
These are the ten (or, thirteen) forms of prayer listed in the Midrash on this week’s portion.
There are many forms of prayer. Why use only one approach? Why stick with the same approach if we feel that our prayers are not working?
Talking about prayer, and strategizing how to pray are also forms of prayer, just as it was for the people in the story.
By the way; The woman had a miraculous recovery. Just saying…
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