Prayer can be simultaneously one of the most difficult and most rewarding tasks in our lives.
My life is so busy; how do I get rid of the distractions and focus? I have laundry to do, an important meeting to attend, groceries to buy, phone calls to make, a volunteer project to manage… As I stand in prayer, all my scheduling needs and demands descend upon me and crowd me in. Did I call Sara's teacher? Did I fill out Yissie's camp form? Did I make Chava's doctor's appointment? And what on earth am I going to make for dinner? (Maybe I'd better stop praying and defrost something now!)
How can I possibly stay on point? How will I ever concentrate?
One of my children needed radiation therapy as an infant. As she was strapped to a board, placed inside a head cast and wheeled into the machine, the world around me faded. There was nothing else to do. There was nowhere else to be. All that mattered was her. All my thoughts and prayers, all my emotions and energies were with her. For those brief moments, every day for a month, I was totally focused. I try to conjure up the image of that time as I prepare myself to pray. Sometimes it works. And sometimes… well, at least the meat is defrosted for dinner.
And how do I talk to this intangible being? How do I pray without anything concrete in front of me? Other religions have solved this dilemma by making God an idol or a person, by trying to bring Him down to our level. But Jews never take the easy way out. We have to lift up - out of our mundane lives, out of our finite world, to try to touch the Transcendent, if only for a brief second. Even if we fall back down hard and fast. It is difficult to have a relationship with an Omnipresent Being, but imagine the potential power being harnessed. A relationship with the Creator of the world has the power to transform.
Taking time out to pray everyday says, 'This relationship matters to me.'
But we have to want it. Just as a marriage requires tremendous effort in order to be successful, so does a relationship with God. Marriage needs daily, consistent acts of affirmation; our communication with the Almighty needs to occur on a regular basis -- no matter how sleep deprived, overworked or underpaid we are.
Taking time out to pray everyday says, 'This relationship matters to me.' By taking prayer seriously -- and most importantly expecting a response - we actively work on building this relationship.
Philosophically we wonder how could a perfect Being need our prayers? He doesn't; we do. Not only do we constantly need to deepen our relationship with the Almighty, but through prayer we refocus on our priorities, we ground ourselves, we center our days.
What we ask for helps us understand who we are. What we're answered helps us understand who we should be.
Our assumption is that the Almighty will always answer us. Whether or not we're satisfied with the answer is our choice.
It's no problem for the Almighty to satisfy our desires; in fact it's His pleasure. Unless it's not good for us. Unless we're mistaken about our true goals, our real needs; unless we're confused in our understanding of what would truly benefit us.
Prayer can be frustrating. It can be annoying. It can be anxiety-provoking - like all real relationships.
And it can be rewarding. Intensely so. It can deepen our personal insights. It can lead to behavioral and character change. It can elevate our days and nights, our hearts and minds. All our relationships can benefit.
With the children pulling on us, the phone ringing, bills piling up, and that meeting agenda still not finalized, it's hard to stop and pray. Yet it's the only way to live the day as we really want to live it - fully , with thanks to the Almighty for His good, with a clear understanding of our purpose and goals, with focus on life's meaning and essence, and with God's blessing on all we do.