Prepent Day 26: What Does it Really Mean to Pray?

Thursday 9/29/16

Elul 26 5776

Dear Whomever is In Charge,

There was this one night in my backyard six or seven months ago, in deep despair, no poetry or meditation helping to bring me the light of simple joy. I got on my knees and lost all mind or pride and asked in tears, of whoever is in charge, to help me mend my heart and loneliness and fear. It was a brokenhearted prayer, very rare for me to go into this type of I:You space. I honestly don’t have full faith that someone/something’s listening. And yet, I sometimes try.

“The result of prayer is life,” wrote St. Francis of Assisi, “Prayer irrigates the earth and heart.”

I get it, hear it, feel it, but I still also struggle with what it really means to pray, to whom, to what, and how to truly trust that I am in conversation with the spirit of the world. The source, a presence that cares enough to be present to my fears, my tears, my gratitudes and yearnings.

I’m ok with prayer, that act which in Hebrew is called tefilah - conversation, as an opportunity to feel and think outloud, to celebrate gratitude, spill out unspoken angst, lift up hopes and be private publicly with others dealing with other, different, similar human stuff.

I’m ok with the inherited prayers and poems that complete the prayer books we still use, with all revisions and updates.

And yet, as these days of awe come near with so many many prayers, I pause to ponder what it really means to pray and how, perhaps, this coming year, I’ll keep perfecting this poetic art form in ways that will continue healing me and others.

Today is the 26th day of PREPENT, and it’s also the day on which dear friends created the #NewYearPrayer day - a global moment of reflection, hope, inspiration and unity in anticipation of the Jewish New Year.

Dear Whomever is in charge, I thank today for all the gifts of doubt and duty, I pause to praise and ponder all the mysteries that still defy my sense of self, and ask, for all its worth for help this coming year in being more attuned to love, to hope, to presence.

May there be poetry informing many moments of our lives. Erica Jong, a new friend, wrote this one as if just for today: To Whom it May Concern.


PREPENT: Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s annual journey to the new year, with 40 ways in 40 days to reflect, refocus, recharge and restart life. This year features daily love letters inspired by Lab/Shul’s theme for the High Holy Days, “וְאָהַבְתָּ re:love.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Prepent Day 26: What Does it Really Mean to Pray?

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Prepent Day 26: What Does it Really Mean to Pray?

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