Reflecting on Reflecting – Rabbi Barry Gelman

The only way we can discuss prayer is on the basis of self-reflection, trying to describe what has happened to us in a rare and precious moment of prayer. (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel; The Insecurity of Freedom: Prayer as Discipline pg. 255)

 

This is the great paradox of prayer. As Rabbi Heschel says a few lines later: “You  cannot, of course, analyze the act of prayer while praying.” Doing so would be to violate the sacred nature of prayer as total immersion (See pg. 255 in the Essay Prayer as Discipline for more on this). On the other hand, we cannot afford not to spend time self-reflecting on our prayer experiences. Like anything else in life, events that we let go by without contemplation, leave little impact on us.

So, we have no choice but to find time after we have prayed to try our best to recollect how we were feeling when we prayed. Maybe this is the companion to Adonai Sifatai Tiftach….” said before we pray. That statement is actually a request for help that we pray with Kavannah.

After we have prayed, we should look back to see if it worked. Was there a particular time during Tefilla that I felt moved? Was there a particular time I felt distracted? How can I duplicate the times i found moved and minimize the distractions?

We should also do this institutionally. if there was a particular teffila that had the community engaged, consider the elements and see if they can be duplicated on a regular basis. And, if there are elements of tefilla that do not engage the people, it may be time to envision a different approach.

Meaningful prayer is so difficult. We can attain success in prayer more often if we take time to reflect on how we pray, what works and what does not.

 

One Response to Reflecting on Reflecting – Rabbi Barry Gelman

  1. Mr. Cohen says:

    Rabbi Avigdor Miller (a popular Chareidi Rabbi,
    born 1908 CE, died 2001 CE) delivered a free public lecture
    in the last year of his life, in which he taught that
    Jews should pray for the Israeli Army .
    I personally witnessed this; I was there.
    When a Jew recites Tefilat Shemoneh Esrei, he permitted to add his own personal prayer requests in the middle of the final paragraph, which begins with Elokai Netzor Leshoni MeiRa.
    I recently began adding the prayer for the Israeli Army in that part.
    I know this is not the way it is normally recited, but it is permitted, and I can say it that way in any synagogue, any day except Shabbat or holidays.

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