Prayer. Dictionary.com provides these three definitions:
1. a devout petition to g-d or an object of worship.
2. a spiritual communion with G-d or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.
It is such a simple concept, right? Prayer is a conversation with G-d. But, HOW does one pray?
In Judaism, there is a prayer or a blessing for just about every imaginable situation. There is even a blessing one is to say upon hearing thunder. (What if this thunder is heard during a terrible storm, when thunder booms every fifteen seconds or so? Is one to recite the blessing each time? What about for the lightening?) But, while there are specific prayers and blessings for situations, how does one handle the everyday situations?
Many of my friends are involved with prayer chains. These are usually set up for people who are very ill and in need of prayer. I know of the Mi Sheberach prayer, and I say it during Shabbat services. Sadly, the list of names I add to the prayers for the sick is long. But, how do I pray for them on a Tuesday morning? Is there a special prayer for those in need of healing when there is no minyan?
When my heart is aching because I have learned of a friend who is ill, I want to reach for the comfort of prayer. I know that I always feel surrounded by warmth and love on Shabbat. I know it is from the feeling of collective prayer and being in the presence of G-d. And yes, I know that I am always in the presence of G-d, but somehow it is different. So, how do I pray?
Is it okay to just “talk” to G-d? I mean in a very casual way; in a very “Are you there, G-d? It’s me, Margaret” kind of way? Or do prayers always have to be formal and said in the presence of a minyan? What if I don’t know the Hebrew? Is it okay to just use my native language? What if the person for whom I wish to pray does not have a Hebrew name? What if I am not sure of this person’s full name? What if I get the name completely wrong? And what about prayers for myself? Is it selfish to ask for help with the mundane?
I spent many years in Sunday school as a child, and prayer was never one of the topics covered. I wish it had been. I wish we had been taught HOW to talk to G-d. With prayers available for every situation, I would have liked to learn how to use them in every situation. I would like to be able to share with my own children how to pray. Is there a right way? If G-d is all-knowing, as I believe, then wouldn’t He already know what is in my heart? Are the words even necessary? Is it more about the ACT of uttering a prayer, or merely the RELATIONSHIP one has with G-d?
Really, HOW do you pray?
Until this question is answered, I think I will keep doing what I have been doing. I will just keep on speaking to G-d with my heart. I am sure He understands.