Why do we pray?

The cute answer is “Please”, “thanks”, “I’m sorry” and “You’re awesome.”

The Amidah the 18 blessings that are 19 beautifully, soulfully expresses those simple categories.

We begin with the “You’re awesome” blessings.

1)      You are the awesome G of our ancestors, the Source of compassion.

2)      You are the powerful G who brings us from our deadened state to a place within the circle of Life.

3)      You are the Source of Holiness/Wholeness

Then come the “Please” blessings which include several implied “I am sorry” sections.

4)      Help us back on the Sefirot path to wholeness. Help us to feel the Sacred ‘Ah ha’ moments, explore their wonders and teachings and then putting them into word and deed.

5)      Return us to Torah and make us wholly balanced.

6)      Forgive us for missing the mark and messing up.

7)      Help us become aware that You are with us, nudging us back to the good path, the path of redemption.

8)      Heal us physically and spiritually with compassion.

9)      Please give us a good year filled with blessing.

10)   Gather us together from the four corners of exile, both physically and spiritually, from You.

11)   Retrieve our judgments to original innocence, helping us to let go of baggage that impedes our growth.

12)   Help us not take hope in bad tongue wagging and being mean spirited.

13)   Show us the compassion of right action and kindness. Let us learn and grow from wisdom and those who share wisdom, from all peoples.  Let us see our own compassion, learning our place in this world.

14)   Return the ideal of Jerusalem, city of peace. Over the seat of David we remember Your Presence.  Help us to build the ideal as Your words have taught us.

15)   Let the flower of loving service be with us daily.

16)   Source of compassion help us to hear the compassion in our own voices as we reach out and reach in to You.

17)   Help us to light the sacred fire, the desire to serve in this world as a sacred sanctuary. Let our prayers be filled with love and receptivity and holy desire.

After praise and pleas, we offer a thanksgiving for what was what is and what might be.

18)   We are grateful, Oh G for our tribal past, for life and the chance to make life better.  Throughout all generations, through You we tell the stories and to You we offer praise.  We put our souls out to You, feeling Your Presence within us.  We thank You.

And one last request.

19)   Peace, with all its blessings and goodness and grace and compassion, please help us to be at peace.

Yes its all there:  “Please, thank You, I am sorry and You are awesome.”   Is that what we do when we pray?  When young, growing up in the Reform movement of Judaism, I was taught that all prayer was promise.  “Please” was the promise of action. “Thank You” was the promise to be grateful for everything in life. “I am sorry” was the challenge to do better.  “You are awesome” was the promise to be more aware.

But is that it?

Prayer is about awe, and awareness.

When we pray, we also become the prayer of G

Prayer is stepping beyond rational thought and opening up to the deeper mystery.

The Sefirot those emanations that form worlds are found hidden in our prayers: The emanations flow and yet are immutable.  They cause change but are not changed.

There are levels of davening.  We can all stay together and read responsively.  We can daven on our own and seek the deeper meaning in ourselves.  We can chant the prayers loudly and fully raising our voices and souls to heaven.  We can daven so fast that thought does not come into our mind and our service becomes mantra-davening.

But if we read responsively but without hearing our inner self we are not praying responsibly.  If we daven on our own but absentmindedly we are not davening the deeper meaning but rather dressing up with nowhere to go. If we chant loudly raising our voices but not our souls, it is just a singalong. If we daven quickly but only thinking of finishing, than we have not even started.

In Hebrew the word for pray is מתפלל.  Its grammatical form informs us of the power of prayer.  The Hebrew grammatical form, the התפעל, is called the intensive reflexive.  For our prayers to be real, we must fill them with intent and intensity.  And in those moments in which we reflect deeply, a deep and powerful light is reflected through us.