The purpose of prayer

The purpose of prayer in this service

A prayer over the bread does not change the bread, it changes us.  This prayer is not said to appease God, but to enhance our enjoyment of the miracle of life and the food we eat.  Those who appreciate what they have are the happiest of all and convey their joy of life to others.  Today we do not offer prayers for the sick to seek God’s miraculous intervention, but to rejoice in the miraculous ability of the human body to heal itself, to express our shared concern as a community for those who are ailing, and our hope for their speedy recovery. 

Prayer is not effective when it asks God to do something, it is effective when it asks us to do something.  Thinking always precedes doing, and thinking differently, is required for acting differently and changing for the better.  We and our world can benefit from new ways of thinking.  First we must conceive, then we must believe and then we can achieve.

The blessings and meditations offered tonight are consistent with science and reality and are offered to express the hopes and dreams of our ancestors for a world transformed by justice, compassion and peace, and to express our resolve to use each of our unique abilities to help make their dreams become a reality.

“The old will be made new and the new holy”   Rav A.I. Kook

First chief Rabbi of Palestine reconciling tension between Orthodox and secular Jews

Words are the shell, meditation the kernel.  Words are the body of the prayer and meditation its spirit.   Bachya Ibn Pakuda   Hovot Helavavot 

Words are the shell, meditation the kernel, action the fruit, and joy is the harvest.

As amended by Rabbi Barry Silver

There is a permanent union between individual worship and communal worship, each of which depends for its existence upon the other… Prayer will not come about by default.   It requires education, training, reflection contemplation.  It is not enough to join others; it is necessary to build a sanctuary within, brick by brick, instants of meditation, moments of devotion. 

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

All prayer should be subversive. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Prayer cannot mend a broken bridge, rebuild a ruined city, or bring water to parched fields.

Prayer can mend a broken heart,, lift up a discouraged soul, and strengthen a weakened will.

We should only appreciate those days that end in “y”.

And on those days we should ask “Why” am I here?  What is my purpose?

God doesn’t need compliments:  Kirk Douglas

As said by Issur Danielovitch, otherwise known as Kirk Douglas, I grew up praying in the morning and laying tefillin.  I gave up much of the formal aspect of religion… I don’t think God wants compliments.  God wants you to do something with your life and to help others.” (Explaining his absence from the synagogue)

The Purpose of Prayer

We do not take this journey alone, but with fellow travelers, united in prayer, which may be defined as our shared hopes, dreams and aspirations for a better world.  Our ancestors had faith that such a world was possible, and accepted as our holy mission to act on that faith by sharing our vision of a transformed world with others and leading the effort to make this vision a reality. On Shabbat, we light candles of hope to get a glimpse of this world and drink sweet wine to taste the joy we experience when we help make this world a reality.

What is Prayer?   By Rabbi Morris Adler

Prayer is at the heart not only of great religion, but of significant living.  Without prayer we cannot scale the heights of compassion, or attain, the peaks of love of our neighbor of which we are capable.

Prayer has been an enduring and universal phenomenon of human life, not because a priesthood ordained it, nor because tradition hallowed it, but because humanity is ever-seeking to probe into its own depths and bring to light its hidden yearnings.

Prayer requires no consecrated edifice and no appointed hour.  Indeed, it needs no words.  Prayer is a step; on which we rise from the self and we are in to the self we wish to be…

Prayer affirms the hope that no reality can crush; the aspiration that can never acknowledge defeat…

Prayer is not an escape from duty.  It is no substitute for the deed.

Prayer seeks the power to do wisely, to act generously, to live helpfully.  It helps to reinforce the act rather than to replace it.

Prayer is the search for silence amidst the noise of life…

Prayer takes us beyond the self, joining our little self to the selfhood of humanity, it gives our wishes the freedom to grow large and broad and inclusive.

Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask, but when we are challenged to be what we can be.

Charles Darwin   It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”  

Hillel: He who refuses to learn deserves extinction