Poetry T’fila: What does prayer mean to me?
For one of our alternative t’filot, we offer a poetry t’fila where chanichim explore the connection between writing and prayer, investigating poetic means of connecting to their various Jewish identities. To begin the t’fila, chanichim are asked to free write about what prayer means to them, how they prefer to pray, etc. Here are some of their responses:
Prayer is song to me. The gift of music to me is the most beautiful thing G-d could have given to us. The human ability to recognize tone, rhythm, and pattern is the closest thing we have to super natural powers. I feel closest to the universe when a new song gives me goosebumps.
Connection between G-d’s lips and my ears, be it vice versa, communicating. The act of not being fixed but rather changed, for better, worse, or all inbetween. The light shed on us is received when we learn to be better. To mend our ways and know ourselves.
Prayer is a conversation with God that sometimes follows the guidelines of the siddur and sometimes is a personal meditation. It’s a balance of asking, giving, and thanking to God. Even though God normally doesn’t reply explicitly, the last part of my prayer is being conscious of the ways God does answer.
Prayer is there for me
When I am down on my hope
When I am not sure of my surroundings
When I thought my car would run out of gas on a vast stretch of highway in a foreign country with no other cars or people around in the winter and the dead of night
Prayer wasn’t what I expected to find, but I found it.
I don’t really connect with any form of prayer. Not believe in prayer or God doesn’t stop me from asking for peace or forgiveness. While I’m not asking God or any special being for these things, I’m more asking myself. I ask myself to help stand up for these things and help make a change. I still stand during the Mourner’s Kaddish out of respect and support for those who either lost someone or never had someone to say it for them, and I still respect those who do try and pray.
Praying for me is spiritual but can be hard sometimes. I don’t feel connected to everything that’s written and that I read. I think people count more on god than on themselves.
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when feeling it not.
I believe in god even when god is silent.
The only thing constant in life is change.
I think that the kind of prayer I connect to the most is the one I grew up in. I’m not sure why but it is. When I went to musical t’filot, it was fun, but it didn’t feel like it was the right thing. One of my favorite parts of services on Saturday mornings is the fact that it’s just our voices without the help of instruments. Also, the fact that there is is a set order to everything makes me happy, because I like that there’s a way that we’ve been doing things since before my great-grandparents. I also love how conservative Judaism forms such a tight-knit community, and that’s something I find beautiful.
Sometimes it’s actual prayer.
Sometimes it’s thinking about prayer.
Sometimes it’s feeling the meaning of the prayer.
Sometimes it’s nature that’s prayer.
Sometimes it’s comfort indoors.
Sometimes there’s no connection at all.
But prayer is connection to myself
and prayer is connection to G-d
and prayer is connection to my people
and prayer is connection to nature
and prayer is connection to its meaning
and prayer is comfort.
So sometimes no connection means
no prayer at all.
Prayer is finding peace with yourself and those around you. I think that it is a period of time where you can have a break from whatever is going on and breathe. Time to think about your morals and calm down. I also think it is a time to think about those you love and connect with yourself. It’s also a time to maybe “clear your slate” and by asking for forgiveness, and knowing you have it. I don’t think it is knowing something is listening to you, aka G-d, but I think it’s more that you are listening to yourself.
I don’t know what prayer that makes me feel closer to G-d at all really. Actually, there is one. Lighting the candles on Shabbat with my family. Whenever I say the prayer for lighting the candles, I always say, “G-d, please keep my family safe, my friends safe. Give them hope, courage, and freedom.”
I pray at night usually by myself. I really enjoy the camp prayer, because I’m an extremely musical person and we sing / play guitar with almost every prayer. I think differently about G-d than most. I don’t really believe there is a man in the sky or anything like that, but I believe in a definite something. I think 🙂