What are your thoughts about prayer as a spiritual practice?
I’m definitely a proponent for prayer. For me, it’s one of the easiest ways to connect with the Divine, and it’s a practice almost anyone can relate to because it’s a practice many religions use– they may use it differently than I do, but they still use it. For instance, Judaism has prayers you say by yourself and prayers you must recite in a group, but all of them are formal prayers, ones that you learn when you’re young. Knowing the same prayers, even if you’re from different regions, is a way to connect as Jews. On the other side is the church I grew up in, which emphasized prayer as having a personal conversation with God, where there were no real rules except to say what you feel, and then say Amen at the end. You didn’t have to say the words out loud. In fact, most of the time it was preferable for you to say your prayer in your head, to keep it between you and God (unless you had a prayer request, meaning other people prayed for you).
As I explored Judaism, I was really interested in formal prayer. I liked the fact that even though I was the only one in my house saying Shabbat blessings, I was joined by thousands of people across the state, more around the world, all saying the same blessing. I felt connected. It was like the world stopped for just a few moments and that time was for us. At the same time, I’m all for impromptu, personalized prayer. I do it quite often, mostly when I’m anxious about something, because it calms my nerves. I’m a nervous flyer, and every time I get on a plane, right before we take off I say a prayer. It’s usually something like, “God, Goddess, everyone and everything out there, please don’t let me die on this plane. Please keep my family and friends safe on our journey. thank you for you protection and love. Also, please please don’t let me die on this plane. I would prefer a long and happy life with my friends and family if you would grant me that. Amen, blessed be, thank you!”
Yeah, it’s a bit self-serving, but if it prevents me from a painful, fiery, violent death then I’m gonna say it. Also, I’d love live long enough to be old, ya know what I mean? There’s no shame in that.
I think prayer is good because it connects you to the Divine. You can use it to give thanks, to ask for blessings, to express adoration, to worship, and to reassure yourself that things will be okay (this is a big one for me because I have a real issue with anxiety). What I would like to do is try to remember to be more intentional with my prayers. Basically, I think I rely on impromptu prayer too much, and I want to make my prayers more structured. For instance, making it a habit to pray before every meal, to end my day with a prayer at my altar, to use formal prayers as part of my holy day rituals. I think both ways of praying are important and useful for different reasons, so I want to be sure to utilize them to the best of my ability.