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More thoughts on prayer

Mike Comins. Making Prayer Real. Jewish Lights Publishing. 2010.

I find myself in a state of prayer mostly when I’m in nature. What is a state of prayer? The ability to be connected to my heart, to the great expanse, which for me creates the religious setting or sentiment. The invitation to move into that state is stronger outdoors than when I’m in a building.
Melila Hellner Eshed, PhD

I live in a very personal way with a lot of impersonal things. When I go to the Pacific Ocean, I talk to her all the time. I don’t expect the Pacific Ocean to be conscious of my conversation and I don’t think the Pacific Ocean is listening to me, but she’s definitely my mother, and I go into her as one of her sons. That has to do with me and my personality with her. I do that with mountains and trees, and I talk to all sorts of inanimate objects constantly because that’s the only way I know how to relate to everything. So on the one hand, I don’t spend time worrying about whether God has personality or not, because I talk to everything, and the amazing thing is that if you talk to everything as though they have personalities, eventually you notice the personalities that they have.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

The biggest insight I ever had about prayer is that it’s a form of meditation, meaning that it involves a continuous focus. Once you understand that prayer is a meditation, almost everything else follows.
Maggid Yitzhak Buxbaum

One reason prayer is difficult is because we don’t know what we’re doing. . . Most of us are unfamiliar with our own internal dynamics as pray-ers. One way to understand prayer is that it is a transformation of consciousness. So we need to ask ourselves, “Where are we starting from? Where are we trying to go? What are the prayer strategies or practices that we know from experience are likely to take us there?”
Prayer needs to be understood as a spiritual practice just as we might understand the practice of meditation or yoga. But in order to do this, we need to know what we’re practicing toward, what we’re practicing for. We need skilled guides and teachers to help us. We need patience, determination, and faith in the practice. And we need to know if, over time, we’re making any progress.
Rabbi Nancy Flam

I would suggest that we need to reconceive prayer as not about addressing the Divine Being with praise and requests. Rather, we should see prayer and the time set aside for prayer as time devoted to our spiritual work. It is time for reflection, a precious gift to ourselves amidst our busy lives. The liturgy should remind us:
1. There is something larger than ourselves in the universe what many of us call God. It is an important perspective that also reminds us that we are not alone.
2. It should be a time to reflect on the spiritual issues in our lives. To think about how to improve my ethical qualities to be more like the person I deeply desire to be.
3. It is an opportunity to express gratitude for the blessings in our lives-most of all the blessing of life itself.
Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

Gratitude is a very important place to begin, because it opens the heart. It can become a practice, a process of noticing all the things we ordinarily miss or don’t think about being grateful for.
Dr. Linda Thal