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Diane Rose

With my students, we often talk about the possibilities of and many forms there are to what we might call prayer.  For most teens, there is no point to any of it, and we have extremely interesting conversations about whether or not there IS a point to prayer.

To give my students an example of when and why prayer can be important, I often tell them about when my father was dying.  Yes, I prayed, but what does one pray for when one is dealing with an inevitable?  He was, at that time, already overwhelmed with cancer.  So, was I to pray for him to live?  That would have been asking for too much in my opinion.  That would have been asking for the impossible — a miracle on par with the splitting of the sea.  If I prayed for recovery, I would have only been disappointed that my prayer had not been “heard” or “wasn’t answered”.  But for me, there was still reason to pray.

What do we pray for in times of distress if not for recovery or miracles?  To me, prayer is all about gratitude, and my moment in distress was no different.  Maybe it’s a gratitude that we assign to an outside Force with a particular text or our own poetry.  Maybe it’s just an inner gratitude we can allow to emanate without any words at all.  To me, the deepest “prayer” I can muster is just a sensation of thanks.  If nothing else, it creates an opportunity for me to talk (even if it’s to myself) and an opening to realize what I really need at any given time, which is usually not a miracle.

So, for my father, all I prayed was gratitude… Thanks for the life we had together.  Thanks that I could be there with him and my mother at that crucial time.  Thanks that our relationship wasn’t complicated or riddled with unanswered questions.  Thanks that we had peace.  Instead of “God, would you?”, I prayed, “God, thank you.”

A few days ago, I found myself deep in prayer again.  No one was ill this time, fortunately, but I was definitely in full-prayer-mode as I awaited a 12-person jury to make a decision.  The issue wasn’t about me personally, but it was about an organization I cherish, love, rely upon, and desperately want to be safe and healthy.

You can probably guess that when I prayed, I didn’t ask God for a miracle.  I didn’t even ask God to give us the decision we hoped for, and I certainly didn’t pray for the decision to hurt the other side.  Instead, I tried to fill myself with gratitude for my family’s relationship with this organization and thanks for the many lives that had been touched by it.  I chose to simply pray for fairness and justice, not the ultimate possible outcome.  I kept repeating to myself like a mantra… “Please let there be fairness and justice, whatever that looks like.  Please let there be fairness and justice, whatever that looks like.”

I won’t get into the details, but I will tell you fairness was delivered (big sigh of relief!).  Do I think it was because I prayed?  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.  :)  But at least praying gave me a way to do something with and for myself in a time of feeling powerless.  It also forced me (and my entire family) to realize how lucky we are for the past and present, without focusing on the outcome of the future.

The next time you find yourself in a moment that calls for prayer, let it flow, whatever it is.  Don’t judge yourself if you don’t believe in God or if you think praying is silly.  Sometimes we just need to talk, and it doesn’t really matter if anyone is listening.  It’s just about us figuring out what we need to say.  And as you pray, even if the “prayer” is just an uprising of emotion, ask yourself what you REALLY need out of that moment.  Is it for an outcome?  Is it for a thing?  Or is it the opportunity to connect to the sliver of gratitude we can find in even the darkest of situations?

In fact, we usually say a Shehechianu at joyous occasions, but I’m starting to think it’s for the less joyous times too.  Perhaps the next time we find ourselves in a pickle, we can also say: Thank you (God) for my life which continues to flow, and thank you and for this exact moment right now, be it joyous or challenging.

Okay, maybe I took a little poetic license with the Shehechianu, but that’s what it means to me. :)

Talk again you soon,

”Rantor” Diane

Thu, September 23 2021 17 Tishrei 5782