Rabbi Fern Feldman

Archive for Practices

On Prayer

Talking about prayer, like talking about G-d, involves some matters of definition; otherwise it is easy to be unclear.  Often, when someone says they don’t believe in G-d, I ask them to tell me about the G-d they don’t believe in, and frequently I don’t believe in that one either.  I think it is the same with prayer, so I will start with some definitions.  We could divide the intention behind prayer into two types.  One sort of intention is self-examination, as implied by the root of tefilah, peh lamed lamed, which is also the root of l’hitpalel, to judge oneself.  In this aspect of prayer we might include positive thinking, affirmation, self-examination, and self improvement. Probably most people would agree that it is possible to improve one’s personal qualities through prayer as self-examination, as it is possible with most spiritual disciplines. Prayer gives us a chance to focus our minds, and to remember the qualities we are seeking to develop in ourselves.  L’hitpalel does not only mean to judge oneself, however.  It also means to intercede on someone’s behalf. And this is part of the other sort of intention behind prayer; that is what we might call “addressing the Beyond”, with prayer that is petitionary or intercessory, as well as prayers of praise and gratitude. Read More→