Tefillah Tips - Thoughts on Prayer

Before we continue on our pathway through the Pesukei Dezimra section of shacharit, I thought it would be worthy to research and suggest an idea or two about the nature of prayer itself. The natural stumbling block that all observant praying Jews bump into regarding their tefilla is that we say the same words over and over and over again. Day in and day out our lips recite these same tefillot.

What's a good Jew to do? We all want to pray properly. There is certainly no shortage of things to be thankful for and/or that we are in need of. We must develop a productive approach to be able to daven-pray successfully.

Let us examine a verse of the Shema that we say every day- "Vehayu.. metzavecha hayom al levovecha- it should be that these words that I am commanding you today should remain constantly in your heart (thoughts)." Our sages remark that the word hayom-today has special significance. It is there to teach us that one should feel every day as if he/she received the Torah that day. There needs to be a freshness and excitement that we feel towards Torah.

The same is true regarding Tefillah. Despite the fact that we repeat the same amidah three times a day / eighteen times a week, every prayer session needs to be approached differently. Our moods change, our feelings change, our life situations change...shouldn't our tefillah change as well?

If we pay attention to the meanings of the prayers we will be able to insert the appropriate thoughts, feelings, and emotions fit for the particular life situation.

There is another important lesson about Tefillah located in this weeks Parsha-Vayerah. In chapter 18 verse24 Avraham Avinu cries out to G-d in defense of the evil people of Sodom. Despite their cruel and evil ways Avraham sees fit to pour out his heart and try to save them from imminent destruction. The interchange between G-d and Avraham is painstakingly detailed. Our father Avraham first strikes a deal with G-d that would save Sodom if there were fifty righteous people to be found. Then he requests pardon if there were forty-five. Then thirty, twenty, ten, until G-d accepts his request at ten. Why didn't G-d just respond the first time that if there are ten righteous people in Sodom the city would remain?! Why the need for the drawn out dialogue? The answer is that Tefillah is not just a means unto an end it is an end unto itself. We must remember this lesson the next time and every time we pray.

In conclusion I would like to review the two suggestions introduced above. The first ingredient needed for powerful, poised, and non-perfunctory prayer is the realization that every life circumstance may and should be addressed in prayer. Therefore saying the same prayer will constantly take on new meanings. The second point is that prayer itself and not the results of prayer are the goal of Tefillah.