Friday, May 4, 2012

Praying with intensity

The morning of my father's hip replacement surgery, I, as usual, led the morning prayers.  As I said the words, I was thinking of him in the hospital and my mother watching over him.  I was focused on the prayers more than usual.  I don't know if prayer, or the intensity of one's prayers, has any effectiveness.  I'm pretty sure that if someone conducted a study of three groups, people who pray with great ferver, people who pray without much feeling (a group that is, in my experience, much larger than the former group) and people who don't pray at all (the largest group), that there wouldn't be any significant difference between the health and happiness of each group. Still, as long as one is engaged in the act of prayer, it makes sense to me to at least operate under the assumption that someone is hearing our prayers and that prayer somehow, in some way, can make a difference. 

With my hightened kavanna (intention) that morning, I ended up finishing later than I've ever finished before.  When I looked at the clock afterwards, I couldn't believe the time.  Some of the fellow daveners had already left.  A gentleman approached me and told me that I'd davened "so slow."  (Two weeks earlier someone else had told me to please slow down.)

The incident points again to the tension between the private acts of prayer and mourning and the community context in which they take place.  Nobody else in the synagogue knew what was in my mind as I said the prayers.  That morning, the words belonged solely to me.  Because of that, others left the synagogue later than usual.  I have absolutely no regret about that.


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