Another Way to Pray

Image: A rabbit, listening. Photo by skeeze.

Jewish prayer can take many forms.

Formal, communal prayer happens with a minyan: we gather and we use the ancient words to fulfill the mitzvot of Shema and sacrifice.

Jewish prayer may take the form of blessings: blessings before and after eating, blessings before performing mitzvot, blessings for small everyday experiences and blessings for big things like brit milah or a wedding.

Jewish prayer may be meditative prayer, and there are many different forms of meditation. Lately I’ve been praying by listening. I sit quietly, I quiet my mind, and I listen.

Random thoughts enter; I notice them and let them float through. Random sensations nudge my consciousness: a breeze, a small muscle twitch. Most of it I simply allow to float through me.

But every now and then, as I sit quietly, I hear something I need to hear. Sometimes it is an insight. Sometimes it is an idea. Sometimes it is a reminder that I need to deal with something, need to speak with someone. And sometimes it is my body, telling me something I need to notice.

And occasionally, I hear a question.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – I Kings 19:11-13