The Power of Prayer

by Arliene Botnick, January 31, 2024

Perhaps my most favourite reading from our Siddur is the passage adapted from Abraham Joshua Heschel. We read the following words:

“With prayer we invite God‘s presence to suffuse our spirits and let God’s will prevail in our lives. Prayer cannot bring water to parched fields, or mend a broken bridge or rebuild a ruined city; but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart and rebuild a weakened will.”

There are many times in our lives when we are overtaken by sorrow and anxiety, pain, and loss, and yet, when we come to the synagogue, when we come to minyan and we pray together, we gain strength and courage. We need support when we have suffered loss, and, when our community and family join us, comfort us, pray with us at shul, we are given the courage and the strength to carry on. We recite the Kaddish prayer at each service to be that minyan (at least the number of 10 congregants) so that those in mourning know we are there for them. We recite the Kaddish during a time of loss even though the prayer itself does not mention death or loss; rather it affirms life, it affirms the promise of peace It praises the power of God and comforts us and connects us to God. God is there with us in our pain and loss.

Each Tuesday morning about a dozen of us meet for a 7 AM service. We are there to form a minyan and support anyone who wishes to join us because they have suffered a loss, and somehow, just as Heschel’s reading states, our hearts are mended a little bit. Our souls are stronger. Our wills are nourished. When the names of those who are ill are read out weekly from the Mishebeirach list, there is no miracle of healing that is expected, at least not physical healing, but when the person who is ill knows that we are thinking of them and praying for them, they are strengthened and their wills are made stronger, and that is a form of healing as well. That’s what a synagogue, a kehillah, a community is. We are there for one another!

And our being together is not limited only to times of hardship, and we also are together in times of celebration. We pray to God and we thank God for all the wonderful and joyful things in our lives and it is so fulfilling to share our joy with our community.

We come to see our children on the Bimah, leading services, participating in services, dancing around the congregation and we “schep nachos” (rejoice). We see the Jewish future in our children and pray this will be a lasting future. We watch couples stand under the chupah (the marriage canopy) and affirm their love and caring for one another and we thank God that they found each other and pray that the union will be strong and meaningful and happy. At every Brit Milah (circumcision), baby naming, bar/bat, b’nai mitzvah, aufrief, we have the opportunity to celebrate together, rejoice and pray together. Each time we come to services and we join in prayer together, we are forming bonds not just with God but with one another. It feels so comforting on a Friday night or Saturday or Tuesday morning, to identify openly as a Jew.

And we also have the onegs, the time after services to chat, catch up with one another, have a snack and wish each other a Shabbat Shalom, or a Chag Sameach or even a Happy Birthday! When we leave services, hopefully, as Heschel’s a passage says, our spirits are lifted, our hearts are full, our wills are stronger. Whether we attend services in person or online, there is something restorative and uplifting when we pray together and affirm the strength of our Jewish community. Hope to see you at the next service.

Filed under: Educator's Message

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