So this month’s theme is prayer. And while I find myself anticipating the need to publicly name the many justifiable objections people may have to it, as well as the many reasons why they’d be well served (in the spirit of Erik Walker Wikstrom’s book Simply Pray) to JUST DO IT, I’m struggling to open that door within myself.
I’m struggling, not because I don’t know why or how to pray. But because (at its best) prayer is about letting go! It’s about opening a door behind which we’ve stashed pain, regret and fear too tender to even acknowledge within ourselves. It’s about allowing hopes and dreams to tumble from that dusty shelf into our arms – as doubts, failures and insecurities roll defiantly to our feet.
This I remember about prayer: It will bring you to your knees. And in that moment “yes of course” will rise within you, flooding fields brittle with despair. And you will feel in your bones the ache of effort so cleverly masked when that door was closed.
And then you will feel them touched with love. And you will know yourself “perfect, in all your imperfections”.
And there are few experiences as frightening as that.
Long ago (or was it only yesterday?) I found myself facing a wall, allowing these words to pass through me with each breath: Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echod.
They are not words that come naturally to me. I was not raised with them. They conjure up images of a God delighting in favoritism, revealed in bloodshed. This prayer is not for me, I thought. I am not Yisrael. I am clearly not among the “chosen”, and if bowing to such a God is what is required, I am content to remain unchosen.
But I allowed the words to continue to flow through me, an experiment teetering on the edge of boredom. And then a strange thing happened. I heard Shema “Stefanie” – over and over and over again.
Shema. Listen. Listen. Be still and Listen!Be still and know that I am God Be still and know that I am Be still and know Be still Be
And then I was on my knees, tossing into the air those fallen treasures, like sun-filled crystals of water.