By Rabbi Jonathan Biatch
In a world filled with secular talk, profane speech, senseless intention, and immoral action, it was somewhat refreshing to see that the 'positive power of prayer' has again made headlines.
In her opening statement recently to the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on her possible ascent to the United States Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett offered these words as a personal expression of hope for the future and as a connection to everyday Americans:
"I would like to thank the many Americans from all walks of life who have reached out with messages of support over the course of my nomination. I believe in the power of prayer, and it has been uplifting to hear that so many people are praying for me."
Judge Barrett's words could be seen by some as comforting and reassuring, that prayer continues to be a medium wherein we channel the longings of our hearts and the desires of our minds. But having just concluded a High Holy Day season of remote worship and pre-recorded offerings of prayer, Torah reading, and shofar sounding, we might rightly wonder whether prayers said from afar, or at an earlier time, have value and effect when we hear them, or when we need them.
For us in our everyday lives, I think it is a matter of Intention. Sincerity. And Hopefulness.
When we offer worship or a specific prayer, what is the reason for our prayer? What is our goal? Do we seek a self-centered end that disregards the need of others, or do we seek to support others in their quests in life? When we offer our prayers, how much of our hearts are sincerely directed toward the object of our prayers? Are we offering routine prayers that come off the tongue in a prosaic or unaffected manner, or do we, as in the words of our tradition, to 'pour out our hearts,' like Hannah [I Samuel 1:15]?
And to what degree are we optimistic when we pray for our future? How can we, in the midst of trouble and angst, remain hopeful despite the difficulties ahead of us we perceive? And how can we imbue others around us with a similar spirit of confidence and courage?
When others 'pray for' us, and when we are aware of such blessings, our spirit is buoyed, and we can move ahead with confidence and conviction. So, imagine the strength that we could give one another when we do the same. When we incline our hearts and minds toward divine purposes, and when we help others to progress in their lives, then we have truly 'chosen life' for ourselves and those we think about. And is this not what our tradition is all about!
Have a great week ahead.
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, DD, MAHL earned a BA from California State University, Northridge, in radio-television broadcast management and then participated in a Jewish students’ institute and worked as a television production assistant in Israel. He earned a master’s degree in Jewish communal service from Brandeis University and worked for seven years at Jewish Federations in Buffalo, St. Louis, and Houston. He then entered the rabbinical program at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, receiving his master’s degree in Hebrew letters in 1991 and rabbinic ordination in 1992. Rabbi Biatch served pulpits in Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Alexandria, Virginia, and in Glendale, California, before joining Temple Beth El in 2005.