The $550 million Powerball Lottery has people lining up in gas stations and conveniences stores across America. It also has a few people turning to the heavens to ask God to bless them with good luck.
Is this type of prayer legitimate? Does God listen to such kinds of requests?
Seeing the Forest Through the Trees
In Judaism, we would generally say no. Prayer is not as much about asking God for things, as it is about asking God for the strength to do the right thing.
Just as mission statements highlight the purpose and values of an organization, prayer proclaims the principles and vision of our faith.It seeks to cultivate in us values like gratitude or service to others that our secular society does not reinforce.
When we come to pray in a church or synagogue, we seek to look at our lives from an elevated perspective, from what philosopher Baruch Spinoza called the point of view of eternity. To use a familiar metaphor, prayer lifts us out of the trees so we can look at the forest.
Prayer also helps us express feelings that everyday words cannot. When I officiate at a funeral, I always notice the mourners during the recitation of the 23rd psalm. As we say the words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me,” faces turn downward. Tears often begin to flow. The words of prayer evoke emotions that ordinary language cannot.
At its best, prayer can be like listening to an i-pod. An i-pod connects us with an entire digital music library. Prayer connects us with the entire spiritual, emotional and intellectual library of our faith.
Dancing to God’s Beat
When we pray with resolve, feeling the words shaping us, we are dancing. We are moving to the words of our God. Do we really need to dance to these words? Can they really make difference in our lives?
Well, as one rabbi put it, “Neither the computer nor the cellular phone has changed the fact of mortality or the want of wisdom.” In an age of high technology, we need to be reminded of what truly matters. Prayer is that reminder.
It reminds us that our lives are measured by holiness. They are not measured by the political points we score.They are not measured by an uptick in the polls. They are not measured by the promise of $550 million. They are measured by the heart and spirit God gave us.
By Evan Moffic
Grow Spiritually. Inspire Yourself. Live a More Meaningful Life.
Get More from Rabbi Moffic http://bit.ly/U6pA1G