Friday, September 30, 2005

At The Olympics Three Times A Day

I continue to wrestle with the question why my "best" davening is only at times when something bad is happening or when I really need something. Why can't I always daven with a passion and the knowledge that He is listening? I am cognizant of the reasons why I need to daven with kavanah and have tried many techniques to maintain my kavanah, nevertheless sometimes my davening simply falls short. Sometimes I am merely reading Hebrew words out of a book.

Can an athlete compete every day as if he were at the Olympics?

If Rabbi Mendel of Premsylan felt this this way, what makes me think that I will be successful?

I know the only answer to this question is that I have to daven for the ability to daven.

Like a diamond, a prayer's value is far more dependent on its internal purity than its mass. The small, flawless diamond is worth far more than the larger, imperfect one.

(Rabbi Heshy Kleinman)


At September 30, 2005 at 8:26:00 AM EDT, Blogger Shoshana said...

I also have this struggle, that my most intense moments of davening are when I need Hashem the most. And then I feel bad that I do't appreciate what Hashem is giving me when things are going well. I think it is human nature. I guess it is better than not appreciating the good things when you have them, and casting aside Hashem when you are going through bad times as well.

At September 30, 2005 at 9:13:00 AM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

"Kavanah" can grab you at any time and in many forms.

There's a famous YA book, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" -- the protagonist is always "talking to God". I was/still am like that, even if it's not with a "sefer" in hand. I ask, I thank, I state intentions...

One of the most poignant memories I have of "kavanah deal" with my dear father. More than 20 years ago, he had brain surgery to remove a tumor (benign!) and I was visiting him in hospital following the surgery. It was the day after it, I think, when I went into his room and he was still in a semi-conscious state, heavily drugged with painkillers, anti-seizure medications. I walked in and saw this man lying in the hospital bed, this huge white gauze turban on his head, and he was moving his lips and murmuring something; I panicked, thinking it was a bad effect of surgery, that some part of his brain had been affected and he was left doing strange things.

Quite some time later, when he was home recovering, we talked about his hospital stay. When I relayed what I'd seen him doing, and being scared, he told me he'd been davening... And I knew he remembered doing so, because that is his way; he, too, always davened wherever and whenever.

At September 30, 2005 at 10:51:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Shoshana: It seems both of us struggle through many of the same issues.

Pearl: Your story was very moving. It reminded me of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's teaching about "hisbodedus" - that a person should engage in spontaneous personal prayer each day in his own language.

At September 30, 2005 at 11:09:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is great Pearl. I find that turning to G-d requires a degree of turning away from the constant concerns of the day. That is hard to do, unless something jolts me out of my routine.

I think that is one strong argument for living in Jerusalem, as being amidst all that history and seeing the old city on the horizon, you would feel always in touch with something greater. You might also make the same argument for living in a treehouse though, or a tent on the beach. (Both of which I find oddly appealing right now...)

At September 30, 2005 at 11:13:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although, this is a common problem that I struggle with myself, I have seen in my personal life that when I think about and/or speak to G-d during the day when not davening, it greatly impacts the way I daven as well.

To use your sports analogy:
If an Olympic runner never hones his skill while not competing, he wont compete well either.

Consistent Hisbododus also has a tangible and clear impact on one's davening!

At September 30, 2005 at 12:03:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: You are correct. I have started the practice of hisbodedus in the mornings and evenings for a half hour each time as I walk to and from public transporation. I can already sense results in that I am now relating to Hashem in my davening the way I do in my hisbodedus - that is with a greater feeling of closeness.

At September 30, 2005 at 12:53:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the primary challenge with prayer is that G-d is not real to us most of the time; Hisbodedus helps us relate to G-d, and thus we pray better too.
I remember reading how a certain Tzaddik (I forgot who) said that he lived life with the feeling that G-d was so real, that do anything against G-d's will was impossible - it was as if someone was holding a knife to his neck 24 hours a day.
That seems a bit frightening to me, but I wish I felt that G-d was that real.

At October 18, 2005 at 3:43:00 AM EDT, Blogger Judith said...

Noticing how your attention is wandering is part of davening. More here.

At October 19, 2005 at 7:50:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Judith: Thank you for the link.


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