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Prayer: Maintaining the Connection

September 10, 2020 | by Amy Goldman

God is waiting for your call.

I find the story of Chana, and her desperate plea to God, to be one of the most riveting accounts in the entire Torah. Chana’s raw emotion and her profound sadness at not being blessed with children brings a torrent of emotions to me every year when we read this Haftarah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Ultimately, Chana’s soulful and gut-wrenching prayers transform her state of utter despair into unprecedented ebullience when she is finally blessed with her son, Shmuel.

Through Chana, we learn of two different types of prayer: Bakasha (pleading with God for things we deeply desire), which is the format of her initial prayer when she beseeched the Almighty for a child, and Hoda'ah (expressing our deep gratitude to God for the gifts He bestows upon us), which is the expressive prayer that Chana offers after her son is born. What is most poignant about Chana’s prayers is the fact that they are so deep and heartfelt. At Chana’s most desperate time, she knows that the only One she can turn to for help is God – and once her prayers are answered, she is acutely aware that it was God – and only God – who granted her the gift of a child. Chana then proceeds to offer an unprecedentedly passionate expression of gratitude to Him.

Chana’s prayers depict her deeply intense and sincere relationship with the Almighty. From Chana, we learn that prayer is a momentous opportunity to bond with God.

While the optimal goal is to develop the same type of intense closeness to God as Chana experienced, the reality for most of us is that achieving and sustaining this heightened level of connection often feels unattainable. We may pray every day, but we get distracted and our minds wander, and sometimes we pray on automatic pilot. And then there are times when we are fortunate enough to be able to abandon our mundane thoughts and disregard our daily plans, and we are actually able to reach deep within ourselves to achieve that beautiful closeness and connection to God that we innately desire.

How wonderful it would it be if every prayer we offer were one of intense introspection and profound meaning! But we are human. Even though the times that we deeply connect are not as frequent as we wish them to be, we can still sustain our connection to God by maintaining our commitment to recurrent, frequent, and consistent prayer.

Prayer is like a check-in call with your mother or with a close friend. Sometimes these calls result in long, deep and meaningful conversations – ones that transport us in truly impactful ways. And at other times, the call is just a check-in with someone you love, and who loves you back. Even though those ‘simpler’ calls may not hold as much weight as the more emotional conversations, they are still vital to sustaining the bond in that they provide a structure to the every-day nature of the relationship.* So too with prayer. Even if we may not achieve the desired level of connection to God every time we pray, as long as we keep working at the relationship and fueling our connection with Him, we will feel comforted by knowing that the bond exists – and that God will be there for us whenever we reach for Him.

And for those who haven't kept up their inborn relationship with God, know that it is one that can easily be jump-started. Think of it like reestablishing a connection with an old friend with whom you haven’t spoken in quite a while: all you need to do is pick up the phone and call Him, and the connection will be automatically and wondrously reignited. Each one of us has a divine spark within us that is always ready to be kindled and nurtured. God is waiting for our call.

May our prayers throughout the High Holy days – and beyond – enable us to soar to new heights in our individual and collective connections with the Almighty.

*As heard from Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shnidman


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