The Standing Prayer

jewishprayer

The Amidah (Hebrew: “The Standing Prayer”), also called the Shemoneh Esreh (“The Eighteen”, in reference to the original number of constituent blessings), is the central prayer of the Jewish liturgy:

1. Blessed are you, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, the great, mighty and revered God, God most high, generous and kind, owner of all things. You remember the pious deeds of the patriarchs, and in love will bring a redeemer to their children’s children, for your name’s sake, O King, Helper, Saviour and Shield. Blessed are you, O Lord, the Shield of Abraham.

2. O Lord, you are for ever mighty. You bring back the dead to life. You have the power to save. Out of loving kindness you sustain the living; with great compassion you revive the dead. You support the falling, heal the sick, free the captives, and keep faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like you, Lord of mighty deeds, and who may be compared to you, O King, who brings death and life, and causes salvation to spring forth? You are to be trusted to bring the dead back to life. Blessed are you, O Lord, who revives the dead.

3. You are holy, and your name is holy, and holy beings praise you every day. Blessed are you, O Lord, the holy God.

4. You favour mankind with knowledge, and teach mortals understanding. Favour us with the knowledge, understanding and discernment that come from you. Blessed are you, O Lord, gracious Giver of knowledge.

5. Turn us back, O our Father, to your Torah; draw us near, O our King, to your service. Bring us back in perfect repentance to your presence. Blessed are you, O Lord, who delights in repentance.

6. Forgive us, O our Father, for we have sinned; pardon us, O our King, for we have been disobedient; for you pardon and forgive. Blessed are you, O Lord, ever gracious and ready to forgive.

7. Look on our misery, champion our cause, and redeem us swiftly for your name’s sake, for you are a mighty Redeemer. Blessed are you, O Lord, the Redeemer of Israel.

8. Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed; save us and we shall be saved; for it is you we praise. Send us complete healing for all our ills, for you, O divine King, are a trustworthy and compassionate Physician. Blessed are you, O Lord, who heals the sick of his people Israel.

9. O Lord our God, bless this year and all its varied produce for our good. Send a blessing on the earth; satisfy us with your goodness, and make this year as blessed for us as former good years. Blessed are you, O Lord, who blesses the years.

10. Sound the great horn for our freedom. Raise the banner to rally our exiles, and gather us in from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are you, O Lord, who gathers the dispersed of his people Israel.

11. Restore our judges as at first, our counsellors as in former times. Remove from us sorrow and sighing. Rule over us, O Lord, you alone, in kindness and compassion, and vindicate us in judgement. Blessed are you, O Lord, the King who loves righteousness and justice.

12. Towards the righteous and the pious, towards the elders of your people, the House of Israel, towards the remnant of their scholars, towards the righteous proselytes, and towards us also may your compassion be stirred, O Lord our God. Grant a rich reward to all who sincerely trust in your name; set our portion with them for ever, so that we may not be put to shame; for we have trusted in you. Blessed are you, O Lord, the support and security of the righteous.

13. To Jerusalem, your city, return in mercy, and dwell in it, as you have promised. Rebuild it soon in our days as an everlasting structure, and swiftly establish in it the throne of David. Blessed are you, O Lord, who rebuilds Jerusalem.

14. Cause the offspring of David your servant to spring up swiftly, and let his horn be exalted through your saving power, for we wait for your salvation all day long. Blessed are you, O Lord, who makes the horn of salvation (Yeshuah) to flourish.

15. Hear our supplication, O Lord our God. Spare us and pity us; receive our prayers with compassion and favour; for you are a God who listens to prayers and petitions. O our King, do not turn us out of your presence empty-handed, for you hear with compassion the prayers of your people Israel. Blessed are you, O Lord, who hears prayer.

16. O Lord our God, receive with pleasure your people Israel and their prayers. Restore the service to the sanctuary of your House. Accept with love and approval the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayers, and may the service of your people Israel be ever pleasing to you. May our eyes witness your return in mercy to Zion. Blessed are you, O Lord, who brings back his Shekhinah to Zion.

17. We give thanks to you, for you are the Lord our God and the God of our fathers for ever and ever; you are the Rock of our life, the Shield of our salvation in every generation. We will give thanks to you and praise you for our lives that are held in your hand, for our souls that are in your care, for your miracles that are with us every day, and for your wonders and your benefits that we experience every moment – morning, noon and night. You are all-good, for your mercy has no end; you are all-compassionate, for your kindness knows no limit: we have always put our hope in you. For all this, O our King, may your name be continually blessed and exalted for evermore. May all that lives give thanks to you and praise your name in sincerity, O God, our salvation and our help. Blessed are you, O Lord, whose name is All- Good, and to whom it is proper to give thanks.

18. Grant peace, well-being, blessing, grace, loving kindness and compassion to us and to all Israel, your people. Bless us, O our Father, all of us together, with the light of your face; for by the light of your face you have given us, O Lord our God, the Torah of life, love and kindness, righteousness, blessing, mercy, life and peace. May it be good in your sight to bless your people Israel at all times and at every hour with your peace. Blessed are you, O Lord, who blesses his people Israel with peace.

“This prayer, among others, is found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book. As Judaism’s central prayer, surpassed only by the Birkat Hamazon, the Amidah is the only prayer that is designated simply as tefila (תפילה‎, “prayer”) in rabbinic literature…

Observant Jews recite the Amidah at each of three prayer services in a typical weekday: morning, afternoon, and evening…”  (Source: Wikipedia)

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Learning God’s Language: Prayer

peter-laying-on-his-blanket-looking-up

My grandson… learning a whole new language

Prayer: the use of language or the absence of words directed to the One who made us for Himself, for reasons as wide as the sky, or for no other reason than to listen.

In posts like “What language shall I borrow?” and “Wanting to be Heard“, I have explored prayer from our beggarly posture as people impoverished both with and without words. In other words, even when we have words, we are in as much need as when we are without.

Despite our impoverishments, we still learn to pray from this most elementary position. Margaret Silf says in the same way that we are “born with the innate potential to form every known sound in every human language” – so is our potential to learn God’s language of prayer.  You need not be an expert; in fact you can’t be one; only children or the childlike pray best.

“[Children’s] first attempts at speech are a medley of Babel noises – and indeed, their speech would stay like that were it not for one thing. They all, even the least loved and cared for among them, hear all round them the sounds of one particular human language – their native language.  They learn to speak intelligibly… first by listening, and then by copying the sounds they hear. Quite simply, they learn the language of those to whom they are closest. A baby whose mother spends time holding her child and talking to it will become articulate more quickly than one who is left alone all day.

The same dynamic seems to apply in the way we learn to express the deepest desires and movements of our hearts. We will express ourselves in the language of the One to whom we are closest. Like a baby, our langue will be formed by those we are close to. The further we draw away from God, the more garbled will be our hearts’ self-expression, until it reverts to the chaos of Babel. The closer we stay to God, the more surely our deeper desires will form around Him and His desire for us, and the more our way of being will be conformed to His.

At first our desires crowd around like a baby’s first babbling, but slowly our words are forming. We are writing the words of our own personal song of love. It  begins in listening and leads to imitation. It draws us, word by word, prayer by prayer, into relationship with the Word, until all our words are superseded and we are ready to be with Him in a union of silence.

How do we learn to pray?

We just begin to listen and talk with the One to whom we are closest.  A great place to begin to listen is God’s own word in scripture.  Silf encourages us to begin with what she calls “imaginative meditation” on the encounters with Jesus in the gospels.

What have you learned about prayer so far?

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A Prayer for Refugees

Nov. 16, 2015. Migrants arrive by a Turkish boat near the village of Skala, on the Greek island of Lesbos. The Turkish boat owner delivered about 150 people to the Greek coast and tried to escape back to Turkey; he was arrested in Turkish waters. CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Nov. 16, 2015. Refugees arrive by a Turkish boat near the village of Skala, on the Greek island of Lesbos.  Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

A Prayer For Refugees by Dr. Chawkat Moucarry 

Lord, we don’t understand what is going on in the Middle East.
We come to You and plead with You to be merciful.
To guide us.
To help us not to despair.
To help see what we can do.
Even if it’s something small
in order to meet this tremendous challenge
that is in front of us.
We pray for everyone who is involved
to alleviate suffering among the refugees.
Lord, we want to believe that things are not out of Your control.
You have Your own loving purposes,
and we pray that somehow You may draw some good out of all this evil.
We pray for the sake of your kingdom.
And in Jesus Name
Amen

Dr. Chawkat Moucarry grew up as a Christian in Syria. Join him in prayer today for his native country, for guidance, and for understanding this crisis.

For more, see “A Psalm for the Refugee Crisis in America.”

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Beauty is

“Beauty Is” by Allison Grayhurst is a wonderful expression of awe and a transient intimacy with truth. Enjoy:

Allison Grayhurst

..

Beauty is

 

True beauty is an experience of  awe, it is a momentary recognition where the interconnectedness of everything becomes clear as it sits on the edge of chaos, of knowing the chaos and the precarious tilt towards it, inside of it, but also knowing that chaos for what it is – an illusion.

 

It is a transient intimacy with truth, when the layers of life are exposed, revealed in a completed majesty. It is a fleeting experience, a halt in existence that our temporal selves cannot maintain. It arrives unexpectedly, when looking at the face of a child, an old person’s hands, an animal’s tenderness to another outside of its kind. Or when knowing the starlight patterns, forest root fungal patterns, brain electrical patterns are one in the same patterns, that mountain ridges and heartbeat ridges join in identical rhythms, that what is in the forest…

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Troubled Times

troubled-timesRolling Stone magazine reported that on Martin Luther King Jr. day, Green Day honored the civil rights leader as well as criticized President-elect Donald Trump in their new lyric video for “Troubled Times,” a track off their recent Revolution Radio.

“Today we celebrate love and compassion more than ever,” Billie Joe Armstrong (song writer/singer with Green Day) said in a statement that accompanied [his music] video. The video juxtaposes images of famed protests and moments of resistance and rebellion – women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement – with images of a Trump-like figure wearing a “Make America Great Again” hate spouting hate-filled messages to the masses.”

This song is an example of a prophetic word about the times in which we live. It begins with a question that comes from the lingering hope of Christmas’ “love and peace on earth”.

The question of “where’s the truth in the written word if no one reads it?” – isn’t just rhetorical; by implication it is asking, what good is truth – “if no one follows it?”  And though Billie Joe Armstrong may not have an answer, this question most of all should cause us to look to the One who does – so that we would, in fact, keep in step with Him.

Take heed…

“Troubled Times” by Green Day

What good is love and peace on earth?
When it’s exclusive?
Where’s the truth in the written word?
If no one reads it
A new day dawning
Comes without warning
So don’t blink twice

We live in troubled times
We live in troubled times

What part of history we learned
When it’s repeated
Some things will never overcome
If we don’t seek it
The world stops turning
Paradise burning
So don’t think twice

We live in troubled times
We live in troubled times
We live in troubled times

We run for cover
Like a skyscraper’s falling down
Then I wander like a troubled mind

What good is love and peace on earth?
When it’s exclusive
Where’s the truth in the written word?
If no one reads it
A new day dawning
Comes without warning
So don’t look twice

We live in troubled times
We live in troubled times
We live in troubled times
We live in troubled times
We live in troubled times
We live in troubled times

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Let the Deep Currents Flow

National Geographic

National Geographic

“There was a time when I thought of my prayers as some kind of lottery. I might get lucky on a few of my scratch- board prayers and clock up a few ticks, as if I were checking God off against the shopping list. Big wins were a lot less likely – really only dreams. Some people even keep diaries of the answers they feel they have, or have not, received to their specific prayers.”

So begins Margaret Silf in the chapter titled “Why Don’t You Answer My Prayers?” in her book “Inner Compass“.  In an earlier post, Return to Sender, I noted a kind of cynicism that pervades prayer when we think of it in unhelpful ways; this often betrays how we think wrongly about the God to whom we pray in the first place.

Listen to how Margaret Silf continues to elaborate on prayer:

Today, though, I really question this way of thinking of payer and the ways in which God responds to it… Imagine [instead] our deepest desires as a powerful underground stream… this stream is so deep in our hearts that for the most part we are not even aware of it ourselves… but this stream does show itself sometimes in the conscious levels of our lives. Like a mountain stream, it bubbles up in small springs and little fountains and trickles along the way… these trickles may show themselves as areas of our experience where we are consciously striving for some specific happiness or success or fulfilment… or they may be more obvious by their absence (dry patches, empty spaces)…

All the while the deep current flows on, holding our deepest desire, often unspoken and unrecognized… when I let my prayer become this deep flow that I can’t even name or ever fully know, the amazing truth [is] that God is continually responding to it… If I believe that God is continually responding to my deepest desire, then it follows that by observing God’s actions in my life and His movement in my heart, I will be able to see more and more clearly what my deepest desires really are. Paradoxical though it may appear, I will become able to hear my prayers by listening to the answers, and not the other way around…

My prayer is not really mine at all but rather expresses the movements of my deepest underground streams and currents that spring from God and are known and understood fully only by Him. God’s answers are not brought about by my prayer all… rather, my prayer is the response to God’s action in my life and His presence in my heart.”

I resonate with Silf’s insights, partially because of the wonderful paradox noted in an earlier post, No Storyless Prayers:

“In the wonderful paradox of God, we find Him to be both the subject and object of prayer; He is the listener and the inspirer of prayer, for prayer eventually matures from being all about us – to being all about Him. And yet, we do not lose our value to the story simply because we find ourselves displaced from our selfish perch. The story cannot be told (prayer cannot be prayed) without us, though it really isn’t about us in the end.”

Let me invite you to tell me what you know about prayer and the God of prayer. What is your experience with the wonderful paradox as you’ve grown in prayer?

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Standing before Enigmas

grayline.is/tours/reykjavk/northern-lights-mystery-tour

grayline.is/tours/reykjavk/northern-lights-mystery-tour

I say to you, Blessed is he who exposes himself
to an existence never brought under mastery,
who does not transcend, but rather abandons
himself to my ever-transcending grace. Blessed
are not the enlightened whose every question
has been answered and who are delighted
with their own sublime insight, the mature
and ripe ones whose one remaining action is
to fall from the tree.

Blessed, rather, are the chased,
the harassed who must daily stand
before my enigmas and cannot solve them.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who lack a
spirit of cleverness. Woe to the rich, and woe to
the doubly rich in spirit! Although nothing is
impossible with God, it is difficult for the Spirit
to move their fat hearts.

The poor are willing
and easy to direct. Like little puppies they do not
take their eyes from their master’s hand to see
if perhaps he may throw them a little morsel
form his plate. So carefully do the poor follow
my prompting that they listen to the wind
(which blows where it pleases), even when
it changes. From the sky they can read the
weather and interpret the signs of the times.

My grace is unpretentious, but the poor
are satisfied with little gifts.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Heart for the World.

Perhaps we can be annoyed to be likened to “little puppies” satisfied with “little morsels.”  And even this would expose how we approach the one who beckons us to “stand before enigmas” we are neither capable nor called upon to solve.  Instead we are called to “abandon ourselves to ever-transcending grace.”

If we are to be “satisfied with little gifts,” gratitude is itself a satisfaction with realizing all of life is a gift. May we be so poor as to “follow the prompting that listens to the wind.”

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