Why Pray? Jewish Answers

Jews pray in order to enrich our lives and seek comfort, to connect to the past and to others, to celebrate and develop a sense of the sacred, to serve God and help make ourselves Godlike.

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Spiritual Discipline. Most of us go through the day without consciously experiencing God's presence. Prayer helps to develop and maintain a spiritual sense. Focusing regularly on our sacred encounters helps us to notice them as they occur.

Meditation. Most of us live at a very rapid pace. We welcome the opportunity to slow down and remember what has deeper meaning beyond our daily routines.

Group Connection. If we are not careful, it is easy to become isolated. Even if we interact frequently with others, our daily lives rarely afford many opportunities to let our guard down and express what is really important to us. It is a real treat to be connected to a group, all of whose members are seeking together.

Celebration. For many of us, few experiences transport us as powerfully as group singing. We may be grateful for a life passage, or for the blossoming of flowers in spring, but without our prayer communities, we might never sing about it.

Group Support. Life is unfortunately filled with disappointment, illness, and tragedy. Social scientists now tell us what we already knew: that recovery from family discord, depression, and even physical illness is enhanced when we experience the support of a caring group. Praying for a sick person is efficacious even if you don't believe that God intercedes supernaturally. Our prayers do have power.

-- Rabbi Rebecca T. Alpert is Co-Director of the Women's Studies Program and Assistant Professor of Religion and Women's Studies at Temple University. and Rabbi Jacob J. Staub is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Medieval Jewish Civilization at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Reprinted from Exploring Judaism: A Reconstructionist Approach.

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