Personal Prayers

Hear, O God, what is just;
Heed my cry, give ear to my prayer.

-Psalm 17:1

It is You who light my candle;
Adonai, my God illumines the darkness

- Psalm 18:29

I have called on Your name, O [God],
From the depths of the Pit.
Hear my plea;
Do not shut Your ear
To my groan, to my cry!

- Lamentations 3:55-56

From the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul - one month before Rosh Hashanah - and all the way through the holiday of Sukkot, traditional Jews add Psalm 27 to their daily prayers. One would think that, chosen for this season of repentance, the Psalm would focus on human shortcomings and our resolve to do better in the coming year/s. But, as you will see, the focus of Psalm 27 is confidence and security in the shelter of the Almighty (however one may understand these notions), an intimate relationship of care and protection. Read it through and see which phrases or ideas resonate for you; consider revisiting the Psalm, with some regularity, alone or with close ones, during this season of Return and Response. Perhaps it will trigger your own creative writing effort to articulate your deepest prayers. It will certainly link you to a community and a tradition of support, faith, affirmation, and hope.

(Adapted from Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub)

Psalm 27

Adonai is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
Adonai is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, my enemies and my foes,
came upon me to devour me, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host should camp against me, my heart shall not fear.
Though war should rise against me, even then will I be confident.
One thing have I desired of Adonai that I will seek after;
That I may dwell in God's house all the days of my life;
To behold the beauty of Adonai and to inquire in God's dwelling-place.
For in the day of evil God will hide me in the pavilion;
In the cleft of the holy tent, God will hide me.
God will set me on a rock.
And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies round about me.
Therefore, I will offer in God's tabernacles sacrifices of joy;
I will sing and I will make melody to Adonai.
Hear, Adonai, when I cry with my voice;
Be gracious to me and answer me.
Of You my heart has said:
Seek my face.
Adonai, I seek Your face.
Hide not Your face from me; put not Your servant away in anger.
You have been my help, do not abandon me,
Do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.
Even if my father and my mother forsake me, Adonai will take me in.
Teach me Your way, Adonai, and lead me in an even path because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me over to the will of my enemies,
For false witnesses have risen up against me and those that breathe out violence.
Were it not that I believed that I should see God's goodness in the land of the living.
Wait for Adonai; be of good courage and God will strengthen your heart.
Wait for Adonai.

(Translated by Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub)

Difficulty of Prayer

I have always found prayer difficult. So often it seems like a fruitless game of hide-and-seek where we seek and God hides…Yet I cannot leave prayer alone for long. My need drives me to God. And I have a feeling that God has God's own reasons for hiding, and that finally all my seeking will prove infinitely worthwhile. And I am not sure what I mean by "finding." Some days my very seeking seems a kind of "finding." And, of course, if "finding" means the end of "seeking," it were better to go on seeking.

(Leslie D. Weatherhed, Gates of Prayer, CCAR, 1975, page 3)