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[Grace Before Evening Meal] [Betsy’s Prayer, adapted from Union Prayer Book 1954] [Skip the Lessons] [Our Work is Never Done]
How prayers started coming to me is a mystery. I know they filled a need inside me to reach out for help. In 1995, I addressed a journal entry to “Dear God.” A few months later, I wrote my first prayer. And other prayers have come to me occasionally over the years since then. Some of the prayers are awkward. Some are simple. Some have evolved into powerful prayers that have helped me to find my center, to find meaning in my life. Here are a few of my prayers.
I write a simple prayer friends and family can say at the evening meal, in gratitude for the food we eat and for each other.
At the end of the day, we come to this table to be together.
Together we give thanks for the light, the source of all.
Together we give thanks for this food, our bodies’ sustenance.
Together we give thanks for each other, our souls' nourishment.
Blessed Be. Amen.
I adapt a prayer from the Union Prayer Book for Jewish Worship, Part I, page 355 (published 1954). I received the Union Prayer Book from Temple Beth Israel in Chicago, Illinois on the occasion of my Bas Mitzvah on May 10, 1957. In 1998, without much thought, I bundled the Union Prayer Book with my parent’s collection of Jewish books and sent it to my sister Judy who was involved with Judaism at that time. A month later, Judy sent it back to me with a note saying: “I think this is something you should have.” And she was right.
I loved the message of the prayer but could not relate to the formal words and phrases. I changed the prayer to bring it closer to contemporary vernacular and to make it easier for me, a “modern” to read out loud. This prayer touches my soul deeply. I come back to it and say it frequently with changes that reflect changes in my life. On days when I am not feeling “lost and alone or angry and conflicted,” I exclude the shaded portion. Over the years, I added the italicized phrases.
They say You are here, all around us and inside us
And through You we find meaning in our lives.
We pray because prayer makes it so.
We pray to bring You to us and to bring us to You.
Dear God, be in my heart and be with me.
How often when I feel lost and alone or angry and conflicted,
Do I yearn to know You, to feel Your presence, to connect with You.
When I am alone in the darkness of night,
When I am surrounded by friends or strangers and feel alone,
When I am full of anger and inner conflict,
I pray that You be with me and bring me peace.
I pray You bring me to the place of balance
Between involvement and detachment and busyness and quiet slowness,
Where I can be most help and comfort to myself and others.
I don’t know, Dear God, if the gifts I ask for are the gifts I need,
Or if the troubles and the tests I face
Will bring me to
the places I must be places of use and growth to me.
I don’t know, Dear God, if my unfulfilled hopes and dreams,
And my problems with giving and getting love, and my days full or empty,
May not be the way I learn that I cannot know,
Nor can I understand my life as it unfolds before me.
So I do not pray that my life is easy, or that I get what I want,
Or that my days are happy.
Rather I pray that You help me to stop complaining
And to face my fears and all my challenges with courage,
And to live each day fully
And to be present with all who come into my life.
Teach me to find the lessons and the blessings hidden in the daily annoyances
And in the small and great challenges of my life.
Help me to keep going even when I want to give up and sink into lumpdom.
Help me to get out of bed and face each day anew.
Remind me to enjoy the earth’s goodness,
But also remind me to find meaning in my life, however it unfolds,
During those times of trouble and sadness,
Or emptiness, or sameness, or disappointment, or even during those times of joy.
Help me to enjoy the happy times and accept the rest.
So light my way Dear God.
Give me courage when I am full of fear.
Give me a kick in the pants when I am tired and lazy.
Give me endurance when I feel long suffering.
Give me vision when I lose my way.
Dear God hear my prayers. Be with me now and always. Amen
This prayer was inspired by my sister Susie. I told her that in my prayers I ask for “lessons and peace and blessings and love” and she said: “I’m tired of learning lessons, I only want peace and blessings and love.”
The phrase “Sure help me to number my days and get a heart of wisdom...” paraphrases Psalm 90, verse 12 “Teach us to number our days that we may get us a heart of wisdom.”
Today give me peace and blessings and love, skip the lessons.
Give me laughter and lightness and rest and ease.
Sure, help me to number my days and get a heart of wisdom,
But give me the wisdom today to take a break from the serious side
And to remember that this day counts
So long as I am my own sweet self to me and to my husband and to Lizzie the cat.
After a “non-Jewish” life-time and most immediately, after eight years at the Second Unitarian Church, Chicago, in 2000 I returned to Judaism, the religion of my birth, and joined Beth Emet The Free Synagogue, Evanston, Illinois.
In September 2005 during the introspective Jewish month of Elul, before the Jewish High Holidays, I took a poetry/prayer class at Beth Emet and wrote this prayer to commemorate and remember the tsunami in East Asia, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the U.S.A. and the continuing U.S. led War in Iraq.
God, I pray to you. I yell at you. I cry out to you
For the poor, for the abused, for all in need.
You have been good to me God and good to some of my dear ones.
You have prospered my family and watched over some of us.
Other dear ones, they have not prospered; they are like many in trouble around the world.
God you are the source of all, the all powerful.
I stand in awe and in fear before the wonders and terrors of this, your world. For natural disasters near and far, the tsunami, hurricanes, earthquakes
I want to blame you, though I cannot.
For war, famine, genocides, I need to blame us, your creations,
and I fear the transgressions of some of the children of Adam and Eve.
Yet when the sun rises
When I help loved ones in need and we smile and laugh or we cry,
When I hear of people helping people,
And when I take note that our government is a reflection
of me, of my neighbors, of my friends and fellow citizens,
When I take note that our government listens, though imperfectly
and changes course for the good, though slowly
and helps and supports us sometimes which is better than nothing,
I sigh and I smile and yes, I sing patriotic songs.
And most of all, I pray that together we will continue always
to move towards the impossible and the unreachable,
towards Eden and Goodness and Godliness.
My work is never done and is far from perfect.
Certainly your work dear God is never done and is far from perfect.
Dear Lord, Dear God, Adonai:
Help me. Help us. Save us. We need you now more than ever or as always.
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