I pray. That’s really all there is to it. I can’t remember a time before I prayed – from when I was very very young until now, really. I say words, I sing songs, I think thoughts and I write journal entries – I use all sorts of ways to connect to God. I think it works – in that I’m a better person when I do so – and I’ve talked about that in this blog before. Today, all I can think about is how hard prayer is and how, after so many years of practice and experience, I still am not all that good at it.
The problem is that my thoughts wander. It’s amazing – one moment I’ll be earnestly repeating words that praise God, the next, I’ll be thinking of that really great thing I should have said to that person. One minute I’ll be asking for help in a situation which I find difficult, the next, I’ll be worrying about when I’ll have time to wash that whatever-it-is. I’ll be focusing on God being present through the generations, for just a moment, before I’ve wandered off, at least in my head, the grocery store or worse yet, the library. Hmm, if that character just visits that other character an talks to her, I know the two of them could connect and get past that issue they’ve been having and the one will be able to use magic to…what was I doing? Writing a blog? Praying? Where was I? Oh yes, blessed be God…
I do various things to help my brain focus. As I’ve said I use different media. I say my own words, I say fixed words, I chant or sing. I meditate in silence and I write. That helps a bit but still, my brain wanders. Sometimes, I find I can focus better in the right surroundings. If I could just magically find myself with time to go hiking daily, maybe my prayers would be better (although with a convenient forest behind my house, that’s happening way more often, actually – yay.) I find that having a routine helps – a time when I definitely talk to God every day. However, given that my brain is like a steel sieve, my ability to stick to a routine is highly imperfect.
Ok, but my mind just switched topics, so… Have you noticed how the first words in many Jewish prayers are “God is blessed?” What on earth is that about? It’s always intrigued me – why not “Thank you, God”, or “Praised be God?” Why “Blessed be God?” What on Earth are we blessing God for? A blessing, by the dictionary is something promoting or contributing to happiness, well-being, or prosperity; a boon. It’s a wish for something good to come, or a promise of something good to come, right? God is to be blessed for bringing forth bread? It almost sounds like we’re judging God, deciding that bringing forth bread is good, and that we can therefore give God a reward, a blessing. It’s bizarre really.
See? No focus whatsoever! You have no idea how much editing goes into this blog to keep it even vaguely cohesive. May God be blessed with people who pray in a focused, consistent way! Unfortunately, God is stuck with me and I’m stuck with me, so let’s see if I can pull a rabbit out from under my kippa and connect it all.
Maybe that’s exactly what the blessings mean. Maybe it means that these things – be they bread that we have helped God bring forth from the ground, or these prayers that come haltingly and disjointedly, these things are blessings to God, good things that bring God joy. Maybe She considers even the mixed-up distracted, half-there but mostly not prayers I can produce a blessing. And because She wants me to remember that God is pleased with this world, with the people in it, with the mitzvot we do, all short prayers begin and long prayers end with “God is blessed…”
My prayers are good enough. My attempts to focus and talk, write, meditate and sing with God have been noted and accepted. In fact, they are a blessing. I can work on better focus … where did I put down my phone, again? I have to check what time the bank opens … but meanwhile, what I do is sufficient for God to be blessed by it – to find it a desired goodness. That’s something to smile about this Elul.