The subject of prayer came up the other day. Someone commented that because I never seem to set aside time for regular, visible prayer, they concluded that I do not pray. The fact is I pray throughout the day, but silently. I pray in gratitude, in awe, in need and just to connect, for lack of a better word.
Then this morning, I read a section in the book "The Seventh Telling" by Mitchell Chefitz (excellent book BTW. I HIGHLY recommend it!) The characters were talking about formal prayer.
We have this little disagreement about vocabulary. It's not that I don't appreciate prayer, but for me prayer is a cultural thing. It can be beautiful, even meaningful. But it's performance. It's not something that works. At best, it entertains and makes you feel good.
And that got me thinking. Who is prayer for? Formal prayer or informal prayer? Who or what is the intended "audience?"
Some people I know who pray out loud and only in specific words and often in specific places, say that prayer is to remind them of G-d. And to remind them to do (or not do) certain things. Others have said that such prayer is mandated by G-d, and that to not use the standard words or forms is to violate the guidelines G-d set down.
And if you are among those, please forgive me for what I am about to say. If it is for you, or for G-d, why is it out loud and obvious? Surely, G-d has no need to "hear" audible words. S/he can "hear" our silent petitions and thoughts of wonder and or need. And we ourselves can express our thoughts, needs, hopes, feelings, gratitude to G-d silently, and still be as aware we are doing it.
And whether prayer is for the petitioner or for G-d, wouldn't sincere words from a person's heart and soul, spoken or silent, be far more meaningful than canned text written by someone else years, centuries or thousands of years ago?
Isn't there a certain element of ego in praying so that others can see and hear that you are praying? At least a bit of "See, I'm religious. See?"