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Prayer and Religious Articles

Challenging to Get to Prayer

Question: I am 54 with many changes going on, physical and mental. I go to therapy sessions. I also have a challenging past. Sometimes I can’t go out to go to Shul (synagogue), it takes everything for me to get up. I get the kids up and out because my wife goes to work, and then I have to Daven (pray) and go to work. Today I put on Tefillin at home. I couldn’t go to the Shul with all the people.  I don’t know what to do. I am so down on myself and feel so unsuccessful. Finances are causing a lot of my issues. I keep saying, well, this is what I deserve if Hashem wants it this way. I hate thinking that. I don’t want to tell anyone here.

Answer: Davening (prayer), for many reasons, is a huge challenge for most people, and it’s not at all uncommon to wonder what it could possibly accomplish. Of course, we all understand that the words of our prayers are very precise and inspiring, and we all know that some people can elevate themselves to very great heights through prayer, but most of the time, we just don’t feel it ourselves. Even when we’re thinking about what we’re saying, it’s all going by so fast and seems so habitual, that it can seem futile.

And that’s for people for whom things are going well. When things are rough in other aspects of life, the problem only gets bigger. So there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging, as you have, that it’s not working well for you right now. One important thought, though, is to keep in mind that we don’t have to win every one of life’s battles, so long as we continue struggling. If prayer didn’t go well for you one day, if you just couldn’t pull yourself to Shul, then maybe you’ll have more success tomorrow, or next week. As long as you’re still trying. Here’s something else: the Shulchan Aruch (Jewish bookof law) teaches – טוב מעט תחנונין בכוונה, מהרבות בלא כוונה – Fewer prayers with mental focus are better than many without. If you’re able to focus on a smaller number of key prayers each day – perhaps rotating day by day or week by week – you will accomplish more than by racing through pages and pages of blurred words.

I wish you great success!
Rabbi Boruch Clinton
Toronto

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