On Friday night, our Shabbat, I found myself alone, walking quickly home in the Boston cold. Bundled up in hat, scarf, and coat, I felt a sense of peaceful isolation from the street around me, and a deep gratitude for the rhythms and opportunities that God has laid out for me as an Orthodox Jew. Prayer has never been a strength of mine in my service of God. It has mostly eluded me, but on this Friday night I felt so enveloped by beautiful mitzvot (commandments and good deeds) that I was moved to offer my thanks to God.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught: Set aside time each day to meditate in a room or in the fields. While there, speak out whatever is in your heart, with words of grace and supplication. These words should be in the language you normally speak, so that you will be able to express yourself as clearly as possible. When you entreat God in the language you are used to, the words are closer to your heart and will therefore flow more easily. (Likutey Moharan II, 25). Source.
In my own language, free of the self consciousness of synagogue and the predetermined structure of the prayer book, I was moved to thank God for his kindnesses and poured out my heart to Him. And the words flowed. There, in the privacy of my hat and scarf and my own fast footsteps, I found the words to share with God.
I wanted to share just a few of these supplications with you. Whether they can serve as a starting point for your own conversation with God, or just help you know that you are not alone in the deep longings of your heart, I hope they will be useful to you.
- Thank you, God, for the opportunities you give me to connect to you. Thank you for this beautiful lifestyle and mitzvot that bring me peace, stillness and grace
- God, I put the deepest longings of my heart in your hands
- With every breath I praise you
- Shine your light to the world through me. Make me a vessel for your holiness and help me to be worthy of your work
- Please give the me strength and patience I need
- Help me to be a true bat melech, daughter of the King. Help me to be generous and strong, to live a God-centered life. Help me to communicate this in all that I do
I talked and talked, my breath a puff of steam and my voice lost in the sounds of passing traffic. And the more I shared, the more flowed, until all my words were spent and I felt content that I had told God everything that needed telling. And as my legs pumped and my blood flowed through me, I felt exhilarated and connected and heard.
Moments like this bring out our true selves. They reveal our core values and our deepest longings. Stripping away the noise and the audience and our own ceaseless censoring, our true voices ring out. Like a flash of lightening on a dark night, suddenly we can see what is truly there. It is our task to remember what we have seen and allow it to guide our footsteps until the next burst of illumination.
I thought about ways to hold on to these moments of clarity, and wondered whether a customized cell phone wallpaper might be a useful reminder. I’ve included the files as free downloads, below, in case your are interested in trying it out with me. If you do, please let me know how it works for you!
To learn more about Hitbodedut, the practice of conversing with God in your own words, check out this article.