A couple of years ago I wrote about singing at Temple Gates of Prayer in New Iberia, La. There is a small Jewish congregation here, and I have been blessed and honored to sing for their rabbi-led services for some time. Fall is the season of High Holy Days, which encompass Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat Shuvah and Yom Kippur.
This is a Reform congregation, who uses the New Union Prayerbook. There are many beautiful prayers within the covers of the regular book as well as Gates of Repentance, used during HHD.
Monday, during the morning service for Rosh Hashanah, these words leapt off the page at me:
“Be among those who cherish truth above ease, and whose prayers are shafts of light in the darkness….Aspire to be loving, compassionate, humane, and hopeful. Become the prayer for goodness your lips have uttered.” *
Become the prayer for goodness your lips have uttered.
Sounds deceptively simple. It’s certainly challenging. I know I am often overwhelmed with day-to-day minutiae, and tend to get onto the “just get-it-done” track. I’m not rude, cruel, dishonest or treating anyone badly, I’m just…getting things done. Work. Errands. Housekeeping. Paying bills. Doing laundry. Autopilot.
The apostle Paul wrote:
Rejoice always, pray continually. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-17
What if we were to become the prayer? I cannot bring peace to the world, but I can be peaceful. I may not be able to cure someone, but I can be a healing presence. Kindness towards others – even a smile – can be prayerful.
Intention is the difference.
Now, more than ever, our country and our world are torn by voices of division. We hear so much about what’s wrong, about oppression, aggression, unfairness, shaming, blaming, hatred. Individual pain is exploited for political gain, and groups and individuals become game tokens in power plays. Individuals wonder what can I do?
Do what you can. Be open and aware. Set an intention for kindness. Show gratitude. Smile. Pray continually.
Then, become the prayer for goodness your lips have uttered.
~~~~~~~~ * 1984, Central Conference of American Rabbis: Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe. P. 187. (New York)