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    Being in the mood for prayer – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. I know I should daven three times a day. What if I am not in the mood to pray?

    A. Abraham Joshua Heschel tells of a time when as a student in Berlin he was so taken up with the cultural life of the great city that he was not always in the mood to pray. Later he wrote:

    “How grateful I am to God that there is a duty to worship, a law to remind my distraught mind that it is time to think of God, time to disregard my ego for at least a moment!

    “I am not always in a mood to pray. I do not always have the vision and the strength to say a word in the presence of God. But when I am weak, it is the law that gives me strength; when my vision is dim, it is duty that gives me insight.

    “There is something which is far greater than my desire to pray. Namely, God’s desire that I pray. There is something which is far greater than my will to believe. Namely, God’s will that I believe. How insignificant is my praying in the midst of a cosmic process! Unless it is the will of God that I pray, how ludicrous it is to pray.

    “Why did I pray, although I was not in a mood to pray? Why was I able to pray in spite of being unprepared to pray?

    “What I wanted to avoid was not only the failure to pray to God during a whole evening of my life but the loss of the whole, the loss of belonging to the spiritual order of Jewish living. It is true that some people are so busy with collecting shreds and patches of the law, that they hardly think of weaving the pattern of the whole. But there is also the danger of being so enchanted by the whole as to lose sight of the detail.

    “The order of Jewish living is meant to be, not a set of rituals, but an order of all of man’s existence, shaping all his traits, interests, and disposition.”

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