Oof, that's a strange and uncomfortable word to write in this context. Prayer is not something I talk much about here - or anywhere - or think about often, if I'm being honest with you, and myself.
Do I consider myself to be part of an organized religion? Yes. Do I actively practice that religion? Yes. Do I attend a house of worship? Yes. Do I say prayers there? Yes. Do I believe in a higher power in the universe? Yes. Do I believe there is a man with a white beard sitting in the clouds pulling strings? No. Can I articulate more about what I do believe? In a lifetime, maybe, but not in two paragraphs.
Prayer is a funny thing; part-appreciation part-supplication, and in my case, spoken primarily in a language that is not native to me. By the dictionary definition, to pray is to ask something of a higher power, or to express appreciation to a higher power, and yet I don't come to prayer with either of those things in mind. Maybe it's because of the ways that I do and don't think about that higher power, but for me prayer is as much about tradition and continuity as it is about request and appreciation.
Today is my father's yahrzeit, the day that marks the anniversary of his death three days before the start of the Passover holiday, eighteen years ago. This morning, as is my custom, I went to the Synagogue to honor my father's memory by saying Kaddish, the memorial prayer. The Kaddish is the very last prayer in the morning service, so before speaking the words of the Kaddish I said a whole host of other words of prayer, some of thanks and others of request, and if I'm being honest I spoke most of those words out of habit and with a strong sense of connection to the generations who have said those words before me, but without a lot of attention to the act of request or thanks to a higher power.
It occurred to me, as I sat there in that chapel this morning, that to pray is to open a channel. None of us knows where that channel goes, or how - and I'm not sure it matters why we do what we do, but for me I know it matters that I try. It is the act of prayer that matters to me, and I was reminded of that this morning as I remembered my father, and thought about how prayer is an act of inviting wonder.