O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.
TBT: To Dream In League With God | by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Religion is a critique of all satisfaction. Its end is joy, but its beginning is discontent, detesting boasts, smashing idols.
The predicament of prayer is twofold: Not only do we not know how to pray; we do not know what to pray for. We have lost the ability to be shocked. Should we not pray for the ability to be shocked at atrocities committed by humanity, for the capacity to be dismayed at our inability to be dismayed?
The purpose of prayer is not the same as the purpose of speech. The purpose of speech is to inform; the purpose of prayer is to partake. In speech, the act and the content are not always contemporaneous. What we wish to communicate to others is usually present in our minds prior to the moment of communication. In contrast, the actual content of prayer comes into being in the moment of praying. For the true content of prayer, the true sacrifice we offer, is not the prescribed word which we repeat, but the response to it, the self-examination of the heart, the realization of what is at stake in living as a child of God.
The quality of a speech is not judged by the good intention of the speaker but by the degree to which it succeeds to simplify an idea and to make it relevant to others. Ultimately the goal of prayer is not to translate a word but to translate the self.
Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision.
Prayer, too, is frequently an inner vision, an intense dreaming for God – the reflection of the Divine intentions in the soul of humankind. We dream of a time “when the world will be perfected under the Sovereignty of God, and all the children of flesh will call upon Your name, when You will turn unto Yourself all the wicked of the earth.” We anticipate the fulfillment of the hope shared by both God and humankind. To pray is to dream in league with God, to envision God’s holy visions.
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*Editor’s Note: The above excerpts are from Rabbi Heschel’s books Moral Grandeur and Man’s Quest for God. While we usually dig farther back in history for Throwback Thursdays, and nearly always stay with Christian writers, we found Heschel’s remarks on prayer to be stirring and challenging as we grow in the understanding and practice of prayer.