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What does prayer mean to you? Nothing stands more at the forefront of Jewish practices than prayer. Prayer is a central force in our lives. Prayer not only serves as a means of developing ourselves spiritually, but also allows us to beseech our Creator for the things that matter to us most, be it financial security, material success, or health. Prayer also allows us to turn to G-d in times of trouble and when we find ourselves lost and alone. Prayer has the power to infuse us with happiness and hope.
The Mabit, a Torah scholar, writes in Sefer Beth Elokim (15) that prayer is a required practice stated in the Torah, as it is written in Deuteronomy 11:13, “To serve Him [G-d] with all your heart.” The Gemara (Taanit 2) asks, “What kind of service is performed in the heart? It is prayer.” When we pray, we are essentially connecting ourselves to something larger than ourselves, something deeper and more meaningful. Prayer is a practice that is rooted in spirituality. With prayer, we affirm our dependency on our Creator, Who is above nature.
Positive Psychology research affirms the importance of engaging in spirituality and being connected to something larger than we are. The M in Martin Seligman’s PERMA model defines a meaningful life as “using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” Spiritual development and regular practice of prayer bring meaning to our everyday lives, and allows us to live our lives with purpose.
According to psychologist Michelle Roya Rad, when we set aside time to pray daily, we can benefit in many ways:
1. Prayer provides us with a sense of optimism and renewed hope. Prayer teaches us to continue to hope and look into other options should things not go our way.
2. Prayer helps us cultivate a sense of gratitude. Prayer gives us the opportunity to reflect and think of all the positive aspects of life
3. Prayer can be used to calm our minds and delay otherwise impulsive actions. By learning to calm our minds, we are able to evaluate situations from a logical standpoint.
4. Prayer expands our perspective and allows us to see things from a different point of view.
5. Prayer teaches us how to focus and concentrate on one task. By praying, we train our minds to be present in the here and now.
6. Prayer allows us to forgive others more easily, to detach from past experiences, and move forward.
7. Prayer provides us with a sense of comfort and security, thereby decreasing our anxiety and irrational fears.
8. By connecting to a Higher Power, we also learn how to connect to others.
With prayer, we repeat a series of meaningful, positive, uplifting words, which our brain retains. We can reflect upon what we said throughout the day. This helps us feel encouraged and energized. Prayer is the practice, which changes the individual. G-d does not require our prayers. Rather, we need to pray to become spiritually developed and complete individuals.What Does Prayer Mean? to Jewish Positive Psychology