The Role of Prayer with Rabbi Steve Leder

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The English word “prayer” comes from the
Latin word “precari” which means to beg and this is unfortunately how most Jews
understand the purpose of prayer, as if we’re begging before God, as if we are
imagining God as some kind of cosmic granter of wishes who will subvert the
natural order of nature in our favor, but that’s actually a very Christian notion
of prayer Prayer is about changing us, it’s not
about changing God and it’s not about miracle cures. It’s an internal process,
but there is a prayer that we say for the sick for the ill called the Mishabeirach prayer but this prayer also comes with its own
set of misconceptions by most Jews so most Jews think of this prayer as a
prayer we say that will actually cure people, make people better in some way.
The Mischabeirach is not a curing prayer, it’s a healing prayer. What is the
difference? I’ll give you an example from my own life. I said the prayer for my own
father every day since his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, knowing full well there was
no cure and he wasn’t going to get better, and yet I said the Mishabeirach
because what I was praying for was not a cure. I was praying for healing, his and
mine, to be able to make peace with what can’t be changed, to be able to accept
the inevitable. This is a very different way of understanding what it means to
pray for someone who’s ill. I also know very well, it really helps to know people
are praying for you, it pierces the isolation. It doesn’t change the
trajectory of a disease, but it nourishes our spirit, our soul. So I urge you to say
the Mishabeirach. This is a time to really really tend to our internal life
and think about the ways we can make peace with what we cannot change and
appreciate the many blessings around us despite our fear and our pain


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