By Marc Gafni
Prayer is man pouring out his deepest need before God. Philosophers and mystics alike scoffed at this prayer seeking the more pure prayer which pleads for alignment between man and god. Such prayer is surely sacred and noble. The psalmist prays to God “A pure heart create for me God….Take not your holy spirit from me.” Or in another passage the mystic yearning bursts out with full force: “As the deer desperately yearns after the brook of water so does my soul desperately after you O God; My soul thirsts for the living God. When shall I come and appear in the presence of God.” Or in the Koan prayer of 19th century mystic Shneur Zalman of Liadi as he cries out in prayer; ”I do not want your hell; I do not want your heaven; it is you; you alone that I want.” All of these God in second person prayers whether coming from a dualist psalmist or a non dual mystic Schneur Zalman are an integral part of prayer. Yet none of them replace the core staple of Hebrew spiritual practice; the pouring of the heart’s deepest need before God.
Prayer affirms the dignity of human need. God is desperately interested and caring about the genuine and detailed needs of each and every individual.
The essential revelation of biblical consciousness is the intimacy of infinity. This is the deep intent of the ancient master and prophet Isaiah:
For thus says God the High and Exalted One
Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is holy
I dwell in the high and holy place
With him that is contrite and humble of spirit
To revive the spirit of the humble
And to Revive the heart of the contrite one.
In the language of the wisdom masters, “Even though he is the high and lofty one he dwells with the one who is depressed and of fallen spirit.”
The infinite god of power expresses his ultimate majesty in loving and caring about all the fallen people; about every details of their lives; about every jot and tittle in their stories. Prayer is the affirmation of relationship of radical empathy between the one who offers and the one who receives the prayer. Prayer heard by God reminds us that our lives matter. Not just their grand goals and designs. But the little things. The terrible disappointments, the excruciating hurts, the joys and ecstasies, the moments when we break though and realize our worth and the moment when we fall and forget our original face. All of these moments matter infinitely.
Dr. Marc Gafni
The Dance of Tears