It is a daunting task: What do OC residents do in terms of prayer? How do they practice? How much value do we place in our conversations with G-d? For many, there may be no conversation; for others, it may be seen as a one-sided conversation; and a smaller portion of the population may see that their conversations with G-d happen often and multiple times a day. This edition of Jlife is meant to inspire our community to talk about prayer in the context of our modern lives.
Arguably, many of us pray more than we realize. How many times do we catch ourselves praying to get somewhere on time or praying to pass a test or land a deal? These small acknowledgements are incredibly common for many people, even those who do not identify themselves as religious.
Prayer, for the Gen Y demographic, is an interesting conundrum — a blend of summer camp, Debbie Friedman tunes, all mixed with staunch Conservative ideals. This blend may have left our demographic at a loss, almost dismissing prayer because we tend to stray from labels. Unless, of course, you’re Orthodox. In this case, prayer may come first.
Prayer cannot be boxed into mainstream sects anymore. American Jews, have found ways to pray that transcend beyond synagogue walls. We are left to question how this paradigm shift of individuality embraces meaningful, communal prayer with a term I’d like to coin “denominational absence.”
How do we pray? In a complex society, how can prayer still be meaningful? Most importantly, how does prayer connect us to our Jewish identity? It is an ancient religion, yet our modernity commonly defines us. Many Jews consider themselves cultural nonbelievers. However, these Jews are still incredibly engaged and identify themselves as Jewish. Their Jewishness cannot be simplified to a conversation. They remain attached to the label “Jewish” through their childhood roots and a connection to the nostalgic memories they harbor. In addition, is there a need to pray or is it a desire? There is something inherently meaningful within that question – to desire G-d, to need G-d, or maybe even to place importance on faith. When there is faith, there is hope. When there is hope, there is commonality. When there is commonality, there is community. Is prayer keeping OC’s Jewish community together?
Rabbi David Wolpe states, “To pray is more than to hope; it is an opening to the universe, an address to G-d, a preparation of one’s heart to live meaningfully and usefully.”
No matter how you see prayer fitting into your lives, we hope this edition inspires our community to engage in Jewish thought.