Let My People Know

"The foundation stone and precis of all prayer is to thank God for the gift of being able to pray"–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


One approach to prayer requires that a person intellectually plumb the depths of his prayer's meaning. 

One's efforts are planned, based on a preparatory learning session.

This session of learning does not necessarily involve the prayerbook text.

It must, however, be concerned with awareness of the Divine. 

The purpose of this learning is not merely intellectual acquisition but study that is directed intentionally toward the work of prayer, to penetrate all aspects of one's psyche, and to enhance one's prayer experience. 

This learning is an emotional endeavor that involves one's full concentration and emotional commitment.

The purpose of this study is to incorporate it into prayer. 

The more in-depth a person's study and the more details he contemplates, the more he can transform that topic into a real and tangible image, as though it is standing before his eyes. 

When he begins to pray, his every word and sentence is spoken within the context of his relationship with that image. 

He prays within the concept.

He develops it and derives meaning from it throughout the prayer service.

He seeks its echo on every page and in every word. 

The prayer experience, with all of its variations, with its ascents and descents, becomes the expression of the thought that he has so profoundly studied.

For instance, a person can meditate on the meaning of gratitude. 

He begins from the simplest notion: acknowledging the good that another has done.

He then considers in-depth questions such as, "What is appreciation composed of? What is the nature of its being? How does it connect us to God?"

Having delved into these questions from every angle, he brings the topic to his prayers.

He searches for the themes of appreciation and gratefulness in the words that he is reciting–in his praise, requests, supplication, and thanks. 

All of these now reflect appreciation, until he reaches the modim derabbanan: "We thank You … for that we thank You." 

The foundation stone and precis of all prayer is to thank God for the gift of being able to pray.

Such depth of concentration does not mean that one must interpret every word anew, but that one tries repeatedly to see the inner meaning that formed within every sentence of prayer. 

There is no need to change any word, nor its meaning.

One must only understand its implications as if for the first time. 

That type of study takes hold of him and electrifies him, as it draws into itself all the words of prayer and gives them new meaning. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From "Prayer," in The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz