A Simple Prayer Will Do

by | Jan 21, 2022

January is often a difficult month for me, despite all the things I love about it, like the fresh slate of a new year. I’m not much one for “resolutions,” but I do enjoy spending time reflecting on the past year and setting intentions for the new year. I also appreciate the permission that January offers to spend some time in hibernation. The shorter days and cold weather are perfect for snuggling up with a pet and a good book. However, the shorter days also mean more darkness, and by the time January rolls around I am aware of the way less daylight affects me. Lower energy and a lower mood, which makes it difficult to do all the things I love to do or that are important to me, like praying.

I recently started working my way through Directing the Heart: Weekly Mindfulness Teachings and Practices from the Torah by Rabbi Yael Levy. The translations she offers of the Biblical Hebrew (some direct, some more interpretive) are especially moving. They have started to open up the stories for me in a new way. For example, part of her translation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden goes like this:

Once they ate from [the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil],

Adam and [Eve] knew

That life is impermanent.

Everything would come forth

And eventually pass.

They themselves would live, love,

Work, struggle, flourish

And die.

The world of creation, they now knew,

Was filled with abundant blessings

And deep sadness and pain

And would unfold within a mystery

They could never control or fully understand.

And this knowledge made them afraid,

So they clothed themselves for protection.

The spirit of God,

The spirit of Mystery,

Blew through the garden

And formed a question

The very first question ever put to human beings:

Ayekah? Where are you?

I wonder what part of this passage connects with you.

For me, there are two parts. The first is the consolation I experience as I am reminded that my mood disorder is simply part of my being human. The world is filled with abundant blessing and deep sadness and pain. All of it.

The second is the question God puts to human beings: Where are you? The weekly meditation Rabbi Levy offers with this passage is to hear this question from God – Where are you? – and answer, Here I am. Slowly and repeatedly. Here I am.

As I engaged with this meditation last week, it struck me that sitting in God’s presence and saying, Here I am, is a good prayer. Yes, prayer can be more – and sometimes we feel the pressure for it to be more – but it doesn’t have to be more.

Here I am. It is a beautiful intention to be present in the moment, open to what the moment asks, and in whatever is true. There is willingness, honesty, gratitude, and goodwill in that.

So if you’d like to pray but it feels difficult right now, I invite you to explore how it feels to pray these three simple words: Here I am.