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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.


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Thursday, August 04, 2005

You pray for me, I'll pray for you

Have you ever had someone tell you they'd pray for you?
It's a little creepy to me, especially if the person is not of the same faith as I am.
How will they pray for me?
Will they light a candle, talk it over with Jesus maybe?
Freaks me out just to think about it. Still, here is someone who is willing to take it upon themselves to speak to God on my behalf and all I can think about is how uneasy it makes me feel.

Conversely I am becoming increasingly disconcerted by the amount of prayer requests I've been receiving. Being a fairly active Jewess-about-town, and general web-head I am emailed regularly by several Jewish mail services.
I receive several emails a day that ask for my prayers- for example:

Please daven for _________ bas _______ a young mother of three who was in a car accident late yesterday.

Your tehillim are needed right now for _________bas _________ a grandmother in surgery!

__________ ben ___________ had a stroke this morning and only a miracle can save him, he needs all our teffilot!

Of course I know they are all tragic, serious, deserving of my attention, and I wish all these people a complete and speedy recovery, but guess what?

I'm a terrible davener.
I'm terrible about davening (I'm a woman, it's OK) and I'm no good at it either.

I wish I could dive right into tehillim every time I got an email like that but I can't.
The best I could probably offer is lip service and don't you think God would see right through that? Unless I'm feeling particularly spiritual or I'm close to the situation at hand there is no way I can pray meaningfully about it. I don't know these people, God is WAY up there, and who am I? I'm nobody, a sinner, who doesn't pray unless she wants something and now you expect me to bring your mother, cousin, neighbor, friend and sister a MIRACLE?! I can't do it.

I've actually started deleting these emails because the guilt was killing me. How can I let I let all these suffering people down because I'm a lazy, selfish, kavanaless, person? It's easier for me not to know.

OK maybe I'm not a terrible person, we all have our strengths, but praying is not mine. I'm more action oriented. If there was something to DO I'd DO it. Does someone need a babysitter, a meal, a friend, a visitor, a ride somewhere? I'm your woman! But PLEASE don't ask me to pray for you. I can't take the pressure.

33 Comments:

At 10:16 AM, Blogger orthomom said...

Great post! Refreshingly honest. But you know, you CAN totally designate any other mitzvah you do toward the refuah sheleima of those people. I keep hours every day where I'm extra careful about Shemirat Halashon, and I designate those hours for the Refuah of people on my list. That is just as important as Tefilah, in my opinion!

 
At 10:18 AM, Blogger dilbert said...

If it makes you feel any better, a number of studies like this

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15253847&query_hl=3

(its a very readable abstract of a study published in a reputable journal)

have failed to document the effectiveness of prayer. You can also get into the whole Rambam/Ramban debate about miracles. However, I would like to think that when you do what you can, even if it is just feeling guilty about deleting the requests, Hashem takes it into account. Dont beat yourself up.

 
At 10:32 AM, Blogger Little Wolf said...

I have to agree that when someone of a different faith says they will pray for me it makes me a little creeped-out.

And despite what dilbert said, and I haven't read the article, I do believe that miracles are possible. I actually discussed that yesterday in a post dealing with the plane crash in Toronto and my wife getting a job interview.

Having said all of that, I am not sure that formal prayers are necessarily what is required. If I find out someone I know is ill I will usually take a moment and just sort of say to G-D "Hello, it's me, so and so is sick and could you please do what is best for them. I don't know YOUR plan, but if there is some way to accomplish it with less suffering this is my hope."

Takes a moment, doesn't interrupt, other than for a few seconds, what I am working on, and it clears that guilt up. After all I have many other thing to be guilty about, you know things like not calling family and friends, not living up to the ideals I feel I should be.

 
At 11:48 AM, Blogger Halfnutcase said...

fake it! or like orthomom said just do another mitzvah for them.

 
At 12:12 PM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

"may hashem make for you a miracle, with as much ease and speed as i delete your message! amen." -- prayer of the deleter, 5765.

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger DovBear said...

I'm terrible about davening (I'm a woman, it's OK)

Why is it ok??? You have a chiyuv just like me!

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

DB- I say at least SOME words of tefilla every day, sometimes more. Does being MO mean that I'm now accountable for mitvos assey she hasman gramma?
I hope not.

 
At 1:00 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

All great comments, thank you.
Dilbert, thank you but clinical studies don't really make me feel better. I do like orthomom's idea- at least that's something that I can do- whether it helps or not I don't know...

Wolf- prior to my deleting tactic I always did try to speak to god breifly on the behalf of people but it never seems like enough, maybe it's just my Yetzer hara talking...

Eliyahu - all jokes aside,you always seem to find it easy to
offer a prayer or blessing... I know that tefilla is easier for some people than others, what's your secret?

 
At 1:02 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

OM, it's ok to not be a great davener. But being a woman has no bearing on that. i'm a terrible davener, too, and I'm far from alone. But my wife? Wow. she can rattle off tehilim like noone's business. You either are or arent. X' and Ys don't make a difference.

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger Halfnutcase said...

you know shifra, that davening is consumate with genuine effort not how much kavana you have. if it's a battle to even sit and say the words, then say them and don't worry about the rest. der aibishter helfen. or mabye the yeitzer is telling you it because he knows you're prayers will shake the heavens!

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

As my former Southern Baptist boss used to say- "If someone says they're going to pray for you, better find out what they are praying for!"

 
At 1:49 PM, Blogger DovBear said...

Shifra:

Woman have an obligation to daven.

According to most authorities, this obligation is equal to the obligation that men have, and therefore, they must pray "amida" in the morning and afternoon ("Shacharit" and "Mincha")

Sorry, it has nothing to do with being MO. Charedi women have to do it, too.

 
At 3:54 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

Shifra, I'm wondering what you mean by saying that you're a terrible davener? -- That you don't have any kavvanah when praying? That your mind wanders when you say the words? That you don't have time to daven the shemoneh esreh two or three times a day? I think these are problems for everyone when praying, male or female, regardless of one's obligation.

 
At 4:00 PM, Blogger Elisheva said...

I admit, I have a problem with people praying to a false g-d on my behalf. I've actually asked them not to. Of course, then all they do is intensify the prayer and ask their g-d to spare me from the fiery pits of h*ll. Guess it's best to just let them do what they're going to do, but it bothers me to know about it.

 
At 4:16 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

I once downloaded a list of cholim to daven for and when I printed it out it was PAGES long. I decided that for it to be meaningful, lulei demistafina, I would have to know the choleh. Otherwise, I really on the wisdom of Chazal, who cast all our prayers in the plural form--"Refa'einu."

I, too, am a terrible davener. But you can't simply give up; you have to struggle to improve. Prayer is far too important, perhaps the MOST important part of the day. I find that learning about davening (Baruch She'amar by the Torah Temimah; Iyun Tefillah by Rav S. Schwab, zt"l) makes it more meaningful--though not alwyays.

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Rebecca, I mean all of those things. I can't concentrate, I mumble, I forget who I'm talking to, or sometimes I don't daven at all. I find that I'm better B'tzibur because someone else is leading and the environment is less distracting, but it's not really practical for me to always daven in shul. I agree with you and SW- I don't think gender matters here at all.


Eshes - You are prob right, maybe it's better to say nothing and hope they forget :)

Cloo Jew- I totally agree. Knowing what your saying is very helpful unless it's something like "thank you god for not making me a woman" or "please destroy all our enemies" that stuff makes me a little uneasy...

 
At 8:55 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

What you really need to find is a pleasant day dream to while away the hours of monotonous davening.

Even as a believer I could never daven very well, it all seemed to boil down to, "god is great, god is great", I had to at least believe god was above that type of flatery.

 
At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Chana said...

It''s Bruce Almighty!

Prayer requests...You've got prayers!...answer YES to everything...

Websites to handle the prayer input.

Seriously, though- I've had someone pray for me. Go over to DovBear and his Milwaukee girl post to see. ;)

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Chana- I did see that,and I totally know where you are coming from.

People are very scared of the unknown and what is considered "the unknown" to many Charedim is pretty much everything...

 
At 9:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not an excuse to say that you are a terrible davener. Everyone has their weaknesses and streghnths. The point of life is to work on our weaknesses to bring them up to par and to use our strengths both to bring them to greater heights as well as use them to elevate our weaknesses.
You are a terrible davener?
Sit for five minutes and talk to G-d In English.
You dont feel you should daven for so and so? But if Chas Veshalom it was someone that was dear to you or someone you knew - you'd find the words or do something to simulate davening - run and do a mitzvah of some sort etc. A lot of us arent "good daveners" - etc - just like ten minutes of exercise is better than none - 10 seconds of Hashem please help this person, i am sure they have people that love him/her and are depending on him/her is better than none. We in life, cannot mask behind "Im not good at this or that" - we need to rise to the challenge. Obviously if you are writing about it, it bothers you - which means you have great potential to BE a great davener, so get to it!
Good Shabbos

 
At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2:17 AM, Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

My Hebrew is so slow and painful that I have occasionally suspected that my saying tehillim is sort of a divine filibuster--"OK, OK, a complete recovery for the lady with the broken hip! Will you stop now? Oh no, she's got a list!"

I think you have to make your own decisions about what works, and there are some good suggestions up here already. Whatever you choose to do, I will offer this: prayer may help. Mitzvot may help. We don't really know. I think we can be pretty sure guilt will do nothing for anyone. Don't beat yourself up on this one.

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Wow, so many great comments!
While I'm usually resistant to anonymous mussar... this I accept (yours too nutcase.) Of course being a terrible davener is not an "excuse" it is just frustrating. The exercise parable is a good one, although I find it hard to get myself to do that as well (maybe I'm just lazy.)

Maybe I should take a page out of Dovbear's book and just make sure to say refananu in shmona esrei once a day with kavana and not worry so much about the "tehillim list" per se. You are right balabusta, guilt is noone's friend...

 
At 11:28 AM, Anonymous SeeBee said...

If all else fails, try a bit of Joan Osborne....

Shabbat shalom!

 
At 11:18 AM, Blogger Mis-nagid said...

BiBJ, There's no need to work so hard, God's prayer-answering service has a web site (email required or prayer deleted!). The Holy One also has a fax number for the Internet-challenged. Just be sure to write it in Hebrew, because the Omniscient has a preferred tongue.

 
At 9:03 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Oh brother...
Talk about looking for a quick fix.
I had hoped those links would be a joke...
Nothing better than writing up your most urgent hopes and dreams, having some third party stuff them in a wall and having them swept up and thrown in the trash a few hours later...

Very meaningful.

 
At 6:21 PM, Blogger Mis-nagid said...

I never joke around :-).

 
At 4:56 AM, Blogger Toby Katz said...

For each email about a sick person, I just say, "Please give a refuah sheleima to Ploni ben Plonis" - takes a few seconds. I don't consider myself bound to actually say Tehillim each time. I do believe in the efficacy of prayer.

 
At 9:21 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

I do that also- but I feel like I'm letting the person/family down since the request was specifically for tehillim.

I must admit that when I daven a good solid shachris and mincha like DB suggest I really feel no guilt about not adding additional tehillim if I don't feel up to it.

 
At 12:54 PM, Blogger Mr JaguarDriver said...

Hi Shifra love your blog. I came across it while looking for prayer for life. I know You pray for me, I'll pray for you is not an exact match but thanks for the read. I'll get on with my search for prayer for life stuff and will visit again sometime. Take Care

 
At 9:01 PM, Blogger Mysticman said...

Greetings Shifra I was looking for prayer information and I landed on your pages. While You pray for me, I'll pray for you was not excatly what I was looking for , I like your blog Great Stuff. I'll bookmark it for future visits. If you have time check out prayer , Ok thanks for the read , take care.

 
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At 5:02 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I thought you might be interested in hoshienu.org - an online community of people who learn and pray for the well being of our brethren.

 

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