Tomorrow’s shiur klali will be related to one of Rav Elie’s favorite topics: “How Can I Pray What I Don’t Believe,” specifically how to handle prayer when you disagree with the content of the liturgy. Davening has never been particularly easy for me, but I confess that I’ve recently had a more difficult time with it. In truth, now that I’m davening in an adult and egalitarian environment, and no longer have the externals (mechitza, the transformation of the davening area into a battleground between students and faculty) to concern myself with, I’m surprised to discover how contentious I still find prayer. Without the distractions, I can actually look at the words on the page in front of me, and think about what I’m saying.
The results have been unexpected. In a less controversial episode, after years of saying “Az Yashir” during Shacharis, I suddenly noticed, and thought to ask about, a completely random Aramaic phrase that popped up. But actually reading the words has rendered prayer more personal. These may not be my words, but I suddenly expect them to express my feelings—or at least the feelings that are floating around my community. Right now, I’m having a particularly difficult time praising God, or asking God for things with any honest expectation of receiving a response (particularly a positive one). I’m discovering daily the ways in which I can communicate (or not) with God; what I am willing to say, what I am willing to say and believe, and what I can’t bring my lips to say because my heart resists.