Morning Exercises: Prayer

Two weeks ago, I began posting on my blog about my morning routine, or morning exercises as I called them. The first post in the series was about writing poetry, specifically about a cinquain I started writing at a LEAP seminar and then spent a week revising, in between classes and meetings, and occasionally while sitting in classes and meetings.

I described how I introduced this technique to my colleague and students in the Meditative Minyan at The Weber School. We wrote cinquains about prayer and discussed what ideas and feelings the process of writing poetry about prayer had evoked in us. Here are two poems, shared with the permission of the poets:

Prayer                                               Prayer

Old New                                           Beautiful Thoughtful

Sitting Standing Singing                   Thinking Singing Murmuring

At synagogue or home                     Better at dawn outside

Anywhere                                          Alone

Hope L. (10th grade)                         Chaya Lieberman (Jewish Studies Teacher)

I didn’t plan to return to the subject of poetry, or even that of prayer, in this blog post. But since waking up to the news of the horrific shooting in New Zealand on Friday, I’ve been doing quite a bit of praying every morning, so it seems only fitting to write about prayer this week.

Usually, my morning exercise of prayer is dominated by the poetry found in the book of Psalms. I have a few favorites, and favorite lines in each one, and favorite melodies for a few of them. I sing or hum them when I’m walking the dogs before sunrise. I recite them from memory when I’m stuck in traffic. Occasionally, I take a book of Psalms from my bookshelf, usually Stephen Mitchell’s A Book of Psalms: Selected & Adapted from the Hebrew or Debbie Perlman’s Flames to Heaven: New Psalms for Healing & Praise, and read aloud these words of poetry that pulsate with the beating of my heart.

Rarely do I have the opportunity to pray in synagogue most mornings. This week, however, I’m praying in sacred houses of worship in the evenings, at interfaith prayer vigils with my Muslim friends here in Metro Atlanta. Whenever I visit the masjid for prayer, as my friends bow and recite their prayers, I silently sing psalms for wisdom and peace. This week is no exception.

לְ֭מַעַן אַחַ֣י וְרֵעָ֑י אֲדַבְּרָה־נָּ֖א שָׁל֣וֹם בָּֽךְ׃/ לְ֭מַעַן בֵּית־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ אֲבַקְשָׁ֖ה ט֣וֹב לָֽךְ׃

“With all my heart I will pray/ that peace comes to live among us./

For the sake of all earth’s people,/ I will do my utmost for peace.”

(from Stephen Mitchell’s adaptation of Psalm 122)

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