This past week, on Wednesday, November 28, RealSchool's Religious Identity team began the first of a series of discussions about building a relationship with God. The year-long discussions series will be moderated by students and will explore different ways of grasping God. The first discussion, which was moderated by Akiva Mattenson, Penina Warburg and Solomon Wiener, was about Tanakh attitudes towards prayer. The moderators found different verses from Torah, Prophets and Writings and used them as jumping off points for students to explore various ways Tanakh approaches prayer.
The approximately fifteen students who took part in the discussion spent part of the time analyzing three verbs the Torah uses that might shed light on what is meant by prayer:
The above whiteboard notes illustrate some of the key points of the discourse:
Is prayer . . .
1) an encounter? If it is an encounter, does it happen by accident, fate, or does one prepare for it?
2) a two-way conversation?
3) a moment to stand and allow the worshiper to express his thoughts?
An interesting debate that emerged from the discussion is whether prayer IS an encounter with God OR prepares us to HAVE an encounter with Him.
Here is one student's thoughts from the evening:
When talking about prayer, one is faced with the question of whether it is an encounter, a conversation or an active stand with or towards God. An encounter is when one happens upon someone else. This is a very casual and passive way to think of prayer. A conversation is when two people talk to one another. This is a two-way street. God and the person praying must actively talk back and forth. An active stand is when one moves and it takes effort for one to pray. I think prayer is a conversation, because as Yaakov [Jacob] said [loose paraphrase here of Genesis 28:20], "If God does stuff for me, I will do stuff for God." -- Sammy ('15)
And here's a timely blog post by Eddie Maza reminding us why talking about prayer is so important: