Sunday, 16 February 2014

Meditate Before Prayer

Following on from Meditate More with Less - I have made one more adjustment to my regular meditation which has had a significant impact.

Previously I would get all required prayer services out of the way and clear the rest of the evening for (potentially) practicing meditation. Now instead I make a concerted effort to meditate before the evening prayers rather than after them.

Just to be clear when referring to the term prayer, I do not mean here that this is an activity or ritual in which I basically say “give me, give me, and give me more”. Instead what I am referring to by the word prayer is beautifully explained in the Artscroll prayer book’s Overview / Prayer, a Timeless Need. In the section Prayer’s Function it states: (transliterated terms [] appear in square brackets)

“Its Hebrew name is tefillah, a word that gives us an insight into the Torah concept of prayer. The root of tefillah is [Peh, Lamed, Lamed], to judge, to differentiate, to clarify, to decide. In life, we constantly sort out evidence from rumour, valid options from wild speculations, fact from fancy. The exercise of such judgement is [PehLilah]. Indeed the word [Pelilim] (from [Peh Lamed Lamed]) is used for a court of law (Exodus 21:22), and what is the function of a court if not to sift evidence and make a decision? A logical extension of [Peh Lamed Lamed] is the related root [Peh Lamed Heh], meaning a clear separation between two things. Thus, prayer is the soul’s yearning to define what truly matters and to ignore the trivialities that often masquerade as essential (Siddur Avodas HaLev).
People always question the need for prayer – does not G-d know our requirements without being reminded? Of course He does, He knows them better than we do. If prayer where intended only to inform G-d out desires and deficiencies, it would be unnecessary. Its true purpose is to raise the level of the supplicants by helping them develop true perceptions of life so that they can become worthy of His blessing. 
This is the function of the evaluating, decision-making process of [Teffillah], prayer. The Hebrew verb for praying is [Mispallel]; it’s a reflexive word, meaning that the subject acts upon himself. Prayer is a process of self-evaluation, self-judgement; a process of removing oneself from the tumult of life to a little corner of truth and refastening the bonds that tie one to a purpose of life.”

To put my own Kabbalistic spin on the above, prayer enables self-reflection required in order to recognize which "vessels" are in ones life or can be brought in to ones life in order to receive the blessing of Divine plenty (i.e. "light"). With that in mind, here is an extract from “Living in Divine Space” by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh which convinced me to meditate before payer. Something that in hindsight seems very clear, but took me many moons to grasp and put in to practice.

Living in Divine Space” by Rabbi Titzchak Ginsburgh  pp. 6 "The Service of the Heart":
"The sages refer to prayer as “the service of the heart.” Since the initial point of meditation is” with all my heart, I seek You,” meditation may also be understood as “the service of the heart.” This we see that there exists an intrinsic relationship between meditation and prayer. Indeed, prayer is the culmination, the consummate expression, of meditation. The initial “point” of focus creates Divine structure; the final “point” within, prayer, reflects our inner experience when we enter the consciousness of “Living in Divine Space.” Prayer, as the “point” of the six directions of Divine spare, converts the meditative “line into a living, pulsating Divine “area”. 
As will be explained, prayer is the striving of the soul to transform the meditative state into Divine life, to metamorphose out of a state of self-consciousness into one of Divine consciousness."