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Can I Add My Own Prayers to the Amidah?

Can I Add My Own Prayers to the Amidah?

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The wording of the Amidah–the 19 blessings, praises, and requests at the heart of each prayer service–is precise, like a treasured family recipe that is not to be tampered with. Its text was written by our greatest sages who sensed the exact wording to be used in our prayers for every need and every season, and each word contains layers of meaning. By using this formula, we give our prayers far more power than what we can reach on our own.1

But prayer is also meant to be personal. It needs to be our Amidah. This largely happens through our mind and heart. Our thoughts and feelings accompany the words or prayer and give them a flavor that is uniquely our own.

In addition, there are a few places in the Amidah where we can personalize the actual wording.

For starters, you can insert a short personal prayer within each of the middle 13 blessings of the Amidah. Such a prayer should fit the theme of that specific blessing. For example, ask for the speedy recovery of specific person within the blessing of Refa-enu (Heal us), or pray for livelihood in the blessing of Barech Aleinu (G‑d grant blessing).

Requests that are unrelated to any of these 13 blessings can be added to the blessing of Shema Koleinu (Hear our voice) since its theme is a general request for our needs. Your personal prayer should be added before the blessing's concluding words: ki attah shome'a tefilat kol peh... ("for You hear the words of every mouth...").

Another place for personal prayer is the end of the Amidah, before you recite the second Yiheyu leratzon... (May our prayer be desirous to You...).


Source:
Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim 119:1.
FOOTNOTES
1.

"The Men of the Great Assembly knew which transmissions of G‑dly vitality are needed at each point in time, evening, morning and afternoon. As the spirit of G–d was upon them, they were able to determine just the names, titles, words and letters necessary ... Therefore, these prayers are real prayers, meaning that they are all measured precisely according to the need" (Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch, Likutei Amarim).

See also Torat Menachem, 12 Tammuz, 5720, s'if 20; Likutei Sichot, vol. 16, page 578, citing the Ibn Ezra on the verse (Ecclesiastes 5:1), "G–d is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore, make your words few."

Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar is a Chabad rabbi in Cary, North Carolina. He is also a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Discussion (7)
August 7, 2011
Amidah question
As a slow reader, how should one approach reading the Amidah?

Am I still required to say Amen during Kaddish despite not yet finishing the Amidah?
Anonymous
July 18, 2010
The personal prayers that we would like to add should they be said or should they be thought?
Anonymous
new york city
July 10, 2010
also
Thanks for the great explanation. I just wanted to mention a related point -- that people should also be encouraged to pray throughout the day for whatever they need, whether it is at length or for just a few moments. The Amidah is one place to insert personal prayers, but we should also insert personal prayers throughout our day.
Anonymous
Wisconsin
July 5, 2010
may I ask something related...
what about nusach (liturgical tradition)? does it matter if the melody is a traditional one (I know there are many), or is it okay for someone to develop their own that they would teach others to follow?
Anonymous
July 3, 2010
flexibility and options
As a new discoverer of the wealth in these regular and deceptively simple forms to follow, I am glad to see that I may have a place to personalize my prayers. As it is, I tend to do so without conventional prayer techniques, so it will be easier for me to learn the better way if I am able to include my personal matters within it as I learn to focus on the more correct forms.
Thank you for this article.
Dusan Milutinovic
Calgary AB, Canada
July 2, 2010
thank you!
Exactly what I needed to know, and happy to learn how to pray with the best "formula" possible.
Elisheva
Melbourne, Fl
July 1, 2010
well done!
consise and to the point! keep up the amazing work!
iLee
ny
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