Dear Prayer,

I owe you an apology. I just want to say I’m sorry. For so many years, I thought you were a chore. I thought I didn’t have time for you.

ItI didn’t think I needed you took so much effort to focus, and I was always running out the door, Always running, running. No time to stop. I didn’t think I needed you.

But I was wrong, so wrong! My soul needed you so much.

I yearned to have a connection to G‑d, but I was feeding that thirst with thrills of all sorts of candy—never giving it real food.

I struggled with negative emotions, with a lack of a center, with so many unhelpful thoughts. I needed you in my life. I needed you to help me heal. To give me a sense of peace and connection to my Creator. In fact, the Hebrew word for prayer, tefillah, is rooted in the word connection.1 I needed to put the spinning in my life on pause for a few moments every morning, for the sake of my soul, and even for the sake of my brain.

Time? I learned that if I needed life-saving dialysis, I would make time for it. And that is how I want to relate to you. Not like a chore. And not like a luxury. But like life-saving oxygen. Like an experience, not a mumble jumble of words. A time to meditate. To slow down my thoughts and be grateful for the blessings in my life. To bless G‑d and hear myself thanking him for all that I have.

I stumbled on this mind-blowing letter written by the Lubavitcher Rebbe regarding women and prayer:

“Besides, there is nothing more conducive to attune the mind and heart towards the consciousness of G‑d’s Presence than regular prayer, where the first condition is ‘Know before Whom thou are standing.’ Fostering this consciousness is very helpful for the attainment of peace of mind and general contentment. For through prayer and direct personal contact with the Al‑mighty, one is reminded every day that G‑d is not far away, in the Seventh Heaven, but is present and here, and His benevolent Providence extends to each and every one individually. This point has also been greatly emphasized by the Alter Rebbe in his book of Tanya, where he urges everyone to remember that ‘Behold, G‑d is standing near him.’ With this in mind, there is no room left for any anxiety or worry, as King David, the Sweet Singer of Israel, said, ‘G‑d is my shepherd, I shall not want,’ ‘G‑d is with me, I shall not fear,’ etc. Thus, this is no longer a theoretical idea, but becomes a personal experience in the everyday life.”

The more I learn, the more I pray. And the more I pray, the more I learn. I learn the profound impact praying has on me. I notice different prayers that I find meaningful, and how their poetry ignites my imagination and leaves me feeling with more awe of G‑d.

And you know what? I’ll do more than just apologize. I will invite others along the journey with me. I will share what I’ve learned about prayer—its prominence and place in a Jew’s life. Its deeper meaning and how it gives us the tools to connect to G‑d, ourselves and fellow human beings.

ThisI’ll do more than just apologize brings to mind a story I’ve been told time and again. When Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi was 20 years old, he had a crucial decision to make. Vilna and Mezritch were two great Jewish capitals and centers in Eastern Europe. Which should he travel to?

He chose Mezritch. For in Vilna, they taught how to learn Torah. And that he already had a handle on. But in Mezritch, they taught how to pray. About that, he felt he knew very little. In Mezritch, he would learn the teachings of chassidus and how a Jew ought to pray.

And so he traveled there. And learned. And taught what he learned to his disciples.

We can make that choice, too. To learn from his teachings and the wealth of Chassidic insight. We may have learned the prayers, but did we learn how to pray?

I hope that together, we will soon look at prayer not as an item to check off the list, but as a highlight of the day. A time to tune in to the soul and tune out the voices of the world.

For what is prayer? A time to sing. And not just any song, but the song of the soul.

Join me, dear reader, over the next few weeks in this column, as we explore and learn about another facet of prayer.