Early last year, I listened to a podcast given by a rabbi discussing the meaning, value, and importance of prayer. He astutely points out that the purpose of prayer is not to ask G‑d for "things" (wealth, happiness, a good score on an exam) but rather to ask G‑d to give you the strength you need to achieve those goals, whether they be as mundane as receiving a good exam score, or as ethereal as finding happiness.

Reflecting on this concept enabled me to frame my relationship with G‑d in a new light, free from the constraints of the continuous one-way give/take mentality. Rather than being a bystander in my own life and wishing (through prayer) that G‑d would make manifest my requests, I found empowerment in realizing that G‑d will provide me with everything I need—and it is then my responsibility to make the most of what I am given.

It is my responsibility to make the most of itI am struck by the stark contrast between my view of G‑d when I was younger and the close and intimate relationship I feel with G‑d today. Years ago, while on the high school cross-country team, I remember praying to (begging) G‑d before each race that I would run the fastest and win the competition. In retrospect, when I did start winning the races, it was not because my quick compendious prayers had been answered. Crossing the finish line first was evidence that in the preceding months, G‑d had given me the persistence, discipline and determination to train harder and the drive to push my physical limits. G‑d had provided me with the tools I needed, and I had simply put those tools to use.

Since that time, my relationship with G‑d has taken many twists and turns as I questioned everything and tried to resolve the seeming contradictions between spirituality and science. Ironically, it was science that led me back to G‑d, and science that propitiously brought me to Judaism. Nowhere is the presence of G‑d more palpable than in studying the incredibly delicate, yet robust, labyrinthine biological systems of the human body. So how does this define or influence my relationship to G‑d? In reality, the study of science does not alter or diminish my interaction with G‑d. I instead see science as a manifestation of the Divine— hard evidence of our awe-inspiring Creator.

G‑d provides me with confidence and humility My personal interaction with G‑d can best be explained as an internal dialogue that is invoked on a daily basis whenever I face situations that require moral judgment, or when I face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and need the encouraging spark of faith. G‑d provides me with the confidence and humility to develop and maintain a positive outlook on the world, believing that people are inherently good-intentioned. G‑d has blessed me with a friend, the true epitome of a mensch, who has changed my life and given me happiness I had only ever imagined was possible. Of equal importance, G‑d has blessed me with the ability to feel and express love, the ability to be open to possibility, and the ability to share with another. G‑d is part of me, the part that leads me to make ethical decisions, the part that enables me to trust, the part that gives me strength, the part that has now, finally, found its Jewish identity.