06 February 2010


The sixteenth of 19 brief meditations on the 19 blessings of the Amidah.


Hear our voice, Eternal our God; spare us and have pity on us. Accept our prayer in mercy and with favor, for you are a God who hears prayers and supplications. Sovereign, do not turn us away from your presence empty-handed, for you hear the prayers of your people Israel with compassion. Blessed are you, Eternal, who hears prayer.

This is a smart prayer because it's honest and hedges its bets. God hears our prayer, it posits, but we don't read that God answers our prayers directly, in a one-to-one relationship. Rather, the prayer asks that God hears our prayers with compassion.

There are many ways to look at this. An angry person is often best dealt with using compassionate listening. Wanting and needing to be heard. A dying patient knows that miracles are scarce and so they seek a compassionate last chapter of life before being eased into eternity. A child may ask something specific of God (I remember one of my kids crying on her first trip to the Western Wall in Jerusalem because she thought that when she put the note in the Wall asking God for a puppy, the animal would emerge like a gumball from a machine) and the teaching moment here is not that God didn't listen; it's the developmental step toward a deeper understanding of who and what God is.

"Do not turn us away from your presence empty-handed." As we grow and mature along life's spectrum, in theory, we seek less materially. In exchange for our physical wants, we seek friendship, comfort, meaning, and community. And though these words are materially ephemeral, when held up to the introspective heart and mind, they fill our hands with the fullness of a life well lived.

You may ask, what does "God" have to do with it? Fair question. Here we rely on Moses' experience of God at the Burning Bush. Inquiring into the meaning of God's name, Moses hears God define himself. "I am that I am."

Being and Essence. The deepest expression and acknowledgment of All of Existence. This prayer places us there and in asking to be heard, prays for the connections to be made that allow us to live lives of meaning.

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