When Does the Shoemaker Pray?
The word "prayer" can be a loaded term if we have had negative experiences with religion or religious practices of prayer. With that in mind, and in a spirit of curiosity, we invite you to consider the following ideas on prayer from Jewish theologian and philosopher Abraham Heschel.
“About a hundred years ago Rabbi Isaac Meir Alter of Ger pondered over the question of what a certain shoemaker of his acquaintance should do about his morning prayer. His customers were poor men who owned only one pair of shoes. The shoemaker used to pick up their shoes at a late evening hour, work on them all night and part of the morning, in order to deliver them before their owners had to go to work. When should the shoemaker say his morning prayer? Should he pray quickly the first thing in the morning, and then go back to work? Or should he let the appointed hour of prayer go by and, every once in a while, raising his hammer from the shoes, utter a sigh: ‘Woe unto me, I haven’t prayed yet!’? Perhaps that sign is worth more than prayer itself. We, too, face this dilemma of wholehearted regret or perfunctory prayer, waiting for an urge that is complete, sudden, and unexampled. But the unexampled is scarce, and perpetual refraining can easily grow into a habit. We may even come to forget what to regret, what to miss.” - Heschel
“Of all things we do prayer is the least expedient, the least worldly, the least practical. This is why prayer is an act of self-purification. This is why prayer is an ontological necessity.”
“To avoid prayer constantly is to force a gap between man and God which can widen into an abyss.”
For reflection alone or together:
What does "prayer" mean to you?
What prayer practices help you close the gap between yourself and the transcendent?