The Jewish prayer book is called a siddur. I learned the Jewish prayers in religious day school growing up, and recited them religiously (pun intended) through my mid-twenties. Then life started to get more complicated. In grad school I remember the tension I felt about having to rush through my morning prayers to get to school on time. But I learned to abridge what I had to (there are actually Jewish laws on how to best abridge the morning service!).
But when it came to applying to my first job, that is when things really got shaky. The lack of structure of applying for a job (you have no idea what it will be, if/when you will get it) combined with the transition from academia (structure!) to the working world (open ended, which causes me anxiety) was the main reason I stopped praying—life just felt too chaotic, too unstructured, too unknown. Not to mention my dating situation, in which I also felt chaotic and confused and lost…
Ironically it was at this time that I likely needed prayer the most. But prayer for me was always a dependable, predictable, calming force, it wasn’t a time in which I poured my heart and soul out. And this was a time when my heart and soul were in need of a lot of healing, and for me that just wasn’t what prayer represented. So thus began my mid-twenties: no comfort of structure and a heck of a lot of anxiety and angst.
There were days on my commute to work that I would get bored of looking at social media and say a prayer or two from the morning prayer service. It helped calm me down, made my mind race a little less, made my heart feel a little more hopeful.
Flash forward a few years and now I am finding again that the structure of the prayer book affords me some peace of mind. I wake up with my toddler daughter early every day and I need activities that I can do with her that don’t involve my phone since I don’t want her to be too exposed to screens (trust me, I’m not perfect, nowhere near, but I try!).
Our daughter likes holding the siddur and “praying” because she has watched us pray, especially during the high holidays this fall, as well as weekly on Shabbat. Mostly she sees my husband praying, since, as I said, I have been out of practice for a while (thankfully, he has not!).
So this morning, I picked up a siddur and gave my daughter the choice of which one she wanted, and I prayed the morning service. It gave me something healthy to do, it gave me structure, and it calmed my nerves.
Even though I’m not praying as religiously as I did when I was growing up, it gives me comfort to know that should I need the siddur, I can always reach for it.