This morning I spent a few extra moments with the birchot ha-shachar, the fifteen blessings (derived from Talmud) which fall early in the morning liturgy. After blessing God Who gives us discernment to tell day from night, Who frees the bound, Who creates me in divine image, Who wipes sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids (and so on), I added gratitude for the days just past and for the morning now beginning, for this and that tiny facet of my ordinary life. The rest of my davvening was relatively quick and by-the-book, but my lingering on gratitude stayed with me all day, sweetening my outlook.
There are at least a dozen good answers to the question "why pray" (and I subscribe to several of them, depending on the time of day and phase of the moon) but heightening and cultivating gratitude is one of the best ones I know. Slowness is another, or maybe intentionality. I judge the rest of my weekdays by how much I accomplish, but davvening operates differently. It's not about how many psalms I can recite in a given span of time. It reminds me to notice and to be thankful for the holiness of this moment right now. And this one. And now this one. Prayer requires me to be awake, not in a mug-of-caffeinated-tea way, but an eyes-really-open way.
I've been having a conversation with several blogging friends about why we blog. I have plenty of answers to that one, too -- it keeps me thinking about Judaism; it offers me conversations; it allows me the enrichment of writing, and then the enrichment of sharing that writing -- but maybe the best one overlaps with these reasons why I pray. Because it helps me notice things, and appreciate them. Because it requires me to stop and pay attention. Because it keeps me awake.