All of our prayers are really just wordy versions of these three, basic prayers. We need things, we're grateful for things, and we're amazed by things.
If you want to put it differently, there are three basic emotions which underlie prayer. Three sources of prayer, if you will. They are: need, gratitude and awe. All authentic prayer comes from one of these three places.
I was reminded of that (again. I'm actually reminded of this quite often) by a short teaching by Peter Yarrow, of Peter Paul and Mary fame.
I have gained perspective on the art of aging over the last decade of my 74 years. The gift of perspective is, in a word, “gratitude”- the conceit that my cup is half full, and each day more and more so.
Years ago, my life was filled with excitement, wonderment and adventure, but also beset with varying degrees of anxiety about what tomorrow might bring. Now, I truly pass my days without such concern, and with few lapses, I feel grateful for what I have, for those I love, for work that satisfies – and, happily, the focus of my life is all about tikkun olam, repairing the world.
Is my life different now from the way it once was? Not really. But the shift in the angle of the glass, the tilt of the reflection that has reframed my perspective, has made an inestimable difference.
I’m reminded of the lesson of the goat: A rabbi is consulted by a man who proclaims that his life has fallen apart. “My wife hates me, my children disobey me, I can’t pay my bills, no one respects me.” The rabbi solemnly counsels the man, “Buy a goat and live with it for a month – in the house – and then we’ll talk.” The man obeys the rabbi. Soon the goat has chewed his clothes, eaten his food and done his business on the carpet. Chaos reigns. Desperate, the man returns to the rabbi and throws himself on the rabbi’s mercy. “What should I do?” he wails. “Get rid of the goat,” says the rabbi calmly. One month later the man returns. He fairly shouts to the rabbi that he’s the luckiest person in the world, proclaiming to all in the ‘shtetl,’ that the rabbi is a genius.
What’s the gift of aging? Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get rid of the goat.If you want more teachings like this, especially during this pre-High Holy Day time of year, subscribe to "Jewels of Elul." But, either way, it's a good teachings remember. There are few things that we can do in our lives but will have the same positive affect as focusing on gratitude. During this time of reflection, I hope that we'll all take a few moments and really focus on all that we have to be grateful for.