“In the real issues of our lives, in facing grief or experiencing joy, in the presence of fear, or the need for hope, hard work and hard thought are not enough…Prayer can lead [us] to God for an answer.”
In his sermon of March 6, 1966, “Come Let Us Pray,” Rabbi Olan begins by encouraging us to rethink our childhood view of prayer. It is not a wish list. Nor is it a matter “of giving oneself a hearty pep talk or a spiritual massage.” He acknowledges the power of “hard thinking [and] hard work” to solve the practical problems of life. But “if God is not involved, it is not prayer.”
Rabbi Olan distinguishes between worship and prayer. “Worship is the experience of God. It is the knowledge of Him which is existential, something we feel we know, not by reason but by intuition.” It can happen anywhere, not only in a formal religious setting. It can come over us when listening to a Beethoven Symphony, walking in the woods in spring, or experiencing the love of a child.
“Prayer…follows upon the experience of worship. It is an attempt to cross the bridge and relate one’s life to the God we know in our hearts.” It is to be open to the experience of “the source of our being and our strength.” “To pray…is to tune in upon the great music of the universe which gives meaning to our existence.” To live deeply, to feel that our lives have a purpose, to feel hope, we must open ourselves to the renewal that prayer offers.
*Written by Frances M. Olan & Lionel S. Joseph.*