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Rethinking the Theology of Prayer (Part 4)

The 13th century Christian mystic Meister Eckhart writes that true love must transcend selfish interests; love begins by being genuinely concerned with the welfare of the Other.

Whoever dwells in the goodness of his [God's nature dwells in God's love. Love, however, has no "Why." If I had a friend and loved him because of all the good I wished came to me through him, I would not love my friend, but myself. I ought to love my friend for his own goodness and for his own virtue and for everything that he is in himself. . . .This is exactly the way it is with people who are in God's love and who do not seek their own interest either in God or in themselves or in things of any kind. They must love God alone for his goodness and for the goodness of his nature and all the things he has in himself. This is the right kind of love." [1]

Rav Dessler arrives at a similar conclusion. If a person’s love for God does not produce a loving or awaken a loving response, then the love we profess in our prayers to have for God is powerless and ineffectual–the love of God must translate into a love for life.  Anything less is a love of that is based upon receiving rather than giving. If the goal of prayer is to promote our capacity to take, then the ultimate concern of prayer is not the worship of God but the worship of the human ego and desire.

The only way we can ever come to the sincere realization that God is truly a dispenser of love and mercy, occurs when we emulate God by giving of ourselves towards others.  This is the attitude we must cultivate in Jewish life today–especially in the synagogue, for if we continue promoting a philosophy of consumption, we may die from spiritual obesity. Creating a spiritual community takes hard work, caring, sharing in creating ambiance of mutual support.

(to be continued)

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Notes:

[1] Meister Eckhart and Mathew Fox(trans.)  Breakthrough–Meister Eckhart’s Creation Spirituality In New Translation (New York: Image, 1980), 206-207

[2] Rabbi Eliyahu E. Dessler and Aryeh Carmer (trans.) Strive for Truth (Jerusalem: Feldheim, 2004), 95-125.



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