Tag Archive | "PRAYER"

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Who believes in prayer?

Posted on 05 September 2019 by LeslieM

In a small town in India, a person decided to open up a bar, which was right opposite of a Temple. The Temple and its congregation started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayed daily.

Work progressed. However, when it was almost complete and was about to open a few days later, a strong lightning bolt struck the bar and it was burnt to the ground. The bar owner sued the Temple on the grounds that the Temple through its prayers was ultimately responsible for the ill fate of his dream project, either through direct or indirect actions or means.

In its reply to the court, the Temple vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection between their prayers and the bar’s burning down. As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork at the hearing and commented: “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer and we have an entire Temple that doesn’t.”

The Sidur

Let me share a story:

Simon Wiesenthal (1908 – 2005) was an Austrian Holocaust survivor who spent four and a half years in the German concentration camps such as Janowska, Plaszow, and Mauthausen.

After the war, he became famous for his work as a Nazi hunter. Wiesenthal dedicated most of his life to tracking down and gathering information on fugitive Nazis so that they could be brought to justice.

At a conference of European Rabbis in Bratislava, Slovakia the Rabbis presented the 91 year old Simon Wiesenthal with an award, and Mr.Wiesenthal, visibly moved, told the Rabbis the following encounter that he had with Rabbi Eliezer Silver.

Rabbi Eliezer Silver (1882 – 1968) was among American Jewry’s foremost religious leaders, and he is most noted for spearheading efforts in rescuing as many Jews as possible from Europe. He raised funds, requested exemptions on immigration quotas, offered to ransom concentration camp prisoners for cash and tractors – talks that freed hundreds from Bergen-Belsen and other death camps — and organized rallies in Washington. After the war, he traveled to Europe and worked tirelessly on the ground to assist his brethren.

It was in Mauthausen after liberation that Simon Wiesenthal was visited by Rabbi Silver when he had come to help and comfort the survivors.  Rabbi Silver had organized a special prayer service and he invited Wiesenthal to join the other survivors in praying. Mr. Wiesenthal declined and explained his position.

“When I was in camp, I saw many different types of people do things. There was one religious man of whom I was in awe. This man had managed to smuggle a Siddur (Jewish prayer book) into the camp. I was amazed that he took the risk of his life in order to bring the Siddur in.

“The next day, to my horror, I realized that this was no religious man. He was renting the Siddur in exchange for people giving him their last piece of bread. I was so angry with this Jew, how could he take a Siddur and use it to take a person’s last piece of bread away? So I am not going to pray, if this is how religious Jews behave.”

As Wiesenthal turned to walk away, Rabbi Silver tapped him on the shoulder and gently said in Yiddish, “Oy naar, naar.” Wiesenthal was intrigued why had the Rabbi called him childish. The answer wasn’t long in coming.

Rabbi Silver continued, “Why do you look at the manipulative Jew who rented out his Siddur to take away people’s last meals? Why do you look at that less-than-noble person? Why don’t you focus on the dozens of Jews who gave up their last piece of bread in order to be able to use a Siddur? To be able to talk to G-d? Why don’t you look at those awesome people who in spite of all their suffering still felt they can connect to their Creator?”

Wiesenthal joined the service and shared the story some 60 years later.

It is with immense gratitude to G-d that we are grateful for the miracles we just witnessed here in South Florida.

Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!

Equally important: There is a lot of pain in the world and especially in the Bahamas right now. But so many of us have so much to be thankful for. We have so many blessings. Don’t forget the giver of these blessings. Express your gratitude to G-d.   

Try it out. Reopen a conversation with G-d, daily, weekly or bi weekly. Learn to say thank you for your blessings, and learn to share your concerns and pains.

Please Join us for High Holidays Services — Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 30 – Oct. 1) and Yom Kippur (Oct. 9).

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Sometimes, God says “no”

Posted on 19 July 2018 by LeslieM

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) NRSV

The author of the above text, the apostle Paul, reminds us that prayers are answered, but not always the way that we want them to be answered. Sometimes, God says “yes.” Sometimes, God says “no.” Persistently Paul asked God to remove the “thorn in his flesh.” And God said, “No.”

When 2 Corinthians appeared in our lectionary a few weeks ago I felt that this is a good time for a reminder. Christians need to be reminded, now and then, that God says no on occasion.

I certainly am not the first pastor to address this and I know that I won’t be the last. It occurred to me that the greater problem is not the fact that God’s answers are unpredictable. I think the greater problem is that our response to God is predictable. When God says yes, we are predictably pleased. When God says no, we are predictably disappointed. What is rare, but not impossible, is the person who hears God’s no and responds with contentment. It is not to say that doesn’t happen, it is just to say that it is rare. For the most part, we feel entitled to a yes from God. That is the imperfect part of our human nature.

I remember hearing this story when I was younger and one could tell it in a number of different ways, but it is pretty much the same story.

A little boy asked his mom: “Mom, can we have hamburgers for supper?” His mom answered “no.” The little boy was disappointed. Then, when supper time came around, mom loaded up the car and took her family for pizza, the little boy’s favorite pizza place.

The same little boy, a few weeks later, realized that his favorite program was on TV. The little boy asked: “Mom, can we watch my favorite program on TV?” His mom answered, “no.” The little boy was disappointed. Then prime time came along and mom loaded up her car and took him to see a movie, a movie he was excited to see.

The little boy, once again, asked his mom: “Mom, can I go with my friend to the park?” His mom answered, “no.” The little boy was disappointed until his mom started loading up towels, blankets, chairs and his pale and shovel. It looked like he was going to the beach and his mom said he could bring a friend.

Then the little boy thought for a while and said, “When mom says ‘no’ to something good, she says ‘yes’ to something better.”

I thought about this simple story and reflected upon my life. I thought about all of the people in my life who bring me joy. I thought about where I live, where I serve and the joy that comes with being at Zion Lutheran in Deerfield Beach. If God would have said “yes” to every prayer I prayed, none of these blessings would have come to fruition. I am grateful that God said “no.” That is not to say I haven’t been disappointed. It is to say that disappointment is only temporary while God’s Grace is eternal and, as the Lord revealed to Paul, sufficient.

Every person should take inventory of her or his life and consider the disappointments and blessings. I think we would all be blessed to discover the many times when God said “no” to something good only to make it possible to say yes to something better.

Maybe that is why the Lord’s Prayer has the petition “Thy will be done” as opposed to “My will be done.” God seems to know better.

Thank God for all the times God said “no.” Thank God for all the times God said yes to something even better.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Lessons “on the course”

Posted on 17 May 2018 by LeslieM

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

I was fortunate to have within my last parish a parishioner who owned a golf shop. Not only did he line me up with a new set of clubs, but he gave me some free lessons from his computer-simulated golf course.

Jack was an accomplished golfer and it had been years since I had picked up a club, so he let me take a practice swing. I lined up on the ball, adjusted my grip and swung. I felt this wonderful sensation of a true connection. I thought to myself, “Jeff, you are a natural.” And then Jack shared with me the results. I sliced it and I sliced it good. The ball landed on a fairway alright, but not the fairway in front of me.

Then Jack adjusted my stance, my posture, my grip, my swing and then I swung. Everything about this felt awkward. There was nothing that felt right. But, when I completed my swing, Jack applauded, saying, “Congratulations, you are a chip and a put away from a par.”

I know that if I practiced and practiced, and spent a lot of time on the course, there may be a day when awkward would feel natural and natural would feel wrong. My muscle memory would be sound and I would have a completely different game. Alas, parish ministry doesn’t afford me a lot of opportunities for golf. But I never forgot that experience. When I did what felt good, it turned out to be wrong; and, when I did what felt wrong, it turned out to be right. Wouldn’t it be nice if every good action had a corresponding sensation? In life, that doesn’t always happen.

So what is a good example of this happening in life? I can paint a scenario that is all too familiar, unfortunately. There is the peaceful community disrupted by a random act of violence. Perhaps a gunman or a bomber unleashes a wrath of hatred that brings death and destruction to innocent bystanders who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The perpetrator is identified and quickly becomes, in the eyes of the public, Public Enemy No 1. And, as a pastor, I know that my faith community is shaken to the core and it is obvious that the pain we are all feeling calls us to prayer.

In our tradition, we pray the prayer of the church with each petition ending with “Lord, hear our prayer.” And we pray the prayer out loud: “Lord, we pray for the victims of the most recent act of violence, for those who were killed, those who were injured, as well as their family and friends …Lord, hear our prayer … Lord, we pray for our community as we witness another act of violence. We pray for peace … Lord, hear our prayer.” And then I name the name of “Public Enemy No. 1.” I pray that God be merciful and comfort his or her family and friends in this time of crises. I can assure you, though the words “Lord, hear our prayer” are spoken, there are a few audible gulps and moans.

From the perspective of the one leading the prayers I must admit, it felt natural to pray for the victims. It did not feel natural to pray for Public Enemy No. 1. Yet, my faith dictates that this must be done. In spite of any feelings I may have, I am called to love my enemy. Like an awkward golf swing, it does not feel right but it is the right thing to do. It doesn’t feel comfortable. I must admit, if I prayed for God’s wrath to smite this perpetrator of violence it would have felt very comfortable. The problem, of course, is I would have “sliced it.”

I know that many people rely upon their feelings when they make a decision, saying or thinking, “It just felt right at the time.” Comfort can be deceiving and, oftentimes, we find ourselves facing ethical dilemmas calling us to do the right thing, not the comfortable thing.

It may not feel right to pray for our enemies, but it is the right thing to do. May God give us the strength to do the right thing, even when it doesn’t feel comfortable.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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Clergy Corner: Prayer, not platitudes

Posted on 15 March 2018 by LeslieM

If my people, who are called my name, will humble themselves and pray… then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

After my article was submitted last month, the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas occurred. Our hearts broke on Ash Wednesday as the news unfolded throughout the afternoon. If Ash Wednesday is a day when we confront the reality of our mortal and broken nature, we certainly saw evidence of this on that very day.

I was taken aback when I heard a brokenhearted student speak. She was clearly frustrated from hearing leaders say “you are in my thoughts and prayers.”

She said, “I want action.”

I certainly do not blame this young woman for her frustration. She just experienced a nightmare nobody should have to face, especially a child. I do not think she was rejecting thoughts and prayers. I think she was frustrated by the fact that this phrase was used as a platitude. I think she felt that the public figures who used these words were trying to appease her, pat her on the head and tell her everything was going to be OK. But, tired of inaction, tired of appeasement and patronization, she spoke out not against prayer itself but against platitudes.

What is a platitude? Merriam-Webster tells us that a platitude is “a banal, trite, or stale remark.” The Cambridge Dictionary definition is “a statement that has been repeated so often that it is meaningless.”

I remember a time in seminary when I heard my New Testament professor express his frustration. A classmate of mine experienced two tragedies in a row. He returned home because his father died unexpectedly from a heart attack. And, while he was at home helping his mother, overcome by the stress of the preparations, he suffered a stroke. We found out about this when we went to class and saw his empty chair. Our professor told us what happened.

Then, he shared with us his frustration, which was not unlike the frustration of this brave student, saying, “I have heard you say to your friends ‘I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.’ It is like you are putting a band-aid on a broken arm. When this class is over, I want you to go to your dorm rooms and get on your knees and pray for David. He needs more than your words, he needs your prayers.”

I appreciated the honesty of my professor, as well as his wisdom and frustration. He reminded us that prayer is not a platitude, but it is action.

I did go home. I did get on my knees and I prayed for my classmate. I know others did as well.

David returned to seminary a couple weeks later. His mother began her recovery and was doing well. His family was healing from the loss, and David was able to return to his studies. I believe that our prayers were heard.

When we confront a national tragedy such as the massive shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, we may feel helpless. The good news is that we can do something and, as one who believes in the power of prayer, we can do a lot.

I say to all of us brokenhearted residents of Broward County to do more than say the words “I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.” Let us be called to action, get on our knees and pray.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Into the habit of prayer

Posted on 18 January 2018 by LeslieM

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NRSV)

January is a good month to “take inventory” and move forward. The old year is behind us and the new year is in front of us. We learn from the past in order to plan for the future.

Financially, we prepare ourselves for taxes. Painful though it may be, we have to do it. And we look at our past spending and future expenditures and discover where we can change certain behaviors. We look back at some of our bad habits and try to get rid of them. Just as important, we start some new habits that are beneficial.

Physically, we consider our health and well-being. Perhaps, we schedule an annual physical. Perhaps, we join a gym or change some eating habits. January is a month when gym memberships jump. We quit our bad habits and start new ones.

If we take inventory on our finances and our physical health, maybe we should consider our spiritual health. There are any number of questions we can ask ourselves. Certainly, we get into bad habits and can start good ones. I would suggest that we get into the habit of prayer.

It was impressed upon me, as a child, that you pray when you wake up and when you go to bed, that you pray before you eat even if you are at a restaurant and others may see you. Prayer became second nature. As I look at prayer as a habit, I realize that there is a lot of room for improvement not only when it comes to the frequency of prayer, but the prayer itself. So I have two suggestions to take into consideration when it comes to prayer. One is on the quantity of prayer, the other is on the quality.

First, do we pray enough? I am amazed at faith traditions that call their faithful to pray three, five, as much as eight times a day over and above bedtime and meals. What would happen if we challenged ourselves to pray at least once a day over and above our regular prayers?

In a bygone era, church bells could be heard and the faithful were reminded to pray. It is hard to imagine the sound of church bells drowning out the noise of traffic. What can remind us of prayer?

A little feature on my cell phone is the ability to set an alarm. Cell phones can be alarm clocks and remind us of events that happen throughout the day. I set my alarm to go off once a day to remind me to stop and pray. This little reminder has kept me spiritually grounded and added the additional blessing of prayer.

Second, how do we pray? Any prayer is good, including memorized prayers. Perhaps, there is a table blessing that you have used throughout your life. Perhaps, there is a prayer you have prayed each night before you went to bed.

Of course, you can pray without memory. I have noticed some people are pretty eloquent in their public prayers and some are intimidated by the idea of praying out loud. No worries. Talk to God, he knows what you need better than you.

It is easy to get into the habit of “saying prayers.” I always correct people who will invite people to pray by saying: “Let us say the Lord’s Prayer.” I say, better yet, let us “pray” the Lord’s Prayer. Let us slow down, listen, concentrate and focus on each word Jesus taught us to pray. In short, if you want to improve the quality of your prayer, slow down.

These two little points may help you throughout this new year. On behalf of Zion Lutheran Church and me, Pastor Jeff Gross, I want to wish you a very blessed and Happy New Year.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Care a little more

Posted on 09 June 2016 by LeslieM

I’ve heard that social media is good and bad. Unfortunately, both are an oversimplification, void of a deeper understanding (as I would argue that social media has both “good” and “bad” qualities — key word, qualities).

One of the “bad” qualities is what researchers have determined about stories in our social media newsfeed, how they carry equal weight. Everything shares the proverbial front page. Couple that with the saturation of tragedies posted, desensitizing us to their weightiness, and no wonder silly cat videos go viral. The “bad” qualities have led us straight into being overwhelmed, jaded and complacent … case-and-point, me.

Last week, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across a picture of a young boy lying in a hospital bed connected to monitoring equipment. The tag line asked for prayer. I started to pray. I wish I could say that I rolled out of bed and dropped to my knees. Or that I at least prayed something more meaningful than, “Lord, be with this young boy; heal him.” But I didn’t. And it was then and there that the Holy Spirit convicted me. I asked God to lead me in what I should pray. What flashed through my mind next was probably one of the most authentic prayers I’ve ever uttered. “Lord, I wish I cared more.”

The truth: I was going through the motions — knocking out my obligatory prayer. I wanted to sleep. But God, after His conviction, prompted me to continue to aimlessly scroll through my newsfeed. He knew that just a few posts away was the same boy, except this time, the picture included detailed instructions how to pray. God is good and I prayed — for real.

While the main plot was that of the young boy — whose surgery went well — the side story included my growth. I decided from that day forward I would commit to caring more. Philippians 2:4 reads, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” and Romans 12:10 says, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” I want to take this wisdom to heart as I live the command of John 13:34-35 to “[love] each other [just] as [Christ has] loved you,” so that “[your] love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

Did you know that the average age for children being recruited for prostitution is 13 years old, which Peter Haas, in his book Broken Escalators: Funny and Frightful Lessons about Moth Eating and Moving to the Next Level, reports that these children who are coerced or trafficked comprise nearly 20 percent of Internet porn. And just how much cash is spent on pornographic material daily? Haas confirms that among China, the U.S., Japan and South Korea, a whopping $236 million is consumed … per day. What else happens per day? Haas continues, 21,000 children under 5 years old die from poverty-related illnesses. Toss in racism, terrorism, corruption you name it, and it can be overwhelming living in a world that has succumbed to sin.

If you’re like me, you will want to do something. You will want to care more. I love what Benjamin Kerns writes about righting injustices in his book From the Pen to the Palace: A Youth Ministry Evangelism and Discipleship Strategy For a Post-Christian Culture; he calls us to “[leverage] our power for the benefit of others.” We see this modeled by Christ in how He cared, how He loved. Eugene Cho writes in Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? whether it was the widow, the leper, the adulterer, the prostitute, the marginalized, the oppressed, the forgotten, the rich, the poor, the hurting, the joyful, (you name it), Jesus lived justly and He calls us to follow suit: to love as He loves … to care more.

Join me and, together, let us be the Church — one that loves others by caring more than just in thought, but in deed.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The walls of our hearts

Posted on 06 August 2015 by LeslieM

I want to talk with you about walls today. Why? Because we all put up walls; and because I felt myself climbing the walls as I tried to figure out what to write about this week.

I sat at my desk and I looked at the walls. Those walls contained pictures and those pictures made the walls speak to me. Those walls spoke to me about their family history.

They spoke of the Walls of Jericho and how Joshua made those walls come tumbling down.

Those walls told me how some of their family became famous for keeping people out and how some became famous for keeping people in.

Those walls talked to me about the Great Wall of China, which was built to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire from the attacks of Nomads.

They told me about The Berlin Wall, built in the middle of Berlin by East Germany to stop East Berliners from escaping to the west. Thank goodness that wall went down in 1989 with the fall of the Soviet Union.

Those walls told me of the great Walls of Troy, built to protect the city of Troy.

Those walls shared the story of one of the newest members of the wall family, The Vietnam Memorial Wall, which was built to honor those who fought and died or are still Missing in Action from yet another horrible time of war.

And, those walls proudly shared with me the story of their Jewish Branch, the Kotel, the Western Wall, the sole remnant of the Holy Temple located in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Riskin notes that Harav Kook, speaking of the Western Wall, said, “There are some hearts which are made of stone, and there are some stones which are truly hearts.”

Cardiologists may be able to go inside our bodies to see the wall of our heart, but there is an emotional side to the heart as well. Jerusalem is the heart of our people and The Wall … the Western Wall … is the heart of our city … and the seat of our soul.

Others may have damaged the walls of our heart, but we have found a way to bypass the damage by building something through the study of Torah that can survive beyond the walls.

Harold B. Lee wrote that, “The most important work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes.” What have we done and what are we doing of importance in this, our home?

Comedienne Goldie Hawn said, “Comedy breaks down walls. It opens up people. If you’re good, you can fill up those openings with something positive, maybe combat some of the ugliness in the world.”

As slaves in Egypt we lived a life imprisoned behind the walls of the Pharaoh. G-d freed us from those walls. He showed us that there were other walls for us to get through, as we walked through the Red Sea with a wall of water on both sides of us.

We still have many walls to get through. We have walls to break down and we have walls to build up.

Maryanne Hershey wrote, “May your walls know joy. May every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibility.”

Joshua may have blown a horn and knocked down the walls of Jericho, but, in just a couple of months, we will blow the Shofar for the High Holy Days.

May the blasts from that Shofar remind us to fill every space in the walls of our heart with loving kindness, and let us say, Amen.

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach (201 S. Military Tr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442). Regular Shabbat services are open to everyone on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: A prayer of Thanks

Posted on 16 July 2015 by LeslieM

There is a prayer that is traditionally recited upon wakening in the morning. It is the Modeh Ani which basically says, “I thank You G-d for this new day.”

What a wonderfully positive expression of gratitude to begin anew.

Oddly enough, I recently read an article online that talked about the most important thing in a happy marriage and, according to that particular analysis, the No. 1 ingredient that was found to exist in happy marriages was that both partners took the time to express gratitude to their partner on a daily basis.

I used to sarcastically tell a story about gratitude in marriage.

I would say how wonderful it was (and please don’t call me a male chauvinist for this … it is just a story) about how after a couple returns home from their honeymoon, the wife lovingly works in the kitchen to prepare these amazing meals each evening.

And, for the first two weeks, or, if you are really lucky, for the first two months, the husband lavishes praise upon her, letting her know each and every night how grateful he is, how delicious the food is, how loving it is for her to take the time to prepare each of his favorite dishes.

And then, you should pardon the expression, the honeymoon is over.

The husband now takes all those wondrous meals for granted and does not express any gratitude at all.

Now, instead of the wife feeling that what she is doing is appreciated, what used to be a joy to her now feels like she is stuck slaving away in the kitchen.

Make no mistake about it, gratitude is important and it is important not just to the recipient but to the acknowledger.

Now let’s turn back to the prayer that is traditionally recited upon waking.

How many of you get up in the morning and your first thought is, “Oy, my aching back?” How many of you wake up in the morning and simply think, “Oh no, not another day?”

Not a very positive way to start the day, and it immediately triggers your brain to put the emphasis on negatives.

Modeh Ani, on the other hand, has you start your day with words of thanks, of gratitude. The practice of thanking G-d each and every morning just for waking up teaches an important lesson. You see, just because we get up each and every day does not mean that we should take it for granted.

Neither should we take other daily things for granted.

Funny, we don’t give a thought to breathing until we have difficulty catching our breath. We don’t give a thought to our heart beating until we feel those beats out of sync.

A friend of mine recently needed some eye surgery. I was on the phone with her late at night to see how she was doing and she said that it is amazing that she is beginning to be able to see again.

I learned something very special from those words. How many of us close our eyes at night to go to sleep and, when we wake up in the morning, we rub our eyes and open them up to start the day? How many of us take the time to thank G-d, not just that we have a new day, but that we can see again?

Blessed is G-d who enables us to open our eyes and see.

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach (201 S. Military Tr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442). Regular Shabbat services are open to everyone on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: The appeal of prayer

Posted on 23 April 2015 by LeslieM

A few weeks ago Taylor Swift announced’ to her fans that her mother had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Her reason for going public with her family’s private struggle was to encourage others to get screenings.

The responses on social media were immediate and supportive. I was particularly struck by reports that Lady Gaga reached out to Taylor with “God bless you and your mama. We’ll all be praying.”

I don’t consider myself a fan of either of these women and have never listened to their music. I have occasionally heard about them through entertainment news and have no knowledge of their faith or religion. But I am intrigued whenever I hear God being positively referenced and prayer being encouraged from those in the entertainment industry.

It is in those times when we are confronted with our weaknesses and inabilities that we often realize the need for divine assistance. No amount of money, influence or fame can shield anyone from crisis and adversity. Pain and tragedy are equal opportunity afflictions that give respect to no one. Rich and poor, privileged and oppressed, and those in between will all face the inevitable reality that there are some things beyond man’s control. The response for many in those moments is to pray … to look outside themselves and beyond themselves to a greater power. It is a natural inclination when confronted by crisis. In the days following the 9/11 tragedy, houses of worship across this country were filled with people praying to God and looking for comfort, for hope and for answers.

For believers, the promise of prayer is that God responds to our petitions. Psalm 102:17 states, “He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, and shall not despise their prayer.” And James 5:16 observes, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Prayer is much more than beseeching God for help, however. It is a means by which we commune and interact with God. It is the expression of a soul that recognizes its dependence upon God. Prayer is offered from the vantage point of inadequacy and insufficiency looking toward the might and sufficiency of God. It is a necessary spiritual discipline by which we develop in our faith and grow in our relationship with God. It should be engaged daily and sincerely.

It is worth noting that the disciples of Jesus were so impressed by His relationship with His Father that they asked the Lord to teach them how to pray.

Prayer is a powerful force, and praying is a beneficial exercise. So I join Lady Gaga in offering prayers for Taylor Swift’s mother. I pray that the diagnosis was early enough to counter the disease with available medical treatments. I pray that what the medicines and treatments cannot accomplish, God Himself will do. I pray that others who are similarly affected will find help and hope, and healing. I pray that we would continue to demonstrate compassion and sympathy towards, those who are suffering around us. I pray that, as God answers our prayers, we would be motivated to pursue Him in faith and obedience. And I encourage all of us to pray more consistently that God would not only answer our prayers, but also that His will would be done.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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