I wasn’t much for prayer. I used to think talking out loud to a theological being felt creepy and forced. If I remembered before bed I’d run through a little, “Now I lay me down to sleep, bless my family, hope I don’t die, why the heck is world peace taking so long, blah, blah, blah.” When I converted to Judaism, I was intimidated by prayer in another language and felt inadequate and silly when asked to light the candles, even in my own home.
My husband and I prayed together in our home for the first time on the day we found out we were pregnant. We knew we wanted to ask for guidance and health for our unborn child but neither of us had any clue where to start. Our temple gave us a book that we lovingly refer to as Cliffs Notes for Bad Jews. There, amongst the transliterations, English translations and prayer suggestions, we found a prayer for expectant parents. My husband’s job kept us apart for my first two trimesters but we memorized the words and prayed them together each night on the phone with voices full of cautious optimism.
God of all generations, You have blessed our life with companionship and mutual love. For all Your past gifts we are thankful, now are hearts are full, in this time of expectant hope.
We await the birth of a new life and You are with us. As a parent holds the hand of a child, so now make our spirits serene. Let us wait in confidence and calm, with hearts unafraid. Let our child be born to health and happiness. Help us to be worthy parents, and bless us with a long life nourished and sustained by the sweetness of family love. Amen.
And Then Prayer Mattered
When I was 27 weeks pregnant I was unexpectedly hospitalized with cervical incompetence and pre-term labor. During that time and the ten long weeks of bed rest that followed, my husband and I dealt with some of the most heart-wrenching feelings imaginable, the lack-of-control feelings that inevitably accompany parenthood. My heart was overwhelmed with fear and my voice could not keep up with the thoughts flooding my mind. We felt helpless and scared and in a time where our actions felt meaningless – our prayers felt powerful.
We prayed for each new day that God would grant us for our little one to grow inside me. I begged for my son to have a fair chance at life, a healthy life filled with all of the things you would want for your child - a mind, body and spirit fully cultivated and ready for this world. I surrendered myself, my health and my dreams of chubby cheeks - if only in exchange for a few precious weeks. I pleaded with my body to carry him, to support him and allow him to grow. I prayed for a full journey for the two of us, a journey that only a mother can give. I imagined God's plan, the plan that was already laid out in front of us but which we could not see. I wanted so badly for there to be a healthy baby there. A baby who was already so loved and in those weeks was held up higher than any other priority in our lives, because that small miracle - with all of its ups and downs - made us realize that we were no longer content as two people and would not be complete without him.
Keep On Praying
At 38 weeks, I welcomed my beautiful son into this world with joy and not a day has passed that I haven’t thanked God for him. I pray in English and I pray in Hebrew. I pray out loud and at any moment I can steal away a few grateful whispers of my heart. In a way my son taught me to pray, just as I will one day teach him. And nothing about that seems silly in the slightest.