Many nutritionists recommend that a person should have three square meals a day to maintain his/her physical well-being. Spiritual nutritionists (our sages) recommend that for the utmost in spiritual well-being, a Jew should pray three times a day (Shacharit, the morning service, Mincha, the afternoon service, and Maariv, the evening service).

Assuming that prayer is, in effect, an individual’s conversation with God, should we not pray as the prophet Jeremiah recommends in the Book of Lamentations (2:19), “Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord”? How can we pour out our hearts when the rabbis have mandated fixed times for prayer? Must we feel inspired just because it’s time for prayer?

The Jewish people have a special relationship with God. King David captured that relationship when he wrote (Psalms 148): “Praise God from the heavens, praise Him in the heights…Praise God from the earth…Young men and also maidens, old men together with youths. Let them praise the Name of God, for His Name alone is exalted.” No matter where we are, or when it is or what inspired us, we can always open a dialogue with God. Whether we want to thank God for the goodness He has bestowed upon us, ask Him for help, or to just simply connect, God is always there for us.

But what happens when we become indifferent to the glory of God’s world, when our daily routines become rote? When we walk past the beautiful field twice a day for 365 days a year…when we stop being thankful for the world around us. It becomes a little harder to see God’s hand in the world.

So the sages made set prayers at fixed times, not to limit one’s conversations with God, but rather, to ensure a minimum time in dialogue per day. After all, the flowers blossom whether we acknowledge them or not!

This Treat was last posted on December 15, 2008.

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