Sometimes I wish I could be the stereotypically good, frum girl. You know the kind...fresh out of seminary, zealous about all the mitzvot and halakhot, the kind who makes you say your brachot out loud so she can say amen. Of course, being put on the spot like that makes you freeze up and forget the bracha altogether (which is silly, since you've been saying brachot your whole life) and then you just feel stupid and...and not as good as her, for some reason (and yes, this seems to happen to me quite a lot).
This stereotypical girl takes so long to say shemona esrai that when you're finished, you chew on your lip and wonder whether her siddur has an extended version that you never learned because you don't think you rushed your way through, garbling words. No, you clearly remember saying every word. You even spent a little extra time in Refaeinu to daven for someone's friend or relative and you spent a few additional seconds in shma koleinu to ask for a good grade on your midterm. But you still feel like you've done something wrong, something off, because you're finished too early. There are all the good, carefully frum girls around you, so engrossed in modim that their eyes are closed, their faces scrunched up in concentration. They are swaying fiercely, no, not swaying, shuckling. Get the lingo right!
Why can't my davening be like that? Why do I speak words, understand them, even, but not feel? I feel like I do two types of praying. I do the regular, normal prayers that everyone does, I say the words everyone says, I go through the motions, but I'm not really praying. No, my true praying comes at random points in the day when I look outside, see a tree, and wonder, how did this tree become a tree? Who put it there? Who made it so beautiful, so green, so big? Who made the wind that is pushing its way rudely through the branches, shaking them to and fro? God, of course. God, who created this incredible world on which we live. God, who gave us life, who gave us families and friends and teachers and schools. God, who gave us countries and cultures and languages and literature! And then I appreciate God. I am filled with a deep, overwhelming love and adoration for Him and His creations.
When else do I pray? When I am scared. When I am lonely. When I am nervous. When I am worried. I think to God, asking His advice, asking Him for help, for strength, for everything to work out just fine. I think so hard, hoping that my thoughts reach all the way up to Him.
I feel this deep, intimate connection with God. I have always been able to turn to Him in times of need, in times of joy, in any time, really. But not with the words of prayer that are found in the siddur. It is not during that prayer time that I feel this way. It is during my own prayer time. It is almost like I have to make a separate appointment with God in order to get my true prayer in because I can't do it in the appropriate, alloted time that everyone else uses.
But I want to be able to feel God when I daven in the morning. I do. I don't want it to be just words coming out of my mouth. But it's so not in the moment. It's so hard to take feelings that I feel when I am most in the position to feel them and transport them to a time when I'm hardly feeling anything at all - when all I'm really thinking about is how tired I am and that I hope they have the big cookies in the caf for breakfast. And perhaps if I was able to train myself to feel this way during actual prayer time, I might be more inclined to remember to daven Mincha, as well.
I keep thinking of the Judy Blume book, Are you there God? It's me, Margaret. Part of that is so true with me. I think to God all the time. I have one-sided conversations with Him. I really do have a relationship with Him. Just... at a private appointment instead of when I'm actually supposed to be praying.