Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Reward Lies in the Struggle

How should we feel when entering the Synagogue? What emotional state should we be in when praying to God? King David offers us a glimpse of his feelings in psalm 5 when he speaks about preparing to pray to God. Our prayer book gleaned one verse from the psalm to represent our initial experience of engaging with our Creator. ואני ברב חסדך אבוא ביתך אשתחוה אל היכל קדשך ביראתך. (But I in Your abundant kindness shall enter Your house, bow down in Your holy inner sanctum, in fear.)
Many are familiar with this verse and recite it matter-of-factly, but in truth it is far from simple. This one statement provides much insight into David's psyche and his understanding of the Man--God process called prayer. Two phrases are extraneous in this verse. It could simply have read, "But I shall enter Your house and bow down in Your holy inner sanctum". Why with Your abundant kindness? Why in fear?
The answer, I think stems from the previous three verses and the structure of psalm 5. Verses 2-4 have David expressing to God his intention to offer a prayer before Him--a preface to the prayer. In 5-7, David explains that God should accept his prayer because after all "You are not a God who desires wickedness or tolerates evil". God does not allow scoffers to stand before Him, He hates doers of iniquity, destroys speakers of lies and despises blood guiltiness and deceit.
No less than seven expressions of evil and contemptible people which David presents to God in contrast to himself. Is it not enough for him to say, "But I God pray to You!"
Apparently not! David is well aware that he is not perfect, indeed he has sinned and is sometimes not worthy to stand before God. Yet, despite his sin, he chooses to still stand before God and pray, plead, and beseech from God his needs about which only god can fulfill. The magical phrase ברב חסדך teaches us to recognize where we stand in God's eyes and where we position ourselves in this world. While we may not attain perfection, we strive towards it and do not let our inconsistencies inhibit our calling out to God.
His abundant kindness allows for us to feel the confidence to stand before Him and ask for our needs. This is a beautiful expression of the relationship between the loving Creator and the very human, inconsistent, faulty, but unyielding creature of God who seeks to be nothing less than shielded in His divine presence.