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Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration [Paperback]

Naomi Levy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Levy, one of the first female Conservative rabbis in the United States, offers perceptive prayers, personal stories, and some powerful thoughts on the efficacy of prayer in this heartfelt book. Remarkably, it is more directed toward blessing others than praying for oneself: in a particularly moving section, Levy encourages people to place their hands on their children's and parents' heads and pronounce blessings upon them. Although Levy draws primarily from Jewish traditions, these prayers will be welcomed by people of many faiths; in particular, those who are grieving will cherish Levy's lucid understanding of the depth of pain. This is not a simplistic, sound-bite prayer book, but a carefully considered manual for inviting God into every possible situation. (Aug. 25)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Those of us who have been deeply moved by Naomi Levy's book, To Begin Again, will welcome her new book, Talking to God . The beautiful, simple, and direct prayers she offers here will enrich the spiritual practices of persons of all faith traditions."
-Joseph C. Hough, Jr., President, Union Theological Seminary

"Talking to God is a beautiful and heartfelt collection of prayers. It's filled with wisdom, compassion and plenty of insight. I loved every page and will refer to it often."
-Richard Carlson, author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and It's All Small Stuff

"The author challenges us to partner with God by doing all we can to answer our own prayers... Talking to God involves a lecture to self, then a prayer beyond self to One who calls you out of self."
-Rev. Cecil L. Murray, Senior Minister, First A.M.E. Church

"I hope that all the people who feel detached from God because they cannot pray will read Naomi Levy's book and learn to re-connect."
-Rabbi Harold S. Kushner


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

After the publication of her best-selling book To Begin Again, Naomi Levy received a flood of feedback from readers telling her how much the prayers in it had helped and moved them. Many urged her to publish a collection of her prayers?and now she has.

In a time when we all need inspiration, comfort, and connection, Talking to God will help us reclaim prayer as an integral part of our lives, making it as natural and uninhibited as talking to our loved ones. Prayer is essential to the lives of millions, but many of us are searching for ways to supplement traditional prayers with ones that are less formal and more intimate.

Written in a simple and direct style, the prayers in this book?and the wonderful stories that accompany them?are for people of all faiths, and for all occasions large and small. Naomi Levy?s personal prayers address the anxieties and roadblocks we all face in contemporary life. There are prayers for facing a new day, realizing one?s potential at work, celebrating an anniversary or birthday, and going to sleep at night. And there are prayers for the more profound occurrences in life?love and marriage, pregnancy and childbirth, illness, loss, and death.

Rabbi Levy?s words, imbued with grace and empathy, touch on the entire range of human experience. Many of us will recognize ourselves in her prayers and stories and will be comforted by them, as well as challenged and uplifted. Perhaps most important, they are stepping-stones for us to go on and create our own prayers, to find meaning in our own lives, and to begin or renew our own relationships with God.


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

"Those of us who have been deeply moved by Naomi Levy's book, To Begin Again, will welcome her new book, Talking to God . The beautiful, simple, and direct prayers she offers here will enrich the spiritual practices of persons of all faith traditions."
-Joseph C. Hough, Jr., President, Union Theological Seminary

"Talking to God is a beautiful and heartfelt collection of prayers. It's filled with wisdom, compassion and plenty of insight. I loved every page and will refer to it often."
-Richard Carlson, author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and It's All Small Stuff

"The author challenges us to partner with God by doing all we can to answer our own prayers... Talking to God involves a lecture to self, then a prayer beyond self to One who calls you out of self."
-Rev. Cecil L. Murray, Senior Minister, First A.M.E. Church

"I hope that all the people who feel detached from God because they cannot pray will read Naomi Levy's book and learn to re-connect."
-Rabbi Harold S. Kushner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Naomi Levy, author of To Begin Again, was in the first class of women admitted to study for the rabbinate at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and was the first female Conservative rabbi to lead a congregation on the West Coast. She lives in Venice, California, with her husband, Robert Eshman, and their children, Adin and Noa.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

One

Daily Prayer

Daily prayer is the hardest form of prayer. It's natural to turn to God when things go wrong -- when you are in pain or when you are frightened or depressed. It's easy to turn to God in times of joy -- at a birth or a wedding, or on a holiday. But making the commitment to open your heart up to God every single day is quite a challenge. There are days when we feel moved, and there are days when we feel nothing. All too often, daily prayer seems like a tedious burden. We want our experiences of prayer to be inspirational, exceptional, but daily prayer is rooted in the unspectacular routine of our lives. Most of us see nothing awe inspiring about getting out of bed in the morning, or grabbing a bite to eat, or nodding off to sleep at night. But we couldn't be more mistaken.

Sometimes it takes an illness to remind us how wondrous it is wake up healthy, to be able to get out of bed and eat and work. Suddenly, the mundane routines we had taken for granted seem precious. We find ourselves giving thanks for small miracles that we never even noticed before. The first meal after surgery. The first step on our own. The first breath of fresh air. The first night at home in our own bed. Of course, we shouldn't have to suffer an illness in order to be grateful for all the ways God blesses us. Daily prayer is a far more pleasant way to achieve the same goal. Taking the time to pray heightens our awareness of God's presence in our lives. It reminds us that God is constantly calling out to us.

One of my favorite quotes from the Jewish mystical teachings is this: "Every blade of grass has an angel that hovers over it and whispers, 'Grow, grow.'" God is here. God is watching over us and hoping for us. God is waiting for us to notice the beauty in every breath we take, the potential in every encounter, the extraordinary possibilities of every ordinary day.

Once, a young man whose wife died in a car accident came to speak to me. He had a strong and burly build, but his eyes were soft and sad. He told me that he couldn't pray now, when he needed God most, because he felt like a hypocrite. He had never prayed before, and he didn't think he had the right to start a relationship with God when he had no history with God. I said to him, "God is already in a relationship with you. You don't need to introduce yourself. God already knows you and already loves you. God suffers with you and is longing to hear your voice."

We are in a relationship with God every day whether we notice it or not. God is waiting for our response.


Morning

When we wake up in the morning, we remember to prepare our bodies for the day ahead of us. We wash, we dress, we eat. Would you ever think of leaving the house without brushing your teeth? And yet we rarely take the time to prepare our souls for the day ahead of us. It doesn't need to take very long. Just a minute or two each morning. But a simple morning prayer can literally transform the way we think, feel, behave, and work. A morning prayer helps to remind us how blessed we are-even on those days when you sleep through the alarm, when the coffee spills on your lap, when the toast burns, when the kids are whining, when nothing seems to be going right. Even brief prayer can give us the courage to confront a difficult day, and it can give us the insight to recognize a miraculous one.

Before you race out the door take a moment. Take a deep breath in, let a deep breath out, and talk to God. Tell God your hopes for the new day and your worries too. And don't forget to notice something to be thankful for this day.

A Morning Prayer

There are so many things I take for granted. May I not ignore them today.

Just for today, help me, God, to remember that my life is a gift, that my health is a blessing, that this new day is filled with awesome potential, that I have the capacity to bring something wholly new and unique and good into this world.

Just for today, help me, God, to remember to be kind and patient to the people who love me, and to those who work with me too. Teach me to see all the beauty that I so often ignore, and to listen to the silent longing of my own soul.

Just for today, help me, God, to remember You.

Let this be a good day, God, full of joy and love. Amen.



A Prayer for the Body

Thank You, God, for the body You have given me. Most of the time I take my health for granted. I forget how fortunate I am to live without pain or disability, how blessed I am to be able to see and hear and walk and eat. I forget that this body of mine, with all its imperfections, is a gift from You.

When I am critical of my appearance, remind me, God, that I am created in Your holy image. If I become jealous of someone else's appearance, teach me to treasure my unique form.

Help me, God, to care for my body. Teach me to refrain from any action that will bring harm to me. If I fall prey to a self-destructive habit, fill me with the strength to conquer my cravings.

Lead me to use my body wisely, God. Guide my every limb, God, to perform acts of compassion and kindness.

I thank You, God, for creating me as I am. Amen.



Food on Our Table

Last winter I went to see an exhibit of Norman Rockwell paintings that has been traveling around the country. One painting made a lasting impression on me. The setting is a bustling diner at lunchtime. The scene is so vivid that you can almost hear the chatter and smell the scents of eggs, burgers, and coffee wafting through the air. On one side of a crowded table a Mennonite mother sits beside her young son. Their heads are bowed in silent prayer. This private moment of devotion creates calm in the midst of the clamor. All eyes in the room are fixed on them. The expression on the bystanders' faces is a combination of curiosity and awe. It moved me.

We have the capacity to change the pace and tone of our lives in an instant. We can gobble down our food without even paying attention to what we are eating, or we can take a moment and stop.

Before you eat, take the time to breathe deeply. Look at the food in front of you. Appreciate it. Remember to thank the person who took the time to prepare this food for you. And thank God for the blessed meal before you.

Thanks to the cook

When my husband was courting me, he used to walk me home from synagogue on Saturdays. One day I invited him in. We sat talking for hours sipping tea, and it never occurred to me to offer him something to eat-I didn't know how to cook. At one point I got up to use the bathroom, and he used the occasion to hunt through my cupboards. He was starving. But all he found was a bag of stale potato chips and two cans of tuna. When I returned from the bathroom, I found him looking around my barren kitchen. He picked up a tuna can and asked, "Do you eat it out of the can like a cat?" "Well, yes," I admitted. That night Rob brought me to his apartment and cooked me a magnificent meal. The rest is history. Although every now and then for nostalgia's sake, he opens up a can of tuna and calls, "Here, kitty, kitty."

A Blessing over Food

Thank You, God, for the food on my table and for the cook who, like You, knows the secrets of creation. Thank You for plants, animals, and water, and for my own life, which You nourish and sustain each day. Please, God, answer the prayers of all those who turn to You in need. May all who are hungry be blessed with food. May I never be indifferent to the cries of those in need of my assistance. May I never take my good fortune for granted. Thank You, God, Creator of all. Amen.



Difficult Days

It was a Monday morning. I knew in advance it was going to be a painful day. A member of my congregation was dying. I had been up all night with my one-month-old daughter, Noa, who was doing her best to turn colic into an art form. My two-year-old son, Adi, was busy taking fistfuls of mud from the ficus tree in our living room and dumping them onto the floor. This was our second day in our new home. I had a sinus infection and an ear infection. A friend of mine volunteered to watch my children so that I could visit Marty.

I drove to the hospital, made my way to Marty's room, and saw him lying there ashen and unconscious. His nurse took me aside and told me that he probably would not make it through the night. I thanked her for her honesty. Marty was only fifty. Six months before I had taken a walk with him on the boardwalk that runs along Venice Beach. I had trouble keeping up with his pace. He exercised daily, ate well, had a perpetual suntan, and was forever making fun of my pale, or, as he put it, green, complexion. "You need to get your face out of the Talmud and into the sun, Rabbi." I stood beside Marty and recited the final confessional. Then I blessed him and bade him farewell.

I took the elevator to the lobby, headed back to the parking garage, got into my car, and started driving in a total daze. My mind was on Marty, not the road. I accidentally drove my car onto a cement island that separated the lanes in the parking lot. Embarrassed and shaken, I tried to drive off the island, but my car wouldn't budge. People behind me were honking and shouting. Finally, two men got out of their cars and pushed my car off the island as I steered.

Before returning home I decided to drive back to our old apartment to check if we had left anything behind in the haste of packing. When I got there, I saw that the door was ajar. The painters were there repainting the whole place. I told them that I was the old tenant; they nodded at me. I suddenly realized that I had returned to say goodbye. I bid farewell to my son's lavender bedroom that we had painted ourselves, and to the little yard where we had kept three chickens. I stepped back inside to take a final look out the living room window, which had a spectacular view of the ocean, and I noticed something on the floor.

The painters had spread drop...
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