Praying for Wisdom

In all traditions, a prayer for Wisdom is a good practice. Today’s information is taken from My Jewish Learning website on the practice within Judaism.

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Ata Chonen: A Prayer for Wisdom

If we lack powers of wisdom and discernment, no other request of God really matters.

Prayer offers us a daily opportunity to embrace God with words while seeking — through the language of petition and supplication — a way to articulate our most profound needs. It is not in the asking, but in the searching and wrestling that we gain clarity.

This kind of penetrating lucidity is not a regular and anticipated outcome of prayer. It comes in that rare moment – and almost always when we do not set out to achieve it – that we are gifted with an intellectual or emotional breakthrough.

The Amidah is the spinal cord of the Jewish prayer experience; all prayer that precedes it is preparation to ask God to meet our needs with a combination of humility and spiritual audacity. In the very first of our requests, we ask for the wisdom to be God-like in the day ahead.

In the blessing known as Ata Chonen we recite: “You grace humans with wisdom and teach humanity perception. Bestow upon us Your knowledge, insight and understanding. Blessed are you the grantor of wisdom.”

If we lack wisdom, then no other request really matters. In this prayer, we ask that God offer us a sliver of divine insight that we may gain the clarity we need to make a day’s worth of decisions and good judgments. We firm up our minds to be able to problem-solve and manage life’s complexities. We know that intelligence involves the exquisite and often contradictory balance of curiosity, instinct, patience, caution and risk.

We can never assume wisdom. What may be sensible in one situation is foolish in another. Thus, we pray for knowledge and introduce every other blessing that follows in the Amidah with this request. In fact, on Saturday night we acknowledge the onset of the new week following Shabbat with a special prayer tucked into Ata Chonen, precisely because we need this insight not only for the day ahead but for the week ahead. Havdalah, or separation (also the name for the ritual performed at the close of Shabbat), requires the perception to categorize and compartmentalize, to know the difference between the holy and the profane.

Should the idea of apportioning wisdom seem strange, we remind ourselves that this notion appears in the Hebrew Bible on numerous occasions. In the construction of the Tabernacle, God tells Moses to appoint Bezalel: “I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability and knowledge…” (Exodus 31:3). This is also extended to the craftsmen Bezalel employs: “…and I have also granted wisdom to all who are wise that they may make everything that I have commanded…” (Exodus 31: 6). This gift is far above skill and talent. The Hebrew uses the expression hakham lev, literally “heart-knowledge,” to describe the spirit imbued in each artisan.

Apportioning wisdom is not only from God to humans. In Numbers 11, when Moses struggled mightily with a difficult flock, God apportioned 70 elders with the spirit of Moses’ wisdom: “…I will draw upon the spirit that is in you and put it on them” (Numbers 11:17). Moses needed many others who were like him to be allies in the work of community. Nothing requires more wisdom than managing people well.

We open our litany of requests with the desire to know, to perceive, to understand, and to think because these capacities make us distinctly human. Yet our rational minds are in a constant tug-of-war with our irrational desires. We pray that wisdom wins the day.

Dr. Erica Brown is an associate professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the director of its Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership. Erica is the author of 12 books. Her forthcoming book is “The Book of Esther: Power, Fate and Fragility in Exile” (Maggid/OU).


The Shema: How Listening Leads to Oneness

Judaism’s foundational prayer calls on us not merely to listen, but to remember that there is one force of connection uniting us all.




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Lost in Wonder — prayers of my heart, a collection of articles and writings by C. Alicia Randolph

Very clearly, I remember my first Philosophy class, taken my senior year in college. I loved it! If I had taken that class in my freshman year I would have changed my major! I would have been a thinker, a philosopher or as puts it, “a person who offers views or theories on profound […]

via Lost in Wonder — prayers of my heart, a collection of articles and writings by C. Alicia Randolph

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Each of us are the Beloved of God

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An Explanation from the Imam Atif Chandry – Soul Food from Pfeiffer University

©Photography by Casey Habich 2018. Used with permission. Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer, NC.


Islam is one of the oldest religions in the world. The prophet Mohammed was born in 570 C.E and Islam grew out of his revelations which became the Quran. By clicking the image below, you can learn more about Islam from the Imam Atif out of Charlotte.

The Imam was at Pfeiffer University to teach the students the basics of Islam and what it means for him to be Muslim.


Differences between Christianity and Islam:

Christianity is a monotheistic religion which developed out of Second Temple Judaism in the 1st century CE. It is founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those who follow it are called Christians.[1]

Islam is a monotheistic religion that developed in the 7th century CE. Islam, which literally means “surrender” or “submission” (to God), was founded on the teachings of Muhammad as an expression of surrender to the will of Allah. Those who follow it are called Muslims.[2]

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Shared Meditation from Richard Rohr (week 41)


Image credit: Stars and Clouds at Nighttime (detail), Arnie Chau


The Power to Love
Thursday, October 11, 2018


The anonymous, 14th century author of The Cloud of Unknowing conveys the fathomless mystery of God and that God can only be known by loving presence—contemplation. The Cloud of Unknowing was the inspiration for practices such as centering prayer and Christian meditation. Today and tomorrow I will share some of my favorite excerpts from Carmen Acevedo Butcher’s translation of the old English text. [Bracketed words are my own.]

Lift up your heart to God with a gentle stirring of love. Focus on [God] alone. . . . Don’t let anything else run through your mind and will. Here’s how. Forget what you know. Forget everything God made and everybody who exists and everything that’s going on in the world, until your thoughts and emotions aren’t focused on or reaching toward anything, not in a general way and not in any particular way. Let them be. For the moment, don’t care about anything. . . .

The first time you practice contemplation, you’ll only experience a darkness, like a cloud of unknowing [which now happily envelops you]. You won’t know what this is [and will have to learn how to live there by “forgetting” your previous methods of knowing]. You’ll only know that in your will you feel a simple reaching out to God. You must also know that this darkness and this cloud will always be between you and your God, whatever you do. They will always keep you from seeing [God] clearly by the light of understanding in your intellect and will block you from feeling [God] fully in the sweetness of love in your emotions. So, be sure you make your home in this darkness. Stay there as long as you can, crying out to [God] over and over again, because you love [God]. It’s the closest you can get to God here on earth, by waiting in this darkness and in this cloud. Work at this diligently, as I’ve asked you to, and I know God’s mercy will lead you there. . . .

[God] measures us and makes . . . divinity fit our souls, and our souls are able to take the measure of [God] because [God] created us in [God’s] image and made us worthy. [God] alone is complete and can fulfill our every longing. God’s grace restores our souls and teaches us how to comprehend [God] through love. [God] is incomprehensible to the intellect. . . . Nobody’s mind is powerful enough to grasp who God is. We can only know [God] by experiencing [God’s] love.

Look. Every rational creature, every person, and every angel has two main strengths: the power to know and the power to love. God made both of these, but [God is] not knowable through the first one. To the power of love, however, [God] is entirely known, because a loving soul is open to receive God’s abundance. . . . [God’s] very nature makes love endless and miraculous. God will never stop loving us. Consider this truth, and, if by grace you can make love your own, do. For the experience is eternal joy; its absence is unending suffering.


Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.



The Cloud of Unknowing with the Book of Privy Counsel, trans. Carmen Acevedo Butcher (Shambhala: 2009), 11, 12, 14.

Image credit: Stars and Clouds at Nighttime (detail), Arnie Chau


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What is your choice?


“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”   ~James Baldwin

The morning is dreary as the wind howls over the mountain. A hurricane blows into the Gulf of Mexico towards Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee is the place where God played a funny joke on me that turned out to be the best experience of my life: internship as a vicar at St. Stephen Lutheran Church of Tallahassee. Hurricane Michael shares the name of the archangel we call St. Michael. The angel Michael, is both a warrior and protector, so as I type, I pray that the angel protects all the people in the path of the hurricane. Many of the good people I know from Tallahassee are those who taught me what it means to be a warrior for social justice in the name of God.

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Family matters of life and death seemed to fill up August. September, well, what happened to it? Oh yes, sickness. Life and death seem to be the theme this morning as I awaken from dreams of my aunt’s house. Aunt Imogene recently died and it was a shock because she seemed immortal, even though we knew she wasn’t. When a family member of that importance dies, it strikes close to the heart of a person, but also a family unit.

Truthfully, it’s unclear what this writing is about this morning. I am only aware that it has been a while since I wrote. While families face the lives and deaths that happen in the course of a day, politics happen. Whatever “side” one may choose politically, the events of recent weeks have been harmful to us all. That such vitriol is spewed on national media and filters into every conversation allows the poison of hatred to seep into the fabric of daily moments.

Am I sad that I have lost family members? Of course. Does the world’s current political situation sadden me? You bet it does. One of the things we forget in all of this hullabaloo is that through the current use of social media, we are torturing one another in new and profound ways. I only say “profound” to address the depth of how we are allowing hurt to be proliferated and even celebrated as a viable way of being a “leader” in our world.

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jesus was a Jew who did address the political. Ironically, his harshest words were for the religious leaders of the time. For EVERYONE ELSE, there was love. Frederick Buechner states in his description of love, that even in calling attention to their wrongs, Jesus was loving those leaders. Sadly, those who call themselves Christian have begun to chose only condemnation as the way to be a follower of the historical Jesus. The gospels and the entirety of the New Testament, however, testifies to LOVE and COMPASSION.

The main reason Jesus was crucified is that of how love and compassion spread through his life and ministry and went against the norm of the day. Mercy, forgiveness, kindness were his tools to undermine the political structures of both the Israelites and the Romans. Jesus’ goals in life were not to make a political statement, but to make a faith statement. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” His answer was silence in one version. In another, Jesus did not agree, but only said, “You say that I am.” Jesus spoke only of the kingdom of God and the only weapon used was love.

In writing that last paragraph, I thought of a table or a list if you will. We can add to this list. What would you add?

Jesus had mercy on: Jesus spoke against:
prostitutes pharisees
tax collectors Sadducees
lepers judging others
old women
Samaritans (those of different cultures)
the unclean
Jews (or only Israelites at the time)*
the mentally ill

“Love as a disposition does not primarily act on abstract principle. Instead, it is a way of seeing habitually and responding to the real, separate, individual needs of each of the people we encounter in our lives every single day.”
― Roberta C. Bondi, To Love as God Loves

The list above is not definitive or complete; only one that came to mind quickly. I know I left things off of both sides. What my point is, however, is not what I know about lists or tables, but the fact that the life of Jesus is weighted in favor of the underdog. Jesus’ message was and is about true justice. Justice that is courageous in the face of power. Justice that proves itself not by might or right, but by love; by working for the well-being of all people.

We live in a world of pain. Each of us has prejudice of some sort; it’s just the nature of humanity. It’s why we needed someone like Jesus to teach us how to live differently. Yet, though we have this example, we still more often than not choose judgment and condemnation first. Is it because we want to fit in with the community around us? Possibly. Do we want to be someone other than who we are? Perhaps. Do we make errors in our visions? Often.

The first counselor I ever worked with had me use a book that’s title escapes me. However, the point of the book was to get each reader looking at life in a more realistic way. As best as I can remember, the book was teaching one through practice how to see the errors of one’s own life and take responsibility for the errors. The book also encouraged taking the credit for the good things in life. That is actually harder for me. How about you?

If I had an answer to the problems that face our world today, that would be great. Of course, I don’t. There’s only the pondering, the wondering how different the world would be if each of us truly lived out a life of compassion and mercy. It’s easy to talk the talk, but much harder to “walk the walk” as many say. I see a world of injustice right now and it hurts me to the core. The choice that faces me now, is do I face the pain and allow it to be transformed into love? Or do I try and avoid the pain and allow it to rot into hatred? What do you choose?

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”  

J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix




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Redemption at the Table: A Meditation for World Communion Sunday — prayers of my heart, a collection of articles and writings by C. Alicia Randolph

Every year, when World Communion comes around on the first Sunday in October, I think of her—the child I saw in the streets of what was previously known as Bombay, India. It was long ago, but I have never completely forgotten her and each World Communion Sunday I bring her with me to the […]

via Redemption at the Table: A Meditation for World Communion Sunday — prayers of my heart, a collection of articles and writings by C. Alicia Randolph

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