Hours of Devotion

Selected Prayers

At Morning I

Psalm 5:4

Almighty God, you bring morning light
Into the place of darkest night.
All creation delights in dawn’s brilliance
And exults in the rediscovery of life.
All nature becomes a holy sanctuary, resounding
With the joyous hymns and exultant hallelujahs
It offers up to you, awesome Creator of Worlds.
In the depths, rivers burble their song to you.
From the mountains, mists rise toward you
Like incense from colossal altars.
And so I – but one small being in this vast universe –
Fold my hands in gratitude to you,
And my fervent prayer rises like a child’s offering
To your exalted throne.

Last night as I lay bound in slumber, surrounded
By the darkness of night, you watched over me;
Your parental hand hovered over my head,
Shielding me from every danger and fear,
Allowing me to rest in sleep’s sweet peace;
And now that I am restored and refreshed
You have once again released my eye
From slumber’s shade
So it can freely perceive the beauty of nature
And awaken me to renewed energy and purpose,
To a new delight in life, and to love.

May I spend this day in useful activity.
May I fulfill all my obligations, duties, and tasks
Without pretension but with eagerness,
Neglecting nothing, allotting everything its proper place.
Yet, my God, how the human will wavers,
And how fruitless is any deed or enterprise
That lacks your blessing.
Therefore, I beg of you, All-gracious God,
May everything I begin with humility and trust in you
Succeed – so my efforts may increase the prosperity
And honor of my home.
May my deeds and spirit be wholesome,
May my work be useful and bring benefit to others,
And may commerce and material profit
Never preoccupy my mind.

Grant me your divine blessings
Of good health, good cheer, and a contented heart,
So I might complete my work today
In good spirits and with all my strength.
May I live this day with honesty and integrity,
Never forgetting that the purpose of every day
Is to elevate the soul, make each of us more whole,
And prepare us for the great day
When you transport us to a higher realm.

Benevolent One, let peace and harmony
Reign within my home. Lighten my spirit
So I might earn the love and regard
Of my family and friends.
When some unkindness comes my way,
Help me bear it with composure and patience.
Let only soft silence meet bitter words.
Guard me in times of joy and satisfaction
So I might never give way to arrogance.
In hours of pain, teach me, O God,
To accept your will with humility
And to recognize your presence in everything.
Bless this day for me, that it be a day of goodness,
A day of purpose, a day of success,
A day that sanctifies my life. Amen.

On the Sabbath Day (Shabbat)

Salomon Maimon

My God and Holy Parent,
My Creator and Sustainer,
In six days your divine word called forth
This entire magnificent world out of nothing,
And on the seventh day you established
Your blessing and your sanctification,
Making it a day of rest for all people.
On this day all enterprise takes a holiday,
All creative work is completed,
And the noise of workshops and factories
Grows quiet in the streets.
Our houses are cheerfully adorned,
And our hearts are uplifted.
A festive glow brightens our homes.
This is the Sabbath, to honor the Source of Being.
The purpose and goal of the Sabbath
Is not to descend into a useless idleness
In which the spirit sinks
And we indulge in thoughtless desires;
The purpose and goal of the Sabbath
Is to afford relaxation to our bodies
So our souls might unfurl to their full capacities.
This is the outer being’s rest
So the inner being may emerge with greater vitality
And our better selves may reach their fullness and power.
On the Sabbath we put aside service to the world
And dedicate ourselves instead
To the service of God.
We lay down our work for our earthly portion
And allow ourselves to live whole, undivided lives
For our spiritual, eternal redemption –
So we are not flooded
By a stream of worldly concerns and struggles,
So our moral convictions
And the highest stirrings of our hearts
Do not get lost amid the demands of our lives,
So the noisy cries of the outside world
Do not overwhelm and silence the holy songs within.

So will I, my God and Sovereign,
Obey your commandments and turn to
Spiritual pursuits on this holy day.
I will elevate my heart through your divine words,
And before all else I will read from your sacred Torah –
Of your wonders and your power,
Of your wisdom, your grace, and your compassion –
So I may always come to recognize your presence
And learn to honor you more humbly,
So I may always follow you with childlike devotion;
So I may always love you with my whole heart,
With my whole soul, and with my whole might.
I will pass the Sabbath hours
By attending to the development of my children’s hearts
And by imprinting the lessons
Of virtue and faith within their souls.
I will let the spirit of love, trust in God, and generosity
Hold sway in my environment
To the extent of my own strengths and abilities.

Yet I will focus my thoughts not only
On the members of my own household
But also on the wider circle of my friends and neighbors.
I will seek out those poor and suffering souls
Whom I might be able to aid through counsel or deed.
Thus will I celebrate this day,
To remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
In truth as well as in practice.

O God, strengthen my will toward this always.
Grant me wisdom, strength, and endurance
To make your will manifest.
Grant that the feelings and sentiments of the Sabbath
That stir my soul today
Accompany me tomorrow
Through the activities of the week
So that even amid the busy workday
I may carry the sense of Sabbath in my soul,
So my heart may always become purer,
So my spirit may always become more complete,
Until it becomes refined and is brought to perfection
To celebrate its great Sabbath rest in the world to come. Amen.

For an Expectant Mother

Genesi 3:16

O Almighty One – the one from whom life comes,
From whom the strength for life
And the joy of life arises –
You have been mindful of me
And have given me this sweet joy:
The prospect of becoming a mother.
Beneath my heart, I feel the seed of a new life
That shall, through me, come to see
The light of the world –
My husband’s child and mine,
A new being born of our wedded joy,
A new bond born of our wedded love.
Parent of All, I thank you
For having given me, your servant,
The blessing of motherhood.

In your wisdom you have spoken the ominous words,
I will let your pangs be great in childbearing;
In pain shall you bear children.
Should we be permitted
To mutter and complain that you,
In your great goodness, imposed this upon us?
Wise and good are all your decrees.
For long months you allow our unborn children
To rest beneath our hearts until they ripen into life,
Allowing us a period to prepare
For the great and weighty obligations of motherhood,
Allowing us to gain the knowledge and insight
That we still lack in taking up this task.
You have coupled this time with pangs and pains
Because every pain, every discomfort we feel,
Should remind us that we are becoming mothers,
Should guide the soul to recall
The exalted task and decree that we are accepting.
And why shouldn’t we gladly bear the fleeting pangs
And joyfully carry this blessed burden?
Why shouldn’t we gladly forgo
Some comforts and pleasures
And accept some sacrifices
For the sweet and fulfilling experience of motherhood,
For the good fortune and blessing of having children?
For our children shall be
As fruit-bearing trees in God’s orchard.
For God is the One who allows us
To continue to blossom through our children,
The One who makes us so rich and fortunate
Through the precious treasures
Of a child’s love and loyalty.

Parent of All, may you allow the tender fruit within me
To thrive and ripen into a perfect, healthy child,
And bless this child with a strong body
And a beautiful, pious soul.
Grant me also the constancy, discretion, and restraint
To refrain from anything that might harm or endanger
My unborn child, that I might always be aware of it
And guard myself against damaging influences,
Never allowing myself to become overwhelmed
By fear, anger, grief, sorrow,
Or anything else that agitates
And disturbs the soul’s tranquility.
May you hear me, O God, my refuge,
In whom I hope and trust. Amen.

A Traveler’s Prayer

Psalm 121:8

God, my Sovereign, I commend my path to you.
Wherever I wander, wherever I am,
I am under the umbrella of your protection –
Whether I am in my own secure, familiar surroundings,
Or in a strange and foreign port,
I do not lose heart and I do not fear,
For I trust in you.

You who protect the tiny birds in their migration
And guide them across an unknown sea
From one hemisphere to another,
May you also take me – childlike,
With my pleading heart and longing eye –
Graciously into your merciful charge.
May your love smooth my way,
May you guard me from evil and deceit,
May you mercifully guide me to my destination,
And may you stand by me
To help me accomplish my purpose,
For the fulfillment and manifestation
Of my plans and endeavors.

Yet, All-benevolent One, it is not for myself alone
That I lift my hands toward you.
In my fervent prayer
I also entrust to your divine care
All of my household: my loved ones
And those close to me who remain behind.
May you guard them and protect them
With your parental grace.
May you turn all harm and dire events,
All fear and danger, away from them –
So we may see one another again
In joy and in good fortune. Amen.

 

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