The Prayer Project

Prayer as Practice from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality

The Prayer Project is designed to help Jews explore prayer as spiritual practice: something we engage in with specific aims, forms, and techniques to cultivate our conscious connection with God. 

Many Jews think about other practices such as meditation, yoga and Tikkun Middot, as spiritual disciplines. But prayer is more often regarded either as something that happens spontaneously without forethought, or as something encoded in “services” which one simply and passively “attends.”

Most Jewish teaching about prayer is precisely that: teaching about prayer! One may learn the history of how the Jewish prayer book was compiled or specifics about the meaning of certain prayers themselves. One may also learn prayerbook Hebrew to be able to say the words of the prayers, along with synagogue etiquette (when to stand, sit, cover the eyes, etc.), all of which is certainly important and may help one engage in external acts of prayer.

But what of the inner dimensions? What about learning how to train the mind and heart to engage in the inner experience of prayer itself and to allow it to deepen moment by moment as it unfolds in the mind, heart, body and spirit? For such training, one needs an expert teacher, clear instructions, dedication to regular practice, and a community of fellow practitioners for support, inspiration, and insight.

Toward this end we have developed month-long intensives featuring video instruction and on-line discussion (with an optional, live, small-group, weekly processing call with the instructor). Each intensive focuses on one particular prayer modality, such as: chant; traditional, prayer book-based Jewish prayer; contemplative prayer; and, engagement with psalms.

The Prayer Project: Overview

 

The Prayer Project consists of eight 30-day prayer intensive modules:

  1. Contemplative Jewish Prayer: Presence, Intention, and Surrender
  2. Sacred Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love
  3. Hitbodedut: Cultivating Spontaneous Conversations with God
  4. Jewish Liturgical Prayer: Finding our Authentic Service
  5. Receiving and Extending Love: Jewish Prayer through Meditation
  6. Liberating the Voice: Niggun as Authentic Prayer
  7. From My Flesh, I See God: Embodying the Amidah

These 30-day prayer intensives are designed to help you focus on cultivating a specific modality of prayer practice. Each Sunday, you will receive an email with a half-hour video teaching, recorded by one of our master teachers. These video teachings accompany a written lesson, which may include links to Jewish texts, secular writings, poems, music, videos, and other references to supplement your learning. You can choose the best time in your schedule to watch the half-hour video teaching and read the written lesson, as well as to log onto the community forums to post your questions and reflections. Throughout the week, you will receive daily emails, which will encourage you to keep up with your own internal work with twenty to thirty minutes of daily practice.

As an optional supplement to the course, you may also choose to participate in a weekly processing group with your instructor. These groups are available on a first-come, first-serve basis for an additional fee of $75. They offer the opportunity to engage with your teacher and other participants in a “live” environment, using Zoom video conferencing technology.

Cost: 
Month-Long Prayer Intensive Module: $100
Month-Long Prayer Intensive Module Plus Weekly Live Processing Group: $175

Interested in bringing a Prayer Project course to your community? Contact Rabbi Sam Feinsmith:

Upcoming Online Prayer Project Intensives

Liturgical Prayer: Discovering Our Own Authentic Service

Rabbi Jonathan Slater, October 18 – November 13, 2020

One of the greatest treasures of Jewish religious life is the siddur, the prayer-book. It reflects generations of spiritual struggle and exaltation, expressed in prayers of great poetic richness and nuanced theological reflection.  Yet for many Jews, this same book is an impediment to prayer. Forced to say someone else’s words of prayer, to live into someone else’s experience of God, to follow the flow of someone else’s heart, many people feel stymied, silenced.

Investigate your own modes of praying through body, heart and mind – and then discover which of the many prayers in the siddur might serve as a vehicle for your native expression. Begin a process of sketching out what might constitute your own matbe’a, our “fixed” structure of prayer, for the sake of nurturing your own deepest kavvanah, our true intention in prayer, and for the sake of connecting in truth with the Jewish tradition.

Hitbodedut: Cultivating Spontaneous Conversations with God

Rabbi David Jaffe, December 6, 2020 – January 1, 2021

According to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, hitbodedut – talking spontaneously with God -every day is the most powerful path to spiritual growth. Over these four weeks we will try out this potent practice, starting with small amounts of time and building each week. Daily assignments will explore preparing to speak, setting intentions, time and space for practice and closing a session. We will address what it means to have a conversation when you are not sure to whom you are speaking or if there is any conversation partner at all! Related practices will include turning Torah into Prayer, a particular technique for connecting the mind and the heart to transform action.

A month of hitbodedut has the power to open the heart, clarify priorities, increase awareness of our soul’s desire and strengthen our connection with God. Hitbodedut is not designed to take the place of liturgical prayer but it can have a profound influence on the quality of our more formal prayer lives, as well.