Last week, I stood on the bima (the raised stage at the front of the synagogue) on a Sunday morning, in front of the Sunday school, during our weekly religious school prayer service, ripping back a shawl I was about a third of the way through with. I was ripping back dozens of hours of work. And I asked the kids how they thought I was feeling.
Fortunately I got the expected responsese: “I bet you feel lousy.” “You must be really sad.”
I proceeded to explain that, in fact, I felt quite okay about it. I knit not because I am so invested in the finished garment, but because I like knitting. I was bored with this project, and didn’t think I would find it interesting as a piece of work once it was done. So I was ripping it out. The key aspect, however, is that I knit for the sake of knitting, so by tearing back and using the yarn for something else, it provided me with even more opportunity to knit.
The reason I was explaining this during a prayer service is that prayer is just like this. I pray not to get to some desired goal. I do not expect God to directly answer or “grant” my prayers. I do not do it so that I am suffused with a sense of peace and spirituality (though often I am). I pray because I enjoy praying, which is the best reason to pray. When you pray with some other goal in mind, there is always a significant chance of being disappointed. But when you pray because it is something you want to do, even if you don’t get a sense of peace from praying, it has not been wasted time. And even if I don’t enjoy every moment of prayer, like knitting, I continue because I know that, overall, I enjoy it, and sometimes you just have to push through the boring to get to the satisfaction. When you’re knitting a sock, there will be some 2 x 2 ribbing. When you pray, there will be times when it’s going through the motions. But you have to go through the motions to get to the times that you enjoy.