Judaism is pretty open to intercessory prayer — asking God, both in private and in public moments, to intervene in earthly events for healing, for peace, for justice. At the center of the daily liturgy, the Amidah (standing) prayers, are many lines asking God to do lots of different things.
Praying to get rich, to humiliate your enemies, or for guidance on which new car to go for? I’ve never heard of those kinds of prayers being ruled out, but no one who takes Jewish prayer seriously would even think of trying them.
There are plenty of moments in Jewish observance with prayers for peace, like this one, Sim Shalom, during the Amidah:
Grant peace everywhere, goodness and blessing, grace, lovingkindness and mercy to us and unto all Israel, Your people. Bless us, our Eternal, all of us as one with the light of Your face; For by the light of Your face You have given us, Adonai our God, the Torah of life, and love of kindness, and righteousness and blessing and mercy and life and peace; And may it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel at all times and in every hour with Your peace. Praised are You, Adonai, who blesses Your people Israel with peace.
Does it make a difference? If it does, it is God’s work or the power of our own thoughts?
I just don’t know for sure.
But if there’s even one chance in a billion billion billion that just by concentrating on a broken place for a few minutes out of my busy day, I might affect an outcome somewhere, somehow?
I’d be crazy not to.
So in my struggle to wrestle a space for prayer out of every day, I take a precious few minutes and repeat the first few words of Sim Shalom as I concentrate on a place that needs peace more desperately than I have ever needed anything.
Traditional Jewish prayer doesn’t reserve as much attention for the rest of the world as it does for Israel, both the country and the globe-spanning nation, so I spread it around on my own whenever I get the chance.
Lately my prayers have been hovering around Southern Afghanistan. Sometimes I pray for the soldiers. More often I pray for the people who have only their skins to protect them.
Would the people I’m praying for think twice about killing a gay American Jew? Some for sure. Some maybe not. I’m going to keep on praying for their safety and dignity.