Heschel [pictured at left] often reflects upon prayer and suggests that it is both an essential component of religious life and a key element in social action. Prayer, for Heschel, is an exercise in exorcising ourselves of callousness, of recognizing our failures before God. For Heschel, prayer causes "a shift of the center of living – from self-consciousness to self-surrender." In prayer we realize God is the supreme Subject, and this demands that "humility is a reality . . . [that] humility is truth." In prayer we recognize that God is the ground of all value and that our worth, like that of all things, derives from God. Prayer decenters us and places everything under much wider horizons, breaking our egocentrism, thus both forcing and allowing us to see the world from this new perspective. Prayer allows us to recognize our own vanity, our tendency to make ideologies absolute, and the fact that we never cease to fail, even in our efforts to be good. Prayer allows us to break down the walls of our own self-righteousness and approach the world with fresh eyes, lest easy and convenient answers appear sufficient. Prayer is both a consolation and a demand. If we pray properly, so Heschel avers, we will be unable to live indifferently to what is going on around us. And what is going on around us cannot be separated from how we pray.
To read Erlewine's article in its entirety, click here.