The God­file: 10 Approach­es to Per­son­al­iz­ing Prayer

Aryeh Ben David
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By – December 12, 2011

The open­ing phrase of the Ami­da, the cen­tral prayer of the Jew­ish wor­ship ser­vice, con­tains these words: “…our God and God of our fathers…” Why do we say our God” first? Shouldn’t it be chrono­log­i­cal? The rea­son for this is the rea­son that Rab­bi Ben David wrote The God­file: we must strive for a per­son­al rela­tion­ship with God before we can hope to fath­om the rela­tion­ship that our for­bears had with the Almighty.

Ben David pro­vides a tem­plate for cre­at­ing a rela­tion­ship with God. Part One acknowl­edges and explains the dif­fi­cul­ty many peo­ple have feel­ing spir­i­tu­al” dur­ing ser­vices. He then intro­duces a set of exer­cis­es and tools to make prayer more per­son­al and pow­er­ful. One such tool is the God­file — a jour­nal to record your thoughts and feel­ings about God and prayer. 

Each chap­ter in Part Two opens with a quote about prayer from a great Jew­ish thinker, includ­ing philoso­phers, the­olo­gians, and Has­sidic lead­ers. Ben David puts each quote into his­tor­i­cal con­text, demon­strates how prayer informed that thinker’s approach to life, and sug­gests how read­ers can make it rel­e­vant to their own lives. The author also includes thought-pro­vok­ing ques­tions designed to inspire spir­i­tu­al­i­ty dis­cus­sion groups or entries into your God­file. Every­thing that is true for your rela­tion­ship with God is also true for your rela­tion­ship with oth­er peo­ple, the author repeat­ed­ly reminds us. 

The God­file is a con­cise and prac­ti­cal guide for spir­i­tu­al seek­ers of all denom­i­na­tions. Its only weak­ness is that it lacks the voice of any great female thinkers. Despite being mar­gin­al­ized, his­tor­i­cal­ly, from the for­mal Jew­ish prayer ser­vice, women have not been pre­vent­ed from pray­ing and writ­ing. It would have been nice if Ben David had includ­ed the per­spec­tive of at least one of them.

Robin K. Levin­son is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and author of a dozen books, includ­ing the Gali Girls series of Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren. She cur­rent­ly works as an assess­ment spe­cial­ist for a glob­al edu­ca­tion­al test­ing orga­ni­za­tion. She lives in Hamil­ton, NJ.

Discussion Questions