Once again, I have been asked to deliver an invocation every Thursday during the legislative sessions at the Colorado State House of Representatives. My first prayer is the day after tomorrow. When I was approached last year, I wasn't sure that I wanted to do it. I was uncomfortable with the concept of prayer in the political realm. I firmly believed then (and I still do now) that Church/Synagogue and State need to be separate entities. I felt that the act of offering up a prayer in Governmental chambers was inappropriate. Nonetheless, with all of my misgivings, I decided to give it a try.
After a few weeks of writing and delivering these blessings, I began to feel differently about my prayers. I found that many of the people in the House – representatives, clerks, visitors and staff – truly appreciated my words. On several occasions people asked me for copies of my remarks. They told me that those few moments of reflection and contemplation were an important part of their spiritual life and that they helped them to begin their day by centering themselves. My words reminded them of the sacred tasks for which they had been sent to the House in the first place. From a practical perspective, I also knew that my voice could be a counter-balance to other, more fundamentalist types who wanted nothing more than to tear down the sacred barrier between religion and government.
But what truly surprised me was when I discovered that the weekly process of writing a prayer became a powerful tool for my own spiritual practice. The act of writing a prayer that was to be delivered to men and women who had the power to create and enact legislation that could change our society for the better forced me to focus on what was important in my life. Each week I challenged myself to focus on those areas in my life that I felt needed to be strengthened. In my addresses, as I urged the legislators to see the men, women and children whose lives could be impacted by their actions, I too found myself looking harder at every aspect of our society who needed help - whose lives were hanging by a thread and who could be served by creative, bold, thoughtful and decisive legislation.
And so, I ask all of you who might be reading this blog to let me know if there are any topics or themes that you would like me to address in my weekly invocation. I don’t want to be political – that is not my role – but if there are words or thoughts that you would like your elected representatives to hear, let me know. I can’t promise that I will use them – but I certainly will take them to heart.
Rabbi Joe Black