Getting Our Attention

Yael Eckstein  |  August 1, 2023

Little boys sitting around a table being read to

Why should you be beaten anymore?
     Why do you persist in rebellion?
 Your whole head is injured,
     your whole heart afflicted.
— Isaiah 1:5

Prayer in Judaism is defined as “the work of the heart,” which profoundly changes the nature of prayer from one of entreating God to an act that transforms who we are—not what God does. These devotions focus on different facets of prayer and what lessons we can learn about the power of our prayers.

Getting children to listen can be a struggle. I often repeat the same phrase, each time with a more aggressive tone, until my kids listen. I’m sure most parents can relate!

“Good morning, sweetie, time to get out of bed,” I begin gently. “Honey, we have to get up,” I continue, with a shake. Next, I pull the blanket off and say louder, “Get up now,” and finally, I yell, “Get out of bed already!” It’s the last thing I want to do, but sometimes it feels like the only way to get their attention.

Our Heavenly Father experiences the same frustration when we don’t heed His gentle calls. A woman once came to me in tears. “My mother is sick, my husband lost his job, and I crashed the car. Why would God throw all these challenges at me at once?” Jewish tradition gives a few potential explanations for this “when it rains, it pours” phenomenon. The one I relate to most is that God is trying to get our attention.

Getting Our Attention

But what is God trying to tell us? In our daily prayers, we say: “Bring us back, our Father, to Your Torah, and bring us near, our King, to your service, and influence us to return in perfect repentance before You. Blessed are You, God, who desires repentance.” The Jewish sages explain this repetitive prayer in this way.

First, we ask God to gently steer us back to Him. If we don’t get the message, we ask Him to bring us closer in a more forceful manner. If we still can’t hear Him, we pray that He exert His influence—even if it means pulling off the proverbial blanket. Sometimes, when it feels like everything we do is failing, it’s because God is trying to get our attention and steer us in another direction—one that leads back to Him.

Isaiah scolded Israel for straying from God: “Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.” God tried so many times to get their attention, but the children of Israel only got the message after being brutally exiled from their homeland.

Your Turn:

Open your ears to the gentle messages that God is sending you all the time.