Jewish prayers, poems and readings

Prayer takes many different forms, and is a frequent way that we express our faith. It can take the form of meditation, individual or communal prayer, responsive prayers, interacting with Creation, silent or spoken out loud, using words, images or music – or any way that you find helpful to connect with God.

Below are a few examples of prayers or readings from Jewish traditions. All were written at a particular point in human history, and you might find it helpful to write or adapt one for your community:

All translations from Mishkan T’filah World Union Edition.


Prayers   Poems and readings

Ma’ariv Aravim

BLESSED are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe,
who speaks the evening into being,
whose wisdom opens heaven’s gates,
whose understanding changes times and seasons,
and arranges the stars in their heavenly courses according to plan.
You are Creator of day and night,
rolling light away from darkness and darkness from light,
transforming day into night and distinguishing one from the other.
Adonai Tz’vaot is Your name.
Ever-living God, may You reign continually over us into eternity.
Blessed are You, Eternal One, who brings on evening.


Yotzeir Or

PRAISED ARE YOU, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe,
Creator of light and darkness, who makes peace and fashions all things.
In mercy, You illumine the world and those who live upon it.
In Your goodness You daily renew creation.
How numerous are Your works, O God!
In wisdom, You formed them all, filling the earth with Your creatures.
Be praised, Eternal our God, for the excellent work of Your hands,
and for the lights You created; may they glorify You.
Shine a new light upon Zion, that we all may swiftly merit its radiance.
Praised are You, Eternal One, Creator of all heavenly lights.


Hatov Shimcha

how majestic is Your presence in all the earth!
You have stamped Your glory upon the heavens.
When I consider Your heavens—
the work of Your fingers—
the moon and the stars that You have established,
what are we, that you are mindful of us?
What are we mortal beings, that you care for us?
But You have made us little less than divine
and crowned us with glory and honor!
You have given us dominion among the work of Your hands,
setting all things under our feet:
sheep and cattle alike,
and the beasts of the wild;
the birds of the heavens,
and the fish of the sea;
all that travel the paths of the deep.
O Sovereign God,
how majestic is Your presence in all the earth!


For a change of seasons

CREATOR, ARTIST, Author of the
World; what joy to sense the seasons turn,
the colors change, the flowers bloom, the
trees hum, the music of birds, the caress of
the winds, the stories of clouds.
The beauty of Your world makes my own
spirit dance; as I watch time passing, I
know that You are eternal, the Centre of
Life, the Creator of all things, and I know
that there is beauty far beyond my imaginings,
and that all of us, Your children,
Your creatures, Your plantings — live to
honor You, and sing your praise with
every breath.

God saw all that had been made,
and behold it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)


Morning blessing

Shafts of bright sun, haze of mist
And there again a perfect bow –
God's palette;
The spectrum of promise:
Never again will God bring a flood
To end humanity,
To start anew.

But roll back the scroll,
Read the black fire again
Carefully; read the white,
The unwritten.
Our task:
To take care
Of God's world.
Between the letters,
The warning of our failure.
God will not flood the earth.
But we, who thought our tiny choices
Would have no effect on this world...
We have left it late to awaken.

The sun still shines,
The haze of mist
And there again –
No need for human hand –
The perfect bow
God gave.

Mishkan T'Filah, A Progressive Siddur, p.472
World Union for Progressive Judaism Edition


Prayers of our community

O Guardian of life and liberty,
May our nation always merit Your protection. 
Help us remember those who have lived in this land before us,
And those who have made it their home in more recent times.
Teach us to give thanks for what we have
By sharing it with those who are in need.
Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation,
And alert to the care of the earth.
May we never be lazy in the work of peace;
May we honour those who have died in defense of our ideals.
Grant our leaders wisdom and forebearance.
May they govern with justice and compassion.
Help us to appreciate one another,
And to respect the many ways that we may serve You.
May our homes be safe from affliction and strife,
And our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.

Mishkan T'Filah, A Progressive Siddur, p.112
World Union for Progressive Judaism Edition


Kiddush, evening

I begin with a prayer of gratitude
For all that is holy in my life.
God needs no words, no English or Hebrew,
No semantics and no services. But I need them.
Through prayer, I can feel my inner strength,
My inner purpose,
My inner joy, capacity to love.
As I reach upward in prayer,
I sense these qualities in my Creator.
To love God is to love each other,
To work to make our lives better.
To love God is to love the world God created
And to work to perfect it.
To love God is to love dreams of peace and joy
That illumine all of us,
And to bring that vision to life.

Mishkan T'Filah, A Progressive Siddur, p.125
World Union for Progressive Judaism Edition


Shabbat Morning I, Hodaah

For the expanding grandeur of Creation,
Worlds known and unknown, galaxies beyond galaxies,
Filling us with awe and challenging our imaginations,
Modim anachnu lach.

For this fragile planet earth, its times and tides,
Its sunsets and seasons,
Modim anachnu lach.

For the joy of human life, its wonders and surprises,
Its hopes and achievements,
Modim anachnu lach.

For human community, our common past and future hope,
Our oneness transcending all separation, our capacity to work
For peace and justice in the midst of hostility and oppression,
Modim anachnu lach.

For high hopes and noble causes, for faith without fanaticism,
For understanding of views not shared,
Modim anachnu lach.

For all who have labored and suffered for a fairer world,
Who have lived so that others might live in dignity and freedom,
Modim anachnu lach.

For human liberties and sacred rites:
For opportunities to change and grow, to affirm and choose,
Modim anachnu lach.

We pray that we may live not by our fears but by our hopes,
Not by our words but by our deeds.
Blessed are You, Eternal One: Your name is Goodness, and You are worthy of thanksgiving.
Baruch atah, Adonai, hatov shimcha u-l’cha na-eh l’hodot.

Mishkan T'Filah, A Progressive Siddur, p.257
World Union for Progressive Judaism Edition






I’LL LET YOU in on a secret
about how one should pray the sunset prayer.
It’s a juicy bit of praying,
like strolling on grass,
nobody’s chasing you, nobody hurries you.
You walk toward your Creator
with gifts in pure, empty hands.
The words are golden,
their meaning is transparent,
it’s as though you’re saying them
for the first time.
If you don’t catch on
that you should feel a little elevated,
you’re not praying the sunset prayer.
The tune is sheer simplicity,
you’re just lending a helping hand
to the sinking day.
It’s a heavy responsibility.
You take a created day
and you slip it
into the archive of life,
where all our lived-out days are lying together.
The day is departing with a quiet kiss.
It lies open at your feet
while you stand saying the blessings.
You can’t create anything yourself, but you
can lead the day to its end and see
clearly the smile of its going down.
See how whole it all is,
not diminished for a second,
how you age with the days
that keep dawning,
how you bring your lived-out day
as a gift to eternity.

- Jacob Glatstein, tr. Ruth Whitman


All Things Pray

IT IS NOT WE ALONE who pray;
all things pray.
All things pour forth their souls.
The heavens pray, the earth prays,
every creature and every living thing prays.
In all life, there is longing.
Creation itself is but a longing,
a prayer to the Almighty.
What are the clouds, the rising and the setting of the sun,
the soft radiance of the moon, and the gentleness of the night?
What are the flashes of the human mind
and the storms of the human heart?
They are all prayers —
the outpouring of boundless longing for God.


Text – Hebrew Bible

my fair one, come away!
For now the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The blossoms have appeared in the land,
the time of pruning has come;
the song of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The green figs form on the fig tree,
the vines in blossom give off fragrance.
Arise, my darling;
my fair one, come away!

- Song of Songs 2:11-15



as dewdrops bring their blessing:
food for the hungry, healing for the sick.
Let the bare vines be draped with grape blossoms,
as the heavens yield their dew.
Let oases drip with plenty and hills be draped in gladness:
dressed with flowers, in the colours of spring,
singing Your great goodness
as the heavens yield their dew.
Let the trees God made be fed on valley and hill,
the granaries be filled with grain, the vats with wine and oil.
Let every village be joyous and safe
as the heavens yield their dew.
Let those who spend themselves in the study of our faith
shine bright as stars.
You feed the hungry soul, the dry and empty heart,
and fill it with delight
as the heavens yield their dew.
Send Your sweet breeze to renew our life;
restore to its ancient glory the land of our heritage.
You who are good to all:
let the time of redemption come,
and renew our life.
Our God and God of our ancestors,
as dew descends
let light illumine the earth,
let blessing restore the earth,
let joy and gladness abound on the earth,
let song resound on the earth,
and with goodness and sustenance,
deliver us on earth.

- Solomon ibn Gabirol, tr. Chaim Stern



AT TIMES you imagine that you, too, are taking root in the soil that you are
digging; like all that is growing around, you are nurtured by the light of the sun’s rays
with food from heaven. You feel that you, too, live a life in common with the tiniest
blade of grass, with each flower, each tree; that you live deeply in the heart of nature,
rising up from all and growing straight up into the expanse of the world.

- A.D. Gordon



The Rainbow
SHAFTS of bright sun,
haze of mist
and there again
a perfect bow —
God’s palette;
the spectrum of promise:
never again will God bring a flood
to end humanity,
to start anew.
But roll back the scroll,
read the black fire again
carefully; read the white,
the unwritten.
Our task: to take care
of God’s world.
Between the letters,
the warning of our failure.
God will not flood the earth.
But we, who thought our tiny choices
would have no effect on this world . . .
We have left it late to awaken.
The sun still shines,
the haze of mist
and there again —
no need for human hand —
the perfect bow
God gave.

- Yonatan ben Chayim


Know This

each and every shepherd
has a unique melody of their own.
Know this:
every blade of grass
has a unique song of its own.
And from the song of the grass
comes the melody of the shepherd.
How beautiful,
how beautiful and pleasant it is
when one hears their song:
it is very good
to pray among them,
and in joy to serve the Ineffable.
And from the song of the grass
the heart becomes filled
with longing.
And when the heart
is filled with song
and with longing for Eretz Yisrael,
a great light goes forth
from the holiness of the land
upon it.
And from the song of the grass
comes the melody of the heart.

- Naomi Shemer, based on Nachman of Bratslav


Natural Cycle

AS I LOOKED the poplar rose in the shining air
like a slender throat,
and there was an exaltation of flowers,
the surf of apple tree delicately foaming.
All winter, the trees had been
silent soldiers, a vigil of woods,
their hidden feelings
scrawled and became
scores of black vines,
barbed wire sharp against the ice-white sky.
Who could believe then
in the green, glittering vividness of full-leafed summer?
Who will be able to believe, when winter again begins
after the autumn burns down again, and the day is ashen,
and all returns to winter and winter’s ashes,
wet, white, ice, wooden, dulled and dead, brittle and frozen,
who will believe or feel in mind and heart
the reality of the spring and of birth,
in the green warm opulence of summer, and the inexhaustible vitality
and immortality of the earth?

- Delmore Shwartz