#BlogElul Day 16: Pray

They say there are no atheists in foxholes.

I’d argue there aren’t any atheists in the datacenter during a weekend 24-hour upgrade either.

Prayer is a powerful force – both for individuals and for communities (and believe me, an IT department is a community). But among the less religiously inclined Technorati, the place of and for prayer is often misunderstood.

Popular culture likes to portray “pray-ers” as people who throw up their hands and “give it to God”. “Sheeple” who are unable or unwilling to take ownership or responsibility for their choices and lives. And I’m sure there are some people who move through life with that mindset.

A story from Torah brings into sharp focus when, where, and how prayer can help:

Jacob was about to meet his estranged brother Esau for the first time in decades. This is the same brother from whom he had stolen the birthright – the inheritance due a firstborn son – as well as the blessing from his father, also meant for the firstborn. There was a lot of history going on here, and word came that Esau was on his way with 400 armed fighting men to meet Jacob and his 4 wives and 13 children.

Jacob first divided his family into 3 groups.

Then he assigned gifts to each of the groups and told them to approach Esau with a little time between groups and give the gifts along with the message that Jacob was coming shortly.

Then he prayed to God for help.

The plan worked – Esau met different members of Jacob’s family and received lavish gifts from each one. And then when Jacob approached, Esau met him with and embrace.

To summarize, Jacob planned, then he prepared, and finally – when all the rest was done, he prayed.

This resonates for me as both an IT professional and a “pray-er”. We make our best plans based on the information at our disposal. We prepare – both for the expected outcome and with mitigation strategies for predicted negative events.

But whether we understand the phrase “Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht” or not, we understand it’s gist.

And in the face of that stark reality, the only thing we can do is pray for the best.