The communal participation, the open and warm environment, the adherence to tradition and a commitment to progressive values are what exemplify our prayer
Prayer is not entertainment. Prayer is a discipline, like music, like running or mediation. If you are here to observe you will probably be bored.
Praying is like playing jazz. The more you pray, the richer your prayer becomes. You can pray alone, but the exciting things happen with fellow prayers. It helps to know and trust the others, too (although you learn a lot when you pray with new people). Some services are traditional, others creative. Some synagogues are formal, others less so. The Jewish service is built around a set of spiritual themes. Sometimes we all pray in harmony, other times we each pray at our own rhythm, at our own volume.
The siddur is a framework, like the page of notes in front of the jazz player. If you choose to use these words, know that if you read the prayers, you are not praying. One should try and reach a proper balance between the pray-er and the prayer, and between the pray-er and other prayers.
Know that according to tradition, praying includes both music and silence. Try and relax from all tension. We all come to synagogue with mixed feelings. We are aware of these feelings in prayer - we do not try to escape from them. We let our feelings influence our prayers and our prayers influence our feelings.
Most Jews walk into a ‘prayer-session’ totally unprepared. They don’t know the music (the prayerbook), they haven’t been trained into the musical (spiritual) system and they haven’t practiced in ages. They expect a ‘high’ without knowing the inner logic of Jewish prayer.
If you don’t know the siddur well, start by trying to find words you feel comfortable with. We can find in almost every word in the siddur associations from the Bible, Talmud, Midrash and Kabbala. The more you are tuned into these connections, the richer the prayer can be.
The ‘band’ meets (at least) every week. It could well be that the words or melodies are not familiar to you. Remember, any discipline is difficult at the beginning; practice enables you to feel free.
Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman