I'm reading a book about Siegmund Warburg, written by Niall Ferguson. In it he describes Warburg's mother, Lucie Warburg, and quotes from Warburg's own memories of her:
Warburg, explaining his mother's approach to religion, wrote:
"In her view, the most important thing in religious things was to believe in a great power above the earthly world and to remain in constant contact with this."
Ferguson picks up the story thus:
"Significantly, the principal function of prayer, in her eyes, was to foster self-criticism. Up until he was thirteen, she prayed with Siegmund every night before he went to sleep, telling him on the eve of his bar mitzvah:
'From now on, my dear boy, you must pray alone in the evening, and you must always ask yourself before you pray what mistakes you have made during the preceding day, or what you could have done better. If a whole number of mistakes or omissions do not at once occur to you, then you must look deeper into yourself, until you have attained the necessary self-knowledge. We all make many mistakes every day, and the most important thing is to be critical of your own mistakes in the most unsparing way. That is the only way to arrive at honest prayer.'"
While some might find it a rather austere way to approach life, it seems to me there is a bracing wisdom to what Lucie Warburg advised.