While wandering around Israel, I noticed a group of youths asking the public to recite a psalm for the soldiers. Ok, I recited a Psalm.
I assumed these prayers were fulfilling what I saw as the traditional role, meditation, asking for individual and collective guidance, and asking and hoping for providential action which makes the world more right. But the folks were rather insistent on certain bureaucratic details, for instance that I recite a psalm that had not been read, and in clarifying why, in discussions, I slowly began to understand that they considered the action of reciting all the psalms, once completed, to directly lead to divine intervention. They believe that if they recite the prayers properly, the bombs and missiles will get stopped.
I was freaked out by this, as this sort of supernatural-magic kind of religion seemed to me to have been put to rest at least by the medieval era by Maimonides and others, perhaps earlier. But in later discussions with an ultra-orthodox fellow, I was pointed to a bunch of Rabbinical commentary, which I skimmed, which in an elliptical style he claimed gives support to the idea of Psalm-magic. The commentary was in flowery Hebrew, and it was pretty vague.
It was not clear to me that this was a part of contemporary Judaism. I am aware that the actions of prayer are supposed to be meaningful, but I had assumed that the mechanism of prayer was neither considered a quid-pro-quo, nor supernatural magic stemming from precisely completing a precise ritual, but providential actions and individual and collective guidance stemming from a common faith.
So what gives? Is this type of Psalm-magic universally considered part of Judaism?