Prayer; beyond the words
Translated and adapted by Rafaella Levine
Moshe (Moses) was storming the heavens. Five hundred fifteen times he begged the Almighty to grant him entrance into Israel, the land of his dreams. The Almighty said no. Gazing from a distance on the summit of Mount Nebo was the closest Moshe got.
Did his prayer fail? Was it futile?
Or is there value in those five hundred fifteen prayers, beyond the response he was looking for?
Prayer is the linchpin in our personal relationship with G-d. It’s how we stay connected.
The mitzvah to pray is expressed in the Torah as “to serve Him with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 11:13). Our sages teach, “What is service of the heart? This is prayer.”
G-d is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-encompassing. Human beings are, well, mortal, limited, and imperfect. And yet, there is nothing our Creator wants more than a connection with us, as a parent longs for a meaningful relationship with his or her child.
This is the innovation of religion: despite the vast distance between man and his Creator, man can approach Him at all times and pour out his heart.
There is even a Divine promise that man’s prayers are heard, as long as they are heartfelt. “Hashem is close to those who call Him, to all those who call to Him in truth” (Psalms 145:18).
What is “calling out in truth”? What is a true prayer?
True prayer is the sound that emanates from the authentic recognition that there is no alternative. That the only source is the Almighty, and the key is prayer. If we think there is another way to get well, have financial stability, or accomplish our dreams, we aren’t connecting on that deep, meaningful level. The prayer hasn’t touched us. Only when we have experienced that our facilities are nil without the Almighty’s help, then can we really call out to Him.
Prayer is the practical application of faith, emunah, in the Almighty. It is the automatic result of understanding that the Creator alone is the sole source of everything. The doctor, our boss, our talents and brainstorms, are all emissaries to carry out the Divine plan, but the address for all our needs is the Almighty.
Each time we turn to G-d, formally or in our own words, the act of prayer comprises another page in our personal book on faith. If we pay attention to what we are doing, what we are saying, Whom we are addressing, we will be teaching ourselves to trust the Almighty as the source for filling our needs. As the prayer rises upwards, it sinks into our hearts as well, seeping it with faith and trust in the Creator.
Our faith is spiritual sustenance. Soul-food. We know on many levels that taking care of ourselves does not end with breakfast and exercise. A healthy human being is one who cares for his spirit as well. Prayer is spiritual eating. And there actually are three set meal times, called Shacharit, the morning prayers; Mincha, the afternoon service; and Maariv (or Ar’vit), in the evening or night. Where the analogy falls flat though, is that when it comes to soul-food, the more snacking, the better. Conversing with G-d all day long keeps us spiritually fit.
You already have the seed of faith within your heart. Part of you is longing for closeness with the Creator. Your prayers cultivate this desire and at the same time, fulfill it. Take care of yourself; take the relationship a step further, today.