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The Need To Pray
David Ordman
Question - - 02/28/2013
Does G-d need our prayers?
Answer by Arachim
Many people think that it's right to pray only for something major, for instance, when someone suffers a heart attack, or undergoes an operation.
This is not the Jewish concept of prayer. Just as a child asks his father and mother not only for a month at camp or a new bike, but also for a piece of candy, so, too, should we ask G-d for all the things we need and want, great and small.
The Jewish concept of prayer is not just a way of getting something. In Hebrew, the verb "to pray" - lehitpalel - is reflexive. It's an action that is meant to have an effect on the one who prays. Praying is something I do to myself. It sets up a relationship between me and G-d, who loves us as a father loves his only child.
What is more, even if we haven't "placed a call" to G-d for years and years, He doesn't get insulted. He's still there, waiting for the day when circumstances will move us to pick up the receiver, and dial His number. Unlike a father or mother who has been ignored, Our Heavenly Father won't ask where we've been for the last ten years. He'll listen to us when we call Him, because He is no less anxious to forgive us than we are to be forgiven.
Why pray for our ordinary, everyday needs? There are several benefits we derive from developing this as a personal habit.
First of all, it helps us to ingrain our recognition that everything comes from Above, even hitting the green light at the corner, or finding just the right recipe for a new, tempting, easy dessert. If we cultivate this awareness of Who's really in charge Up There, it makes it easier and more natural to ask for help, whether for a new home, a good job, good health, or just a little favor that is important at the moment.
Imagine someone who grew up in Downsville, where he had a best friend, named Dave, for over ten years. Later he moved away and took a job far from home. With time, he got so involved in his new life that he never picked up a phone to Dave. After a year of silence, it's not so easy say "Hi, Dave! This is Eric. How's everything with you?"
If it's been two or three years, it's even harder to break the ice. After ten years of silence, Eric has his job cut out for him, and he'll no doubt give it some thought how to go about making the first call. If he takes the first step wisely, and tells Dave how nice it is to speak to him again, chances are that his old pal will respond in kind.
The upshot is that once you establish the lines of communication, it's a good idea to keep them open. Whatever it is that you need right now, go ahead and ask for it. Nothing's too big or too small. As you slip a cake into the oven, pray that it comes out just right. As you pick up the receiver to place an important call, pray that Heaven will put just the right words at the tip of your tongue.
Basically, we find there are three parts to the prayers our Sages formulated for us:
1. We start out with praise of G-d, not because He needs our compliments, but because it helps us to realize just Whom we're approaching. (We wouldn't burst into the boss's office and ask for a raise, or even a favor, without first saying hello and thanking him for past kindnesses.)
2. Next, we make our request.
3. Then we say thank you.
Just as we like it when others show appreciation of what we've done for them, so, too, should we show appreciation for everything G-d has done for us. At first, it may just be a general thank-you, such as "Thank You, G-d, for everything you've done for me in the past."
After we've been practicing for a while, we get into the swing of things. We might add, spontaneously: "It was so nice to meet so-and-so at just the right time last night." Or, "I was so happy that the boss liked my idea for a new campaign. Thank You for putting the idea into my head."
The more pressure you're under, the more heartfelt the prayer. Caught up in a traffic jam on the West Side Highway with only 15 minutes until your big appointment with a new client?
Try prayer. It needn't be fancy, just something like "G-d, I know everything's ultimately in Your hands. Please help me to get there on time, and to find a parking space right away, so I won't be late! Nothing's too hard for You. Thank You for helping me in the past, and I hope I'll merit Your help again today. "
Of course, we can't expect miracles; as a rule, G-d likes things to go "naturally." (ADD LINK TO "MIRACLES AND NATURE") As a rule, it's good to start praying before we need the miracle. But if we've done all we can, on our part, we may pray for a supernatural intervention, as well.
In short, it's not foolish or presumptuous to ask for G-d's help in small things. On the contrary, that's the best way to start building a relationship with our Maker. Prayer reinforces our awareness that ultimately, the reins are not in our hands. "Man proposes and G-d disposes."
And, sometimes, we'll be put to the test: Our prayer may be answered, but our request denied. At such a time, Heaven will be waiting to see how we respond.
Will we rebel? Grumble? Or will we humbly acknowledge our disappointment, and tell ourselves that it's all for the best. The Manufacturer knows His product, and He knows what's best for us. What we want is not always what we need or what's good for us. Perhaps G-d liked our prayer and wants us to speak to Him more, so He's not answering us right away.
Practice makes perfect, with praying just like everything else. The more we pray, the more aware we become of the powerful effect it can have on our lives.
Our challenge is to drive home our awareness that whatever Heaven sends our way, it's just what we needed. It's a goal to work for over a span of a lifetime, one prayer at a time.
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