Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 15 February 2014 / 15 Adar I 5774

Prayer Fundamentals - Part 3

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His name, listens to the prayers and requests of His people. (Thirteen Principles of Faith)

For a person to truly turn to G-d in prayer, he must not only accept the fact that G-d exists, but that G-d also listens to the words of his heart.

Unfortunately, for many, prayer is looked at as an obligation. People are always saying, “I have to bench (recite the grace after meals)”. I need to say Mincha (the afternoon service). Although rabbinically a person is obligated to recite several prayers a day, one must remember that those prayers represent a dialogue with G-d. Racing through all of the required words without realizing that one is talking to G-d hardly constitutes a proper prayer. If someone really believed that G-d was listening to his prayers, would he pray this way?

Words from the Heart, Enter the Heart

G-d doesn’t need anything from us, especially our empty words, but in His kindness He accepts our prayers when they are from the heart as the Sages teach, “The Merciful One desires the heart (of man)”. Accordingly, the Sages call prayer “the service of the heart”.

Let us compare to a man who has just been told by his marital counselor or rabbi that he needs to spend more time with his wife; making sure to listen to her more.

What are the chances of his succeeding in rekindling the affection he and his wife once shared for each other if he simply goes through the motions without putting any heart into it? If his attitude towards his counselor’s instructions is one of obligation it will be felt by his wife. If he is not sincere with his actions, then they will not render the result he wants. In fact, it can make things worse. No one wants to be a burden. If a woman feels that her husband doesn’t love her and doesn’t want to give of himself, she will eventually grow to resent whatever her husband does for her, closing herself off from him entirely.

When, however, his actions are from the heart, then even if he isn’t the best romancer or the funniest guy, his wife will be touched by the effort, and certainly reciprocate her genuine feelings of care and concern.

The same is true with our relationship with G-d. When our words are sincere, then G-d will respond accordingly. When we turn to Him in prayer, we must realize that we are fulfilling our part of the relationship which G-d fashioned between us. He in His infinite kindness and patience is always there for us, ready to listen. One should, however, ask oneself, “Am I ready to do the talking.”

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