Prayer Essentials

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Come and see how great the lowly of spirit are before the Holy One, Blessed be He…. One whose attitude is humble is regarded as though he brought all the various offerings.… His prayer is not despised by G-d, for it is written: “A broken and crushed heart, O G-d, You will not despise. They cry out and G-d heeds… G-d is close to the broken-hearted.” (Talmud Bavli, Sotah 5b).

One of the functions of a king is to provide for his subjects. Since he is responsible for so many, and resources are often limited, not all will be granted their requests. The king must decide to whom he will be gracious, and who will be turned away. There are times when an appeal for mercy can change the mind of the king, causing him to grant a particular request.

G-d also relates to the world as a king. Accordingly, He takes on the responsibility of caring for all of His creations, providing for their every need, as it is written: “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing”. Although, unlike a human king, G-d's ability to provide is unlimited, not all requests are granted. One must merit His kindness; otherwise, his request may be rejected. From the teaching quoted above, we see that approaching G-d with the right attitude is crucial in helping to arouse His mercy, thereby gaining His favor.

This idea can be illustrated with the following story:

One Yom Kippur morning some time ago, a young boy entered the town shul in the middle of the Yom Kippur prayers. He wanted so badly to join everyone in prayer, but he didn’t know how. In fact, he didn’t even know the entire Alef Beit. As he turned to his left he saw other boys his age who were praying. The boy, feeling helpless, began to cry. With teary eyes, he spoke from the depths of his heart: “Master of the world, I don’t know how to pray, I only know part of the Alef Beit.” He then said the ten letters that he knew and concluded, “Please accept these letters and make them into a prayer. It is all I know.” On the eve following Yom Kippur the town rabbi had a dream. It was revealed to him that the Jewish People were saved from a harsh decree in the merit of that boy’s prayer.

What was the great power behind the young boy’s prayer? It was his broken heart and his feelings of true humility. Such prayer, which we are all capable of achieving, arouses G-d's mercy, and at times, can even save us from harsh decrees.

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