Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 2 January 2016 / 21 Tevet 5776

The Power of Prayer

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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The extraordinary power of prayer is so great that its ability to annul a negative decree is even greater than ma’asim tovim, good deeds. It is thus taught in the Talmud, “Prayer is greater than good deeds. For no one had more good deeds than Moshe, yet he was only answered after he prayed (Berachot 32b; see also Pnei Yehoshua).”

Here are the words of Rabbi Yosef Albo in his monumental work Sefer Ha’Ikarim (4:20) regarding the power of prayer: Prayer contains within it a unique and wondrous power in that it helps for all things. We find that it helps to heal the sick, as it did for King Chizkiyahu, as the verse states, “I have heard your prayer… Behold I will heal you, and on the third day you will ascend to the House of G-d (Kings II, 20:5).”

It can also help to save one from death, for when the Jewish People sinned with the Golden Calf, G-d said to Moshe, “Leave Me alone that I may destroy them (Devarim 9:14),” and they were saved by the prayer of Moshe. So too, the prophet Yonah was saved when he prayed from inside the stomach of the fish (Yonah 2:2, 11).

Prayer also has the power to help barren women become pregnant, as we see from the prayers of Yitzchak that were answered by G-d. So too, Chana became pregnant through her prayers. We find that prayer also helps against famine, “There was a famine in the days of David for three years. And David entreated G-d (Shmuel II 21:1).”

For war as well, prayer helps, as we see in the war against Sanchariv, “King Chizkiyahu and Yishayahu son of Amotz the prophet prayed and cried out to Heaven. And G-d sent an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, captain and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria (Divrei Ha’Yamim II, 34:20-21).” We thus find that prayer is like an all-inclusive cure, which helps for all sorts of sickness.

After hearing about these great miracles accomplished through prayer, one should not be discouraged, feeling that such results are impossible for him to achieve. Rather, he should do his best to pray wholeheartedly. One must remember, only G-d can measure the true value of our prayers. If one's words are sincere, he can trust that G-d will certainly accept his prayers, just as a father hears the cries of his beloved child. You may not always see a miracle, but you will always be heard. And above all, G-d is always able to deliver.

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