Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 22 March 2014 / 20 Adar II 5774

Prayer Fundamentals - Part 7

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

“I believe with complete faith that everything the Holy One blessed be He does is for the good.”

No Prayer Goes Unanswered

A discussion about prayer would not be complete without addressing the fact that at times it seems as though our prayers go unanswered. If G-d truly loves and cares for us, then why does He hold back the good things we request of Him?

Hidden Kindness

One time, Rabbi Akiva was traveling with a donkey, a rooster, and a candle for light. When he arrived at a particular town he searched for lodging but was unsuccessful in finding any. He said to himself, “All that the Holy One, blessed be He, does is for the good.” Thus, he spent the night in the field. A lion came and ate the donkey. Next came a cat and ate the rooster. Finally, a strong wind came and extinguished the candle.

In the face of all of these hardships, Rabbi Akiva persisted in his belief that all that G-d does is for the good. On that very same night, soldiers attacked the city and captured all of its inhabitants. Had the candle remained lit, the soldiers would have noticed its light. Had the donkey and rooster remained alive, they would have made noise and attracted the soldiers’ attention. Rabbi Akiva proclaimed, “Did I not say that all that the Holy One, blessed be He, does is for the good?”

Since man’s vision can sometimes be short–term and limited mostly to the immediate physical benefits of this world, he sometimes fails to sense the inherent good in that which G-d does for him. As a result of this lack of enlightenment, people interpret a lack of overt good as their being overlooked or punished by G-d. The truth, however, is that even the less positive experiences of life are from G-d, and therefore in essence good. This good, although sometimes hidden today, will be revealed in the future.

The above principle can be applied to prayer. G-d not only listens to all our prayers, He, in fact, answers them as well. However, this doesn’t mean that we will get everything we ask for. Would an expert doctor listen to his patient’s plan for treatment when deciding on a method of remedy? Ultimately, G-d knows what is best for us, and that is what He will give us.

So what do we get in return for our prayers?

When we pray to G-d, we draw closer to Him, gaining favor in His eyes. Although sometimes we may still need to take our “medicine”, with the merit of our prayer G-d will make it sweeter. That is G-d’s answer to our prayers.

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