Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 15 August 2015 / 30 Av 5775

Praying In Any Language

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

One may ask: If G-d had intended to give Adam a mate, why did G-d first create Adam alone?

Adam, the first man, was created with the full awareness of G-d’s existence and providence over the world. Adam was originally alone. Therefore, his first and only relationship was with his Maker. He used the abilities bestowed upon him to communicate solely with G-d. And so, with the realization that all things depended on Divine assistance, Adam’s very first act was to pray.

Although today the world is abundantly populated, with worldwide communication at its highest point, there are moments, such as during prayer, when a person must see himself as if he is alone in the world ― just as Adam was. It is thus taught in connection to the verse, “Avraham was one,” that he saw himself as if he were alone with G-d. Through this mode of worship, Avraham was able to build an eternal connection with his Creator. He rose early each morning, with the rising sun, to pray to G-d. In Avraham’s merit the Jewish People have a share in this wondrous connection, praying Shachrit, the Morning Prayer, each day.

The Shelah Hakadosh explains that although the Men of the Great Assembly composed fixed prayers that are the same for all to say, each person should pray to G-d spontaneously for his needs. For every endeavor one should therefore pray to G-d, expressing himself in any way he can. After praying, one can engage in his endeavors, trusting that G-d will help him.

In Chassidic writings it is taught that one should make sure to pray to G-d in his own language. This is how prayer began. The main form of prayer was an expression of the heart before God in a person’s own words.

The Rambam speaks of this in the beginning of his “Laws of Prayer”. He explains that people originally prayed in their own words, each according to their ability. This continued until around the beginning of the Common Era, which is when the formal order of prayer, which is still used today, was introduced by the Men of the Great Assembly.

But even according to the law, the original form of prayer is still of the utmost importance. Even though we follow the order of worship ordained, personal prayer as it originally existed is still extremely beneficial. All are thus encouraged to make a habit of praying to G-d from the depths of the heart, using in one’s own words, in whatever language is best known by the individual. Ask G-d to make you truly worthy of serving Him. This is the essence of prayer.

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