Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 28 May 2016 / 20 Iyyar 5776

Praying Properly

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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The proper way to approach G-d in prayer is with gentle words of supplication, like one who is in need. One should never make it seem as though his prayers are a burden and he just wants to be finished with them.

According to some poskim, if one did not pray in the above manner, he has not fulfilled his obligation and must pray again (Bach, Eliya Rabbah). However, since there is a machloket (difference of opinion) on this point, one should try to do his best, but in the event that he does not pray in the aforementioned manner he should not pray again, out of concern that the second prayer may constitute blessings in vein. (Pri Megadim)

One should contemplate on the idea that only G-d can answer one's prayers. No creation, not an angel or any of the Heavenly hosts has the power to grant a request if G-d does not will it to be. (Mishneh Berurah)

The students of the Arizal write that when one says the phrase, “ozer dalim — helps the needy” (said just before the Shemoneh Esrei in the morning prayers) he should picture himself as a poor and destitute person. This applies even to someone who is rich, since he may in fact be poor when it comes to mitzvot and good deeds, and therefore unworthy to approach G-d with his requests, if not for His mercy. Also, in the grave, all are considered poor, since one's money can no longer help. (Kaf HaChaim 16:18)

One should never feel that his prayers should be answered just because they were said with proper intention. In fact, this type of attitude can actually make things worse for the worshiper, causing his sins to be recalled. The rationale for this is as follows: by feeling that one deserves to receive his request, he causes his records to be analyzed in Heaven to see if he is worthy. Once “the books have been opened” on one's past deeds, and they are being reviewed, a negative judgment can be rendered, taking into account one’s past sins.

The correct attitude is to rely totally on G-d's kindness, saying in one's heart, “How is it possible for someone as insignificant as me to approach G-d with my requests? He is the King of kings Who rules above all! It is only because of His abundant kindness, which He extends to all of His creations.

The Maharal writes that one shouldn't ask G-d to grant him things only for physical pleasure; instead he should ask G-d to grant him things so he can serve Him better. (Kaf Hachaim)

  • Source: Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 98:3,5)

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