Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 20 January 2018 / 4 Shevat 5778

A Testimony of Faith

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

A great king once announced that he would grant any request. Many came with petitions for silver, gold, and high positions, but there was one wise man who made a unique request. He asked for permission to enter the palace and speak to the king three times each day. The king was delighted with this request, seeing that this wise man valued the king’s companionship even more than silver or gold. (Baal Shem Tov)

Some see prayer as a chance to approach G-d with a long list of requests. “Give me health, give me wealth, give me this, give me that, and more.” Is this all that prayer is? A self-centered meditative grab for the good stuff?

Prayer testifies to our faith and trust in G-d as our Provider. In this light we can understand the true point of prayer: Giving G-d what He desires most — our faith and loyalty. Thus, in Shir HaShirim (2:14) G-d proclaims that He desires to hear our sweet voice in prayer.

The Talmudic Sage Rava expounded on the verse, “I loved when G-d would hear the voice of my supplication.” (Tehillim 116:6) The Jewish People said before G-d, “Master of the Universe! When am I beloved to You? When You hear the voice of my supplication.” (Pesachim 118b)

Our prayers endear us to G-d when they are sincere and directed to Him, not in order to get what we want, but to draw close to Him. Our Sages teach us that, above all, G-d desires our hearts. (Sanhedrin 106b; Zohar Parshat Ki Teitzei 281b) This is the essence of prayers: to draw close and establish a connection with G-d.

One who sees “prayer time” as an opportunity to be with G-d rather than as a time to ask for things, or worse, as a burden, gains G-d’s favor and breaks down the walls that normally separate him from his King.

  • Source: “The Power of a Whisper” by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton

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