Intro to Prayer
By Rabbi Ephraim D. Becker
Why do we repeat our prayers?
To get us started we must take a look at
the purpose of Jewish prayer.
Prayer is an opportunity for me to review my sense of G-dís Providence.
That means that when I pray I judge my own awareness that all things are
in G-dís Hands, and at the same time I attempt, through prayer, to
strengthen that awareness and come away from prayer more connected to the
reality of G-dís Providence. Indeed, the Hebrew word líhitpalel (to pray)
actually means to judge oneself. I am meant to come away from the prayer
experience more aware of the reality that I cannot see with my physical
eyes, after having assessed my need to increase that awareness. To pray
(in common parlance, to daven) is to check my internal state of
connectedness and then to focus on building my connection to the reality
that it is all G-d. Prayer could then be viewed as an exercise in Emunah
(belief in G-d) and Bitachon (faith in His Providence).
As such, prayer is not directly related to requesting our needs. However,
and hereís the link, through a focus on our needs we are able to increase
our awareness of Providence. Thinking about G-d and our awareness of His
Providence can be an exercise in fantasy and self-deception when it is not
grounded. When we ground our awareness in a specific life-need we bring
it all down to earth. When I think about G-d in the context of the
visceral experience of need I am more readily able to work on sensing G-d
in my reality, not just in my theory. In essence, then, my need is a
vehicle for enhancing my prayer; not the reason for it. The essential
requirement to pray exists so long as there is a physical, apparently
cause-and-effect reality which distracts me from the unseen reality of G-
dís Hand. In a word, we need prayer so long as we live in a physical
world and the needs of our world help us ground our spiritual reality.
It should then be clear that by asking G-d for the recovery of a loved
one, or for finding a mate, or for sustenance (or for the Mets to do
passably well this season) we are not simply submitting our request to
Santa Claus (which need not be done in triplicate) with whom we seek no
relationship but only the fulfillment of our wants and needs; we are
discovering ourselves and our relationship with HaShem. How many times do
I need to do that? Well, I think it is fair to say that so long as there
are needs in my world I will have the opportunity to transform those needs
into a relationship with HaShem. When you think about it, youíll discover
that the needs exist for precisely that reason. Not only can I use a need
to increase my awareness of HaShemís Providence, but perhaps my friend or
loved one who prays on my behalf can do so, as well. Thatís a very
efficient use of a need!
Go ahead and daven over and over. Locate yourself every day on the
continuum of awareness of HaShem (ranging from being caught up in cause-
and-effect physicality all the way to a keen sense that it is all Him) and
use your needs to intensify your awareness.
May HaShem grant the wishes of your heart.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Ephraim D. Becker, Ph.D. and Torah.org.
Rabbi Becker is the Dean of the Brand Seminary - Nesivos Chaya in Jerusalem, Israel. He lectures in Israel and abroad, and maintains a counseling practice in Jerusalem.