Prayers: Answered and Otherwise

If God is good, wants only our good, and is all-knowing, then why do we need to pray?

Let’s Continue Our Discussion …

Why, actually, do we need tefila?

Do we need to update Hashem about what we might need? Certainly not.

And if we truly believe in Hashem’spure goodness, omnipotence and omniscience, then wouldn’t the proper approach be to just sit back and put everything in God’s hands? Our task, it would seem, is to learn to be always appreciative, and, even if we don’t immediately see the good in God’s hashgacha to nonetheless embrace the reality that He has an infinitely larger and deeper perspective, and from that all-encompassing context, knows just what is good for us, even if it’s not clear to us. Our prayers, it would seem, are like a child trying to give advice to a renown surgeon in the middle of a complex surgery.

The Key is Partnership

Everything we have just said is true, yet it totally misses the point.

The foundational principle underlying all of creation is that God wants us to be his partners in determining how He guides and steers the world.

Shutaf b’maaseh breishit.

Partners in creation. Partners with God.

Nothing less.

Whether it’s our hishtadlut, our efforts to make a living, or our Torah, mitzvot, and tefila; in both the physical and the spiritual realm, we have a seminal and substantive role to play in how life and history unfold. Everything good in this world is a direct result of ratzon Hashem, God’s Will. However, God arranged things such that His desire for ultimate good would be revealed in this world via the ratzon—the inner will and desire—of Am Yisroel. The ratzon of Am Yisroel is the pathway for revealing the good that is hidden, but already present, is Hashem’s reality.

This can be compared to an apartment building that has great resevoirs of water on its roof. However, despite the presence of an abundance of water, in order to access it, each tenant needs to hook up, operate, and maintain his own piping system. That’s the role of the Jewish nation: To draw down an abundantly available flow of blessing and goodness into this world.

Yes, the drawing of heavenly goodness into this world is in our hands, and so too, the opposite. Our role, and the power and responsibility with which Hashem has endowed us, is breathtaking.

And So, Prayer

Yes, we stand and pray and beseech.

But we need to think carefully and deeply about what is actually taking place in our prayers.

What is taking place in prayer is not our trying to convince or cajole God of anything. Rather, what we are striving to do is align our will, our ratzon, with His Ratzon. When we pray for geula, the Beit Hamikdosh, and for true peace in the world, what we are saying is this: “Hashem, we know what You want, and we are clearly, and whole-heartedly stating that we want exactly the same things.” In those precious and holy moments, when prayer bursts forth from the most honest depths of our being, then our will becomes intermingled with Hashem’s Will. We become like one pristine pipe fitting coupling with another and enabling the free flow of heavenly influence.

In prayer, we never try to bend God’s Will, rather, in aligning our will with His, we express that in truth no other desire exists in this world other than the pure desire for good; God’s ever-present good, and ever-present desire to unleash that good, and our matching desire for the revelation of the good. Those moments of prayer-inspired aligned will fill our hearts with a profound sense of love and closeness, d’veikut.

And so, tefila …

Tefila, prayer, elevates us to a state of remarkable intimacy—full partnership—with God. It’s as if our desire, our hearts, become an extension of God’s “heart”—ratzon—so to speak. He is good, wants only good, and ultimately only does good, and we become like Him in a very deep and real way.

Not All Prayers Are Answered

At the same time, not all prayers, regardless of purity and sincerity, are answered, at least not in the way we had hoped and expected. Hashem’s perspective is beyond vast and takes everything, everything, into account. While we may become pure conduits for the revelation of Hashem’s good, the manner in which that goodness is manifest takes into account far more than we can grasp or imagine and therefore may express itself in ways that are above our comprehension.

Imagine that one genuinely, purely, and from the depths prays for health, or parnassa or something else, and it doesn’t come to pass. This doesn’t mean that the co-mingling ratzon went for naught. Without a doubt, such prayers, such an act of true partnership, cannot go “unanswered.” Those prayers create a powerful force for goodness, though that force of goodness may be redirected to a destination other than the one uttering the prayer could not have known was waiting for just such a holy force, energy, and flow.

In such instances, we thank Hashem for the opportunity to partner with Him in bringing a shefa of goodness into the world, and acknowledge our trust that the goodness is unfolding in the best way possible. Additionally, there are times when Hashem delays the revelation of goodness for the sole reason of being able to reveal even greater goodness in the future. This is the inner meaning of goodness, tova v’chesed Hashem, that may need to be wrapped within din. Din, judgement, being the need to withhold immediate good for a greater good. Indeed, for these reasons, chasidei elyon, people of the most lofty spirituality, thank God for both prayers that are answered, and those that aren’t.

May we merit to pray in purity, sincerity and an with honest desire for only good, ultimate good.


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