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Why Pray
By Michelle Fuchs, EYAHT alumna

“Now no tree of the field was yet on the earth and no herb of the field had sprouted, for H-Shem G-d had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil.”

This verse in Bereishis, chapter 2, line 5, describes the state of the earth of the 6th day before man was created. Although vegetation had been “brought forth” from the earth on the 3rd day, it remained just beneath the earth’s surface and did not emerge until the 6th day. Why? “For H-Shem G-d had not sent rain upon the earth” – and without rain there could be no vegetation. And the reason H-Shem did not send rain was because there was no one to appreciate the need of rain. Rashi comments that when Adam was created, he recognised that life could not survive without it. He prayed, and rain fell, causing trees and vegetation to spring forth.

When H-Shem gifted the world to Adam – He presented him with the keys. The keys to unlocking the cosmos is prayer.

H-SHEM says to us “I look forward to hearing from you, My beloved child. And that is the reason you will have much to sing about, and much to ask for.”

There is no force as central to our lives as prayer. It is the most powerful vehicle for spiritual growth, material success, health, security – everything that truly matters to us. In times of crisis, when H-Shem’s mercy and protection are so clearly all that stand between us and the forces of chaos in the world, tefilla is our only truly useful weapon and our only reliable source of comfort as well.

For far too many people, however, it is an insufficiently understood vehicle. We pray each day, but without full awareness of what our prayers really are, how to bring out our full potential, and where they can take us.

When one prays, he should keep in mind that our welfare and well-being depend on our prayer, and that H-Shem hears our prayers and responds according to our needs.

But why is it necessary to ask H-Shem for things? After all, H-Shem knows exactly what we require. The answer is, that our very prayer brings us closer to H-Shem, makes us recognise and feel we depend upon Him, and helps us to be thankful to Him. Prayer changes our situation for the better.

The Torah states “Serve Him with all your heart” (Devarim 11:13). Rav Bachai comments on this, The Sages said “Which is the service of the heart? It is prayer. The power of prayer is so great that it can even change nature, save people from life-threatening dangers, and abolish a bad decree that was declared upon a person. That prayer has the power to change nature, we learn in Bereishis, 25:21, as it says, “And Yitzchak pleaded to G-d opposite his wife”. Yitzchak and his wife Rivka were childless for almost 20 years and were fervently praying for children. The Sages tell us why were the Mothers of Israel barren? Because H-Shem yearns for the prayer of the righteous. The Sages are explaining to us that the fact that the Mothers were barren was just so that they would pray, and when they prayed, their nature – their actual physiology – changed. Even with their righteousness Yitzchak and Rivka would never have had children had they not prayed, for only through prayer was their nature changed. This means that the entire existence of the the Jewish people is the result only of the power of prayer.

Rav Yosef Albo says a person is changed through tefilla. As he reaches a higher spiritual level, he develops a higher capacity for receiving H-Shem’s blessings. Prayer doesn’t (so to speak) change H-Shem’s mind, it changes us – and that changes everything.

The Maharal offers the following insight: when praying with sincerity, a person relinquishes his very being to H-Shem by humbly recognising his own inadequacy and affirming his trust in H-Shem’s all-encompassing power. This process brings a person to the highest possible level of closeness to H-Shem, thus achieving the core purpose of prayer. At the spiritual heights newly attained through tefilla, a person may no longer need to suffer affliction. This is what gives tefilla the ability to eliminate sickness and suffering.

A person does not need the ability to predict the future, he only need internalize the understanding that everything is given to him by H-Shem moment by moment. Even the aspects of life that are in perfect working order today may fall into disrepair in a day, or even in a moment. However, one who prays to be spared from trouble before it  even occurs, builds  the most effective barrier possible between himself and the gravest difficulties. Salvation is far easier to achieve before affliction arrives.

Prayer can pluck us out of the hardships in which we feel stuck, and open each person’s life to blessings that are far beyond his due.