Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Power of Prayer

Our sages teach: “The prayer of the tzaddikim is like a pitchfork because it overturns Hashem’s attribute of judgment into mercy.” The Divrei Torah zt”l asks, “Why should prayer effect any change at all? One would think that since Hashem orchestrates events, shouldn’t we just learn to accept His will instead of trying to overturn it?” He answers that since we have been commanded to pray, Hashem’s true will is that we use prayer to change our fate. We can see this in the image of the pitchfork.
A pitchfork is not used to move hay from one place to another, but rather to turn the hay and expose it to the air. Similarly, Hashem sends challenges our way not to make our lives difficult, but so that we will be goaded to turn to Him in prayer and remove the challenges. The heavenly decree is meant to last only as long as it takes us to “turn it over” to mercy through prayer. This sometimes needs to be done many times, just as the hay needs to be turned a number of times before it is dry.
The Chofetz Chaim zt”l writes, “The sole reason for all the difficulties which have come upon us is that we have not prayed enough. If we had prayed more, we would have been answered. The three daily prayers are simply not enough. One should pour out his heart to Hashem with intensity several times a day. The reason why the three regular prayers are not enough is because we are so used to them that it is difficult to say them with intensity. But a prayer from the depths of the heart will surely be answered.”
Rav Nosson of Breslov wrote the same thing long before.
Rav Nachman of Breslov zt”l explained that this is like someone traveling on the highway; since bandits also know the “high road,” he must take precautions. “But one who forges a new path through the wilderness need not fear highwaymen. The regular prayers are the “high road”—easy to travel, but unsafe. Personal prayer is a newly-trod path—no heavenly accusers lie in wait to prevent one from pouring out his heart to Hashem!”

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