Praying for Smaller Needs: Prayer - General Response on Ask the Rabbi
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Praying for Smaller Needs

We had a discussion in our class in religious school if it's right to ask God to help us with everyday activities, like getting to school safely, doing well on a test, getting a summer job, or getting over a common cold. Some kids felt it's improper; God has bigger things to worry about. They feel that somebody should only pray for things like someone seriously ill, people who lost their homes, or to protect Israel from terrorists.

I thought that it's okay to ask God for anything, but don't know what to answer the others who said it's disrespectful to go to a great King for little things. Is there a correct answer for this or should everyone just do what they think is right?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Great discussion!

The great tzaddikim, pious Jews of old, were known to constantly beseech God's intervention in every aspect of their lives. One writes that this is what sets aside the Jewish nation; that we are constantly praying for success in all we do!

Your friends are correct in their claim that the subjects of a great king would not approach him for what seem to be trivial matters. (I once approached a very powerful, wealthy Jew use his influence to take care of a relatively small issue. His response was: "Rabbi, you don't use a cannon to kill a mosquito!")

Judaism, however, sides with you when it comes to approaching God. This is based on a couple of ideas. Firstly, from God's perspective there's no difference between a big or small matter. The level of God's interaction is the same whether it's to cure a common cold or a more serious illness. Nachmanides (12th century Spain), in his classic commentary to the Torah, says there's no difference, from God's perspective, between splitting the sea and curing a cold. It's only from our perception that it seems different, since for us one action is outside the laws of nature and one is working within. Nachmanides explains that "nature" is simply what God has allowed us to get used to; "miracles" are events we're not used to, but for God Himself miracles and nature are all the same.

Secondly, Judaism believes that God already is involved in the small events of our lives. This is a corollary of the first idea: Nachmanides writes that it is the very foundation of our Torah that all that transpires in our lives, big or small, is the Hand of God.

Since even the relatively small, insignificant things in our lives transpire with God's involvement, it would certainly follow that there's nothing disrespectful in asking Him to have success in those very matters. On the contrary, by praying for success you are showing the Al-mighty that you believe in His involvement, that God's Hand is with you throughout your daily activities. There is no greater honor to God than that!

Another, deeper aspect of this is based upon our relationship with God. God told the Jewish people before receiving the Torah, "You are children to the Lord your God." We, as Jews, are to have a loving relationship with God like children. A love relationship is built on the small things, not on large gifts. Imagine a great a powerful king sitting on his throne, protected by his honor guards, with world leaders standing in line to ask the king's favor. Just then a small boy walks by the guards and through the crowd of dignitaries and asks the king for a lollypop; the king doesn't rebuke the boy; instead he smiles, hands him the candy and gives him a hug. Who is that boy?! How dare he bother the king for a measly lollypop?! Nobody asks that question because, obviously, he's the king's son!

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried Dallas Area Torah Association DATA.

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