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Elul 20

A thief about to break in may pray to God [that he not be caught] (Berachos 63a, Ein Yaakov).

Believing in God alone is not enough. Even praying to God may not be enough. Some people think that prayer means telling God what He is supposed to do for them. This attitude can result in the absurd situation described above.

We should pray for God to make His will known, and to help and guide us in fulfilling that will.

A recovered alcoholic told me that during his years of drinking, he frequently got into trouble and would then pray to God, "Just help me this once, and I will never drink again." Relief from his distress was invariably followed by relapse, and when he finally reached a crisis, he surrendered, praying, "Show me what You want of me."

His first type of prayer, he realized, was not really a prayer at all, just bargaining. Real prayer did not occur until he stopped asking God for what he wanted, and instead asked to be shown what God wanted.

Study of the siddur itself should enable us to reach a concept of genuine prayer without having to reach such a crisis. We declare our belief in the existence of God in the Shema which we promptly follow with a portion of the Torah that instructs us to fulfill His mitzvos. With this background, we proceed to the Amidah, where we pray for God to give us our needs, so that we may be able to fulfill His will.

Today I shall...

think of prayer as being directed to my achievement of what God wants, instead of demanding that God deliver what I want.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

May 21, 2009

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