40 Days to a Better Self
click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​




40 Days to a Better Self

40 Days to a Better Self

Prayer is not waving a magic wand and hoping for the best.

by

Legend in Jerusalem says that if you go to the Western Wall for 40 consecutive days, and pray for one specific thing, it will be granted. There are so many stories of this working successfully, that the phenomenon is hard to deny. I'll share with you my own personal encounter:

Years ago, when the time was ripe to get married, I decided to make the commitment to go to the Western Wall for 40 consecutive days. At first I treated this as some kind of magical, metaphysical ploy to butter up God and score brownie points. But as the days passed, I began to understand the power of prayer as a means of self-transformation. Day in and day out, I was forced to examine the areas in which I needed to grow before I could truly be considered ready for marriage.

I began to understand the power of prayer as a means of self- transformation.

Jewish prayer is always spoken aloud because the exercise of formulating words forces us to define and refine our goals. My daily trips to the Wall (which on Shabbos involved a 45-minute walk each way) solidified my commitment to confront these issues and resolve them.

Of course, while God answers all prayers, sometimes the answer is "No, not right now." We may be asking for the wrong thing without realizing it. A good parent will not lend the car keys to a teenager who is not yet responsible enough to handle it. And even all the begging in the world will not get a good parent to change his mind.

The New You

Prayer is our opportunity to move beyond our limitations. Li-heet-pallel, the Hebrew word for prayer, comes from the root pallel, which means to inspect. The prefix li-heet is the reflexive form – denoting an action that one does to oneself. Li-heet-pallel is therefore an act of personal introspection. When we pray, we look inside and ask, "What do I need to change about myself in order to get what I really want out of life?"

With serious effort, we can actually change our character and a new, better "self" emerges. Since I am no longer the same person who God said "no" to yesterday, the appropriate answer may now be "yes."

The end of my story? I completed my 40 days at the Wall, and within one week was engaged to my wife.

Since then, I have tried the 40 days on two other occasions – both with success, thank God. But since I no longer live in Jerusalem, who knows if I'll ever have the chance again. Maybe it's better anyway to quit while I'm ahead...

Virtual Jerusalem

People often ask if they can do 40 days at the Wall by visiting Aish's webcam. It would certainly be effective from the standpoint of confronting oneself day in and day out. On the other hand, there is a mystical advantage to standing at the Western Wall, the spot where all prayers ultimately ascend to heaven.

By the way, if you have to do 40 days straight, how do you visit the Wall cam on Shabbat? Simply calculate the time zones, so that you visit when it is Shabbat in Jerusalem, but not Shabbat in your town. God is probably more likely to listen to a prayer that does not involve turning a computer on in violation of Shabbat.

So does a virtual 40 days work? I don't know. It certainly doesn't hurt to try.

Published: January 26, 2000


Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Visitor Comments: 4

(3) Anonymous, July 26, 2011 2:01 PM

40 day prayer for change

I have heard of this 40 day prayer working for change in the past. A friend completed it and within the 40 days received a new job. I am looking to find a prayer that can be said with/ for my wife as she is looking for a new job. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thank you,

Anonymous, September 18, 2011 4:20 AM

40 day prayer

Try signing up to westernwallprayers.org and a shaliach will pray for you or for anyone else's behalf for 40 days

(2) Isaac Changani, October 14, 2002 12:00 AM

Prayers Answered

I could not come to Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall due to lack of funds. What I did was to print a picture of the Western Wall and paste it on the wall of house prayer room. Then I used to bring my family together to pray for my wife's job, my daughter's school, my sister's job, and my sister-in-law's school. I was not aware of the 40 days part but we must have prayed there almost every day for over a month each evening.
Today, my wife is working, my sister in law is in school, my daughter is in school and my sister is working. Baruch Hashem. We also pray there for the Peace of Jerusalem. G-d has prospered us with peace as well.
Isaac Changani - Lusaka, Zambia.

(1) William Bates, July 23, 2001 12:00 AM

Prayer

It honestly does not matter whether you are at the western wall or at home next to your bed, GOD can hear and see all. No matter were you are. You dont need to be at the wall nor at your computer. Be alone and at one with GOD and he can and will hear you.
William Bates
Las Vegas, NV.

Aish.com comments: Good point, William. Of course God's presence is everywhere. However, there are certain places where a connection to God is much easier and much stronger. The Western Wall is one of those places. Even using a computer is a poor second to being there.

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub
Sign up today!