The High Holy Days are the time we begin to think of the unthinkable. Perhaps the most powerful phrase we recite in all of our prayers is the one that acknowledges that our days are numbered. “On Rosh Hashanah is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed – who will live and who will die.”

None of us want to believe we are mortal. We live our lives as if we will be around forever. We can't imagine our nonexistence and so we deny the possibility of our disappearance. We stubbornly persist in believing that we will somehow be the exception to the fate of all humankind.

But life has a way of forcing us to confront bitter truth.

My moment of truth came seven years ago. In what I assumed was to be just another annual physical exam, my doctor stunned me when he said he needed to give me some news that was not good. He asked me to sit in the waiting room until my wife could come to his office so that we could hear it together. An hour later he told us, “You have a disease for which there is no cure. It is fatal and the probability is that you have about six more months to live.”

You can't imagine the impact those words had upon my wife and me. Yet this happened seven years ago and I am still here. And remarkably, the diagnosis was not wrong. The doctor correctly saw that I suffered from cardiac amyloidosis. It is a hardening of the walls of the heart which progressively and rather quickly prevents it to continue its life-giving function. But somehow I am still here. The hardening stopped – without any medical explanation. The state it is in now allows me to function almost as if I have no problem.

Yes, it is a miracle. My doctor regularly attends conferences on amyloidosis and discusses me as an illustration of cases which inexplicably do not conform to medical expectations. Thank God, I have become a poster boy for what physicians consider an anomaly. But I believe I have an explanation. I am firmly convinced that my continued presence here on earth is a divine response to faith.

There was no specific medicine the doctor could offer me. And so I turned to an ancient response to sickness, to suffering and to the prospect of hopelessness.

Prayer doesn’t come to change God. It comes to change us – so that God will look at us differently.

My heart told me to pray. I joined a lengthy list of the most prominent of my ancestors who did precisely that when the world seemed to turn against them and their difficulties seemed insurmountable. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob prayed. Moses prayed. The prophets prayed. King David prayed – and composed Psalms which continue to stir us and bring us closer to God to this very day. Throughout all of history, from every corner of the globe, Kings and commoners, the meek and the mighty, the sinners and the saintly, turned to God for the kind of help only He is capable of granting.

I came to understand that prayer doesn’t come to change God. It comes to change us – so that God will look at us differently.

Prayer isn't about getting something; it's about being with Someone.

Prayer is the most important conversation of our day – because we take our problems to God before we take them to anyone else.

We talk to God in order to remind ourselves that we were created in His image – and therefore we have someone to look up to as our role model.

We talk to God because it gets us in touch with our soul and inspires us to become all that we can be.

We talk to God as a “timeout” from our obsession with possessions and our fixation with the foolish, to remind ourselves that we only become worthy of God’s blessings when we concentrate on His concerns for the holy and the sacred.

We talk to God because we are God’s children – and He loves to hear from us.

We talk to God because it reminds us to depend upon Him – that miracles happen but they are the divine response to those who believe in Him.

We talk to God because it gives us the chance to express ourselves completely to Him – to regularly have the most important talk of our lives with the one who can do the most to make our lives better and more meaningful.

Prayer is rooted in love. It strengthens our relationship with God. It alters the way we look at the world. It redefines our values. It shapes our character. It improves our personality.

That’s why prayer is always answered – sometimes with the words we want to hear, other times with the response we need to hear.

The medical prognosis was that I was soon to die. My prayers were a powerful source of personal comfort. They were also life-changing. My prayers first and foremost changed me. And then it seems that God decreed that the new me deserved some more time here on earth.

My prayers intensified to levels I never thought possible. I spoke to God as friend, as confidant, as the one to whom I entrusted the final decision of life or death with complete trust. I am alive to write these words today not simply because God answered my prayers but because my prayers proved life-changing for me. They achieved what prayer was meant to do and what is in fact the theme of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: to become a better person by reinforcing our awareness of God’s presence in every moment of our lives.

This awareness has suddenly assumed new meaning for me once again. I hope I am not asking God for too much by once more turning to him for another miracle as I cope with a new medical crisis. I am presently undergoing radiation to hopefully cure my newly found prostate cancer. Once more I place my trust in prayer. With the same “medicine” which served me so well in the past I will do what all of us will concentrate on doing these forthcoming High Holy Days.

May all of our prayers offered with sincerity, hope and faith be answered with the divine response of mercy and compassion of which only the Almighty is truly capable.

Please pray for the complete healing of Binyamin ben Gittel