An interesting topic I came across on the Internet: People of all religions complain that G – d doesn’t answer their prayers and thus they give up praying. These people don’t see their demands fulfilled and don’t care about G – d anymore. It is either “Give me, give me, give me” or “I will stop praying”.
We pray and direct all our demands and wishes to G – d. The question is whether we can expect G – d to give us everything we ask for.
Maybe it is a mistake or maybe not: The truth is that I hardly ever ask G -d for anything. I put nothing personal into the Shemona Esrei prayer. If I am sick, I am asking for recovery. Not all the time but when I feel really lousy, yes. If I ask for money? Not really. Maybe because I think that I am in charge and that it is me who needs to make an effort and earn more money. Why bother G – d? To make a long story short: I don’t expect too much and don’t pray because I want something.
The Talmud teaches that, if someone is asking G – d for a favour, it can take many years until G – d may grant a request. Sometimes He does and there are times when G – d doesn’t seem to do so at all. The question is: Why doesn’t G – d fulfill all our wishes? Why doesn’t He give us more money, better jobs, health, a happy marriage, great relationships or even a lottery win? Why do we have to struggle so much? Of course, He wants us to pray for something but why are we still struggling?
In Judaism, we are requested to pray for the entire nation. This is what we do on Yom Kippur when we say the Vidui (Confession). When we ask G – d for health or a better job, shouldn’t we include everybody? All people should be healthy and find a great job and not only me, me, me.
The following Story from the Ba’al Shem Tov I heard from Rabbi Machlise’s wife Henny z”l:
Once the Baal Shem Tov was invited for a Shabbat meal by a poor farmer. The Baal Shem Tov told his students who were supposed to accompany him to eat as much as possible at the farmer’s house. The poor farmer had not enough food but did not say anything to the Baal Shen Tov. Instead he decided to slaughter his only cow in order to provide enough meat.
The Shabbat was very delightful but on the next day the farmer was very sad. He had lost his only cow, and in order to get food for his family he sold all his belongings including his farm. After one week he went out into the fields, wept and started praying to G – d. He asked G – d for money and a livelihood.
After a while, Ivan, the drunkard of the village, came by and told the farmer that he was the only person ever being nice to him. And therefore, Ivan wants him to have his treasure hidden under a tree. Ivan showed the tree to the farmer and a few the days later, Ivan passed away.
The farmer became rich and he went to see the Baal Shem Tov. “Why did G – d not tell me about the treasure before? And you, great master, knew the whole time about the treasure and Ivan.
“Well, said the Baal Shem Tov, the treasure has been waiting for you all these decades but you never asked for it. In order to get something from G – d you have to pray for it. As soon as you prayed, G-d answered your prayer.”
This we also see in Parashat Lech Lecha. Sarah and Avraham were waiting for children for many years but only when they prayed, G – d answered their prayer.