By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Last week, we introduced the theme that the national Jewish profession is prayer. As Rashi puts it, it’s our umnos, our craft. As such, we will now embark on a crash course on many of the skills necessary to become a professional davener to Hashem.
1) The Gemora teaches us, “Hamispalel b’ad chaveiro v’hu tzoruch l’oso dovar, hu ne’ene techila – One who prays on behalf of someone else and he needs what he’s praying for as well, Hashem will answer his needs first.” This teaches us that when we pray for health, for wealth, for shidduchin or nachas, we shouldn’t just pray for ourselves. We should have our relatives, friends and neighbors in mind as well. This is why most or our prayers are written in the plural. Slach lonu – forgive us, refa’einu – keep us healthy, and shma koleinu – listen to our voices. Hashem gives special attention to a prayer when it isn’t selfish.
One can start practicing this skill utilizing small steps. First, make sure you always pray for your spouse. You should train yourself never to voice a prayer without your mate in mind. If you’re not married, make sure to include your parents in every one of your prayers. After getting into these good habits, embrace all the people who are davening with you in shul. After that, you can broaden your vision to everyone in your community and then you can set your sights on Eretz Yisroel. Finally, you can train yourself to have a global vision and pray for all of Klal Yisroel.
Here’s a practical example. When you’re davening in shul and you fervently say, “Shma koleinu, Hashem Elokeinu – Listen to our voices, Hashem our God,” think to yourself that everyone in shul is asking for something different. One person has a herniated disc, another has a shrewish spouse, yet another can’t afford to pay their tuition. Utilizing this skill, ask Hashem to honor the different requests of everyone in shul. The Gemora informs us of a bonus and that is when we have others in mind, then Hashem answers us first.
2) Learn how to pray in anticipation. When Iyov experienced his terrible suffering, his three loyal friends asked him, “Hayaroch shu’acha shelo batzur – Did you arrange your prayers before your troubles started?” Or as the Gemora says in Masechtas Berachos, “Al zos yispalel kol chosid l’eis matzoi – For this every pious person should pray towards the time of finding.” The Gemora explains this to mean that we should pray for things in advance. The Gemora goes on to say that there are over 900 ways to die. We should pray that when it comes our time, we should have an easy death. The Gemora then takes it a step further: we should pray, “Ad zibula batraisa shalma – That the last clod of earth on our grave should be peaceful.” This is the most extreme example of anticipatory prayer. We should ask Hashem for help that there shouldn’t be a storm on the day of our funeral. The Gemora is disciplining us in the skill of not being reactionary in our prayer but rather like the Gemora advises us in Masechtas Shabbos, “L’olam yivakeish adam shelo yecheleh – A person should always pray not to become sick.”
Most people only indulge in serious prayer when they have a problem but the smart way to pray is before we have a problem. As we say in Ashrei, “Korov Hashem l’kol kor’ov, l’chol asher yikr’uhu be’emes – Hashem is close to all those who call to Him, to all those who call in truth.” Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, zy”a, would elaborate, it is best to pray in truth and not when you are in need. We need to train ourselves in sim shalom that there should not crop-up any marital problems, and in Atah chonein that we shouldn’t start forgetting things or begin feeling confused, chas v’shalom.
We are just getting started. In the merit of learning how to pray properly, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
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