Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Channels of Prayer

Source: "Not Just Stories" by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD

Why is prayer effective? Does one cause G-d to change His mind by praying? Why does the Talmud indicate that the prayer of a tzaddik is more effective?

Among the various answers that are given is that there are constantly emanations from G-d to provide for all peoples' necessities. These emanations flow along channels which can be affected by peoples' actions. Thus, there are things that people do that can cause obstruction of, or diversion from, these channels, so that the Divine emanations do not reach their intended targets.

Prayer may correct these defects in the channels, thereby allowing the nurturing Divine emanations to proceed to the persons in need. Tzaddikim have special knowledge just where the existing defects or obstructions may be, and they are therefore in a better position to rectify them.

But, we may ask, what is all this about channels and diversion of flow? Why does G-d not simply respond to people directly and give us our needs?

The answer is provided by an understanding of Divine truth and justice. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in his works, Derech Hashem (The Way of G-d) and Daas Tevunos (Wisdom of Understanding) makes it clear that G-d created the world with a system to which He adheres. While there is room for forgiveness of sins in the system of justice, there is no overlooking of transgressions, great or small.

The Talmud is sharply critical of anyone who says that G-d "overlooks" any transgressions [Bava Kamma 50a].

It is not really a testimony to anyone's greatness that he is a beneficiary of an unplanned-for miracle. When prayers are answered, and the results appear to be miraculous, it is because there were defects in the conduits for the Divine emanations, and these were rectified by the prayers, allowing the Divine emanations to reach their original target. Thus, this is not actually an alteration of nature.

The greater skill of tzaddikim in restoring these channels accounts for the special efficacy of their prayers. The faith in the tzaddik is not in any magical powers he possesses, but in his knowledge of how to direct his prayers so that they are more effective.

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