Monday, September 20, 2010

Unanswered Prayers

Painting: "Power of Prayer" by Alex Levin
from the writings of Rav Kook zt"l

"קַוֵּה אֶל-ה', חֲזַק, וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ; וְקַוֵּה אֶל-ה"

"Hope to God. Be strong and He will give you courage, and hope to God." [Ps. 27:14]

Why does the psalm repeat the phrase "hope to God"?

The Sages learned from this repetition that we should be tenacious in prayer. "If a person prays but is not answered, he should pray again" [Berachot 32a].

Yet one could ask: If God did not answer my prayer the first time, what will I accomplish by praying again?

The answer to this question requires understanding the very essence of prayer.

The purpose of prayer is to elevate the soul by bolstering its powers with images of holiness and perfection. There are an infinite variety of such mental images, and God knows exactly which ones are needed to perfect each individual soul. Divine wisdom determines what we are lacking - thus providing the stimulus for our prayers - so that the soul may perfect itself in the appropriate area.

On occasion, a particular visualization in all of its aspects may not succeed in penetrating the depths of the soul. In such cases, acceptance of the prayer is delayed until the prayer is repeated sufficiently so that soul will fully assimilate this image of holiness.

We should not be discouraged if our prayers are not answered outright. All worldly matters have the potential to provide spiritual gains of eternal value. People are usually disheartened if they do not succeed easily; but if we are aware that our actions are gradually bringing us closer towards our goal, though the path be long and difficult, we will be encouraged by our incremental progress.

Therefore the psalm repeats the phrase "hope to God." The basis of hope is recognizing the value of these prerequisite steps. We must realize that each prayer, every holy aspiration and image, brings us that much closer to our goal. Not having fully arrived, we need to "be strong and take courage," to gather strength to continue our spiritual efforts, "and hope to God."
[adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I p. 151; Introduction to Olat Re'iyah p. 25]


lisa said...

I am grateful for every time you blog!!

Yisroel Aryeh Leib said...

It is written that if Moshe had prayed once more HaShem would have let him enter Eretz Yisrael. But his 155 prayers were not wasted; they have sustained the Jewish people for 3500 years. While there is no such thing as a wasted prayer, HaShem in his at times inscrutable wisdom gives you what you really would have prayed for if you could see things from His perspective. When you pray, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime you get what you need."