Dear Rabbi Fried,
In the course of my recent trek toward Jewish observance, I find prayer among the most challenging of obligations. I have a really hard time bothering God for my needs — as they seem so petty compared to the much bigger matters in the world that God has on his plate. My financial needs don’t add up to the challenges of the missile crisis with Iran or the national debt. What gives me the right to inconvenience God with my trivial problems? I would much appreciate your insight on this.
I can assure you that your question is shared by many. Even Jews who have been observant their entire lives have issues with what you have raised, finding it difficult to approach God with their needs. Often, I have been asked by school-aged boys and girls if it is appropriate to “bother” God for help in passing a test.
The Jewish answer to your question is a resounding YES!
The Torah outlook is that not only are you not “bothering” God with your requests, but you are affording Him the greatest honor and respect possible by doing so. How is this so?
The reason is, the greatest respect we can give to God is to look at him as our “Father in Heaven.” A child never thinks twice about approaching her father with even the most seemingly trivial requests, because she knows that her father’s love overcomes that triviality and it is important to him because it’s important to his daughter. From the perspective of the love between a parent and a child, there is no triviality. The father is happy with his daughter by her showing him that he is the address for all her needs and concerns, whether big or small.
The more we approach God for our every need, the greater the expression of reliance upon His kindness and the cognizance that, ultimately, He is the source of life itself and all that is contained in that life. The more we approach him as our Father in Heaven, the happier He is with us, as each and every approach creates more bonding, more connection and more love.
We begin the Amidah prayer by asking for wisdom. Wisdom includes succeeding on one’s test at school as much as it means wisdom to properly raise one’s child or understand the depths of Torah. Each person can tailor-make their own kavanah, or intention, to their own specific needs, and it’s all good; it’s all contained within the meaning of the words. This is, again, because we are addressing our Father, who lovingly cares about each person’s individual needs.
As God is Al-mighty, turning toward one’s individual financial needs doesn’t detract from His ability to address the crisis in Iran or the national debt. If anything, the opposite is true. The more people turn to Him, the greater God reveals His presence in the world by bestowing greater levels of blessing, bounty, health, sustenance and peace throughout the world.
Your question is as timely as it is appropriate. My organization, DATA, is currently spearheading a communitywide effort toward the study and understanding of prayer. It is based upon a contemporary book, “Praying With Fire,” which offers numerous short but meaningful insights upon which one can reach profound levels of connection through prayer. The author, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, spent this past weekend speaking in numerous local schools and synagogues, spreading the message of prayer and, specifically, the perspective of approaching God as our Father in Heaven.
To receive the book or to find out about any classes taking place as part of this effort, contact the chairman of the campaign, Rabbi Shaya Fox of DATA, at sfox@
dallastorah.org. My wife and I will deliver the kickoff class on this subject.
Dear Rabbi Fried,