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What is Prayer About - Taking or Giving?

Some see prayer as a chance to approach God with a long list of requests. Is prayer just a self-centered, meditative grab for the good stuff? Rabbi Botton expounds on the purpose of prayer

Purpose of prayer

God rewards those who place their trust in Him alone, as it is written, “The one who places his trust in God will be surrounded with kindness (Tehillim 32:10).”

Some see prayer as a chance to approach God with a long list of requests. “Give me health, give me wealth, give me this, give me that....” Is this all that prayer is, a self-centered, meditative grab for the good stuff?

Prayer testifies to our faith and trust in God as our Provider. In this light, we can understand the true point of prayer: Giving God what He desires most — our faith and loyalty. Thus, in Shir HaShirim (2:14) God proclaims that He desires to hear our sweet voice in prayer.

The Talmudic Sage Rava expounded on the verse, “I loved when God would hear the voice of my supplication (Tehillim 116:6).” The Jewish people said before God, “Master of the Universe! When am I beloved to You? When You hear the voice of my supplication (Pesachim 118b).”

Our prayers endear us to God when they are sincere and directed to Him, not in order to get what we want, but to draw close to Him. This is the essence of prayer, to establish a connection with God.

This story from the Baal Shem Tov illustrates this point:

A great king once announced that he would grant any request. Many came with petitions for silver, gold, and high positions; but there was one wise man who made a unique request. He asked for permission to enter the palace and speak to the king three times each day. The king was delighted with this request, seeing that this wise man valued the king’s companionship even more than silver or gold.

One who sees prayer time as an opportunity to be with God — rather than a time to ask for things, or worse, as a burden — gains God’s favor and breaks down the walls that normally separate him from his King.

From The Book “The Power of a Whisper” by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
Available at http://www.menuchapublishers.com/the-power-of-a-whisper.html?acc=33e75ff09dd601bbe69f351039152189