The Power of Prayer
I am a man of study. I have no problem sitting down on a beautiful Saturday morning, and studying Scripture all day. Yet, however profound this may seem, I must admit that study is not the most difficult aspect of our spiritual walks. In fact, prayer is quite possibly one of the most mysterious forms of worship in existence today. But I’ll be the first to admit that, though I may be a man of study, I’m still working on becoming a man of prayer.
Young men who fall in love with our Creator have some very fundamental choices to make when they begin their journey’s to personal redemption. These early choices help to shape huge spiritual aspects of who they will become in the future. One of the greatest challenges arise as a result of the natural inclination that most boys have to move too quickly. In our desire to grab life by the horns and change the world, we sometimes completely forsake the more important issues which, if utilized early on, will actually create within us a greater momentum in our avodat HaShem (service of G-D). One of these matters, possibly the most important not to forget, is prayer.
Prayer connects creation to its Creator in a way that study is unable to attain, and sometimes, even understand. There are even some that proclaim emphatically that one hour of personal, non-liturgical prayer a day will actually change our lives completely. Those people state, “if you repent for an hour in tears, then the next 23 hours of the day will be filled with happiness” (paraphrase from Rabbi Shalom Arush’s In Forest Fields). Prayer is our lifeline to G-dliness! We can know The Word of G-D line-by-line in 6 different languages, but we will ultimately be powerless to change this world unless we become people accustomed to falling on our faces before The Almighty.
So, young men, don’t try to change the world right now. The aspiration seems so noble, but trust me, the greatest thing you can do is become a man of prayer now! Use King David as an example. Though some of the sins he committed were horrible, he was still considered one of the most righteous kings of Israel, a man after G-D’s own heart, and even worthy to be a fundamental part of the ancestry of Moshiach (Messiah). What was his secret? Read the Psalms, this man knew how to pray! He was able to touch the heart of G-D by his simple, personal prayers.
So my challenge to all who read this (and even to the one writing it) is to set aside just 30 min. a day, to start, of personal prayer. If you don’t know what to pray about, that’s great! That means Heaven has something really amazing for you to pray about! 30 min. a day of personal prayer, soul correction, and repentance, and simply watch the floodgates of blessing flow into your life.
I’m reminded of a story about the Baal Shem Tov (literally “master of a good name”) in which he called all different types of people to eat with him to include, but not limit to, his close disciples, great Torah scholars, and, on the flip-side, simple folk like farmers and merchants. Now, the Baal Shem Tov had two meals when he invited people to dine with him on these particular days. One meal was for everyone, and the other was just for close disciples, and those he would personally choose to accompany them. Needless to say, the simple farmers, etc., knew they would not be joining him for this second meal. But the Baal Shem Tov, even to the perplexity of some of his disciples, passionately cared about these simple people.
One particular meal, the Baal Shem Tov went to great lengths to serve the simple folk, even going to the great length of pouring their wine for them and letting them eat his bread. After the first meal that night, the simple folk left the room, as they usually did, deciding to go into the synagogue to pray. Late that night, the Baal Shem Tov sensed in his disciples some confusion as to why their great, scholarly, righteous rabbi would serve these simple people who understood, and lived, on a level that was so far lower than the lofty spiritual level that they’d grown accustomed to living with him. He had all of the disciples close their eyes and be completely silent. After a few moments, all of a sudden, they heard faint cries, “Master of the universe! Forgive me!” “Beloved Father! draw me closer to You!” Some of these cries included short excerpts of Scriptures, some were simply bursts of longing, but they all had one thing in common, they seemed to be coming from the depths of someones soul. As the disciples were moved to tears by these prayers which seemed to be drawn from a place in the soul that they’d never found, they realized something. These moving prayers were coming from the simple farmers and merchants next door in the synagogue. They were speechless! As they opened their eyes, the Baal Shem Tov said something along the lines of, “why do I love simpletons? Because their love for HaShem is at a level that we could never be. Because they’ve been forgiven of so much, they have overwhelming gratitude. The pious can’t fathom bringing the kind of joy to Heaven that these simple, penitent people bring when they cry out to Him in repentance.”