The Essence of Prayer
“The basic function of prayer is not its practical consequences, but the metaphysical formation of a fellowship consisting of God and man.”
(Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik, Worship of the Heart: Essays on Jewish Prayer, ed. Shalom Carmy (Jersey City: Ktav, 2003), p. 35.)
The Hebrew word tefilah comes from the verb pallel, “to judge.”‘ The reflexive verb lehitpallel (“to pray”), means “to judge oneself.” Thus, the time of prayer is the time of self-judgment, self-evaluation, and self-reflection. When we address God and pray for His blessings, we must first search our hearts and examine our actions and motives to determine whether or not we measure up to the standards of conduct G d has prescribed for us. If we respond with wisdom and humility, we soon realize that we rarely merit the blessings and favor we often ask God for. This is why Judaism stresses God’s infinite goodness and mercies, in prayer. This is also why the Siddur’s prayers, on weekdays, contain a confession of sins whether committed knowingly or unknowingly. We pray for the Lord’s forgiveness and ask for help to better ourselves. Prayer helps us to lead better lives in every respect, by submitting our will, thoughts, plans and actions to the Most High, not to mention fulfilling a Biblical command.
There are many different kinds of prayer: thanksgiving, repentance, praise, etc., but all prayer is a deep desire for connection with the Creator. In all the ways that we offer the praise of our lips may we be blessed, b’shem Yeshua (in the name of Yeshua). May our Messiah train our hands for war and our fingers for battle as we humbly ask Yeshua, “Teach us to pray.”
Luke 11:1-4: “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’
So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.’”