Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
Rebbe Chanina teaches that anyone who prays at length will have his prayers answered (Berachot, page 32). Do you know what that means? It means that if we are still in Diaspora and exile, it's only because we haven't prayed enough. Many of you who are reading this don't believe what I'm saying; this is proof that you don't believe in the power of prayer. I don't blame you – your parents and teachers don't believe in the power of prayer either, and they didn't teach you. But this is not only their problem – the Jewish People ever since the time of Moses have done wonderful things in Torah and in mitzva observance, but they haven't believed in the power of prayer.
Rebbe Nachman teaches (see Likutei Moharan I:2) that the weapon of the Jewish People is prayer. Do you know why we have problems? We're like some confused and terrified soldier who's surrounded by enemies that have tanks, artillery, missiles and every other type of weapon. Why is our soldier so bewildered and frightened? He's unarmed! But really, he is armed. Not only that, but he has better firepower than all the enemies put together. The tragedy is that he not only doesn't know how to operate his weapon, he doesn't believe in his weapon! That's a sad story.
The Jewish People are like that sad soldier. This world is a battlefield and life on this earth a constant war. There's no way to sugar-coat this fact. The only way to defeat our enemies – the evil inclination and all the temptations that surround us – is to use our weapon of prayer.
Don't think that I don't have an evil inclination. My evil inclination could kill five-hundred people at once. But I fight him; I don't give in to him. I never put my weapon down, because it's dangerous to do so. I have this shining sword that not only blinds my Evil Inclination, but dismembers him – my shining sword is prayer – lots of it.
I often pondered free choice; long ago, I came to the conclusion that our only free choice is to desire to pray or not.
Maybe nature dictates a certain situation, but prayer is above nature; better yet, prayer dictates nature.
One of the most important parts of teshuva is resolving to do better. People make all types of resolutions, especially at New Year, but the overwhelming majority never changes. They fall back into old habits and old patterns. Their teshuva wasn't worth much because the resolution to do better was too weak to last. What is a resolution? A resolution is a solemn promise to improve. We can't improve on our own, for we need Hashem's help, which we attain by means of praying. So if you must pray to improve, and you must improve in order for your resolution to have been sincere, then by logic, prayer is the only legitimate resolution!
Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa could tell if a sick person would recover or not. “I'm neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but when I am able to pray for a person's recovery, I know that he will live!” How did he know this? Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa knew that if has being allowed to pray for someone, then Hashem would surely cure that person, since by nature of craetion, prayer yields results.
People protest and tell me, “I prayed, but I didn't see results!” There's no such thing. The mere fact that you prayed means that Hashem enabled you to pray.
Hashem wants us to pray for everything, because anything we attain without prayer is detrimental to us. The great tzadikim had such difficult lives because Hashem wanted to hear their prayers. Without his arduous tribulations, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev would have been simply Nachman. Rebbe Nachman's prayers are what made Rebbe Nachman.
The purpose of Torah learning is to acquire emuna, and emuna is prayer. That means that true Torah should bring us to sincere prayer. Only an ignoramus cuts prayers short in order to learn Torah.
Do you remember Rebbe Nachman's story, “The Master of Prayer”? We should all be part of the master of prayer's group. Let's pick up the shining sword and use it. That's the weapon that will win the war and bring us Moshiach, speedily and in our days, amen!