12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Power of Prayer    

The Power of Prayer

To rectify a negative character trait, one must optimally focus his prayer power on his current objective for as much as he can over an extended period of time.


Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
In Forest Fields, Part 60
The evil inclination is the culprit that confuses people and prevents them from concentrating on one specific issue in hitbodedut.  That explains how there are those who have been practicing hitbodedut for years already and yet have failed to see the fruits of their labor.  They do experience minimal change of course; in comparison to others who have not yet begun to practice hitbodedut, their lives are very good, for surely their prayers have an influence. Yet, as we have already mentioned, in order to realize our goals, rectify our negative character traits and truly nullify our material desires, we must focus our prayer power on our current objective for a complete hour each day - or at least a half an hour - over an extended period of time.
Our holy sages of blessed memory teach us that grasping much is like grasping nothing at all. But, when you catch a little, you can indeed taken hold of it.  A person who wants to pray for everything, trying to "grasp" a great deal, usually grasps nothing.  But, by concentrating on one objective and praying for it over an extended time span, he will grasp it, and systematically in like manner grasp additional objectives. Again, these "little bits" in spirituality are surely not little bits at all, because one by one they influence a person’s entire life.
Prayer is redemption and redemption is prayer. For when see how continued daily prayer ultimately redeems us from the prison of a particular material lust, bad habit, or negative character traits, we’re not only encouraged but witness our individual redemption with our own eyes.
You too are capable of seeing miracles and your own personal salvation!  With focused prayer and perseverance, you can attain virtually all your heart’s desires. When Hashem sees your efforts, He will undoubtedly grant you many long years to enable you to pray for everything.
Strengthened by prayer
“Rabbi Chanina says, ‘He who prays long prayers, his prayers will not return unanswered’ (Talmud, tractate Berachot 32)”.  Moshe Rabbenu (Moses) set this precedent (see Deuteronomy Chapter 9), and said:  "And I fell down before the Lord as before, forty days and forty nights."   The Torah says directly afterwards, "And the Lord hearkened to me also at that time".  Moshe prayed lengthy prayers, in other words for 24 hours for forty days - nine hundred and sixty hours - and his prayers were answered.  Moses shows us that if a person prays long enough, his prayers will be answered.
The Talmud also says (ibid.), "Four things need strengthening:  Torah, good deeds, prayer and respectable behavior.  In regard to Torah and good deeds, it is said (see Joshua, Chapter One):  ‘Just be strong and very courageous to observe and do in accordance with all’; be strong – in Torah, courageous – in good deeds.  As for prayer, in Psalms we find the passage:  ‘Hope for the Lord, be strong and He will give your heart courage, and hope for the Lord’ (Psalm 27); and derech eretz, respectable behavior – as it says (Samuel II. Chapter ten):  ‘Be strong, and let us strengthen ourselves on behalf of our people…’”
Our holy Talmud teaches that there are four areas in which a person must fortify himself. We accomplish this by way of self-awakening and reinforcing the heart, by learning relevant books or listening to encouraging words, and by praying for them.  Every person must fortify prayer constantly, regardless of his current spiritual level.
The Power to Effect Salvations 
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev writes that we must strengthen our belief in ourselves, namely, that we have the power to accomplish everything through our prayers. This is a wonderful incentive for strengthening us in prayer.
A person can’t stimulate himself to action if he yet lacks faith in his capacity to achieve.  For example, if you would ask a person to go to the moon, and he doesn’t believe that he could possibly do such a thing, he would not even begin to contemplate this, much less take an initial step in the direction of the moon.  On the other hand, if there is something that he fully believes he can accomplish, he’ll make every effort.  He rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.
Prayer is no exception. A person who has faith that he can accomplish anything through his prayers never gives up until he reaches his goal, despite the price that he knows he must pay on the way. For example, the pain of strenuous workouts doesn’t deter a champion athlete from training for the Olympic finals. All we need to accomplish anything is belief in ourselves and in our prayers. This gives us the power, patience, and perseverance to pray until our prayers are answered and we see our personal salvation with our own two eyes.
The Torah testifies (Deuteronomy 30:12), "It is not far away, it is not in the Heavens." The Torah and mitzvoth are within our reach.  Praying is possible!  It’s not in the Heavens!  We pray – and Hashem gives.  It’s that simple.
Rebbe Nachman’s teaching (see Likutei Moharan I:52) about character improvement by way of hitbodedut at night has been abridged in this chapter.  We have slightly modified his words so that everyone can follow his advice.  Few people canpractice hitbodedut throughout the entire night until they nullify each of their base desires and rectify their negative character traits. We certainly did not want to close the doors of personal prayer to those who are not capable of such hitbodedut, for this way of practicing hitbodedut is advantageous but not fully required.  For those who practice what we have described here, a concentrated hitbodedut any time during the day will surely prove effective as time passes.
To be continued

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