19 Av 5781 / Wednesday, July 28, 2021 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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HomeSpirituality and FaithSpiritual GrowthDon’t Just Read – PRAY - A New Light
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Don’t Just Read – PRAY - A New Light    

Don’t Just Read – PRAY - A New Light

Once you read and absorb this teaching from Rabbi Arush, the way you pray in communal prayer will change forever.


One of the primary times dedicated to coming closer to Hashem is  during  regular  daily prayers, particularly the Shemoneh Esrei, the central prayer instituted by our Sages. This is the most crucial time for us to truly desire to come closer to Hashem and want to accept His will upon us. 


Words of prayer are vessels with which to receive abundance. But in order to be a vessel – the word must be prayed, not read. 
A vessel means that a person wants something. When he wants something, Heaven will give it to him. If a person speaks without wanting, that is a sign that he does not really want, and therefore, that he does not need. Therefore, the essence of the work of prayer is to want what we are talking about! 
This sounds so simple and obvious, but if we honestly assess ourselves we’ll realize how often our prayers are merely a casual and hurried recitation of published words. In our minds and hearts, we need to contemplate how much we need and want what we are requesting! 


All of the regular prayers express the aspirations and good intentions of every Jew and of the entire nation of Israel. The men of the Great Assembly gave these a framework and instituted a schedule for focusing on these intentions. The entire order of the prayers was instituted to give a person the chance to embrace and express these universal intentions. 

In the prayer Ashrei that we say three times  daily,  the  verse states “You give everyone  fullness of life in accordance with (his) will (Psalm 145:16). A person's life force is drawn to him in accordance with his intentions and his prayer, because these constitute the essence of his soul.  
The will is the soul of prayer, and the words are the body of prayer. Prayer without will and yearning is dead. It is a body without a soul, without life, without a heart. 
We can now understand why many people who pray see no results from their prayers. They only read the words of the prayers. The prayer has no soul i.e., it has no heart and will. 
Our sages teach that prayer is a substitute for the sacrifices  (Berachot 26a).  A  verse in the Torah states do not sacrifice whatever has a blemish in it, because it will not be willingly accepted for you (Leviticus 22:20). A lack of will and true desire and yearning is a very big blemish 
Rabbi Arush says that even if a person is focused, thinks about the words that he is saying and has no alien thoughts, as long as he does not want what he is beseeching, his prayers are without deep feeling. They do not rise and will not be accepted. That is because prayer is not the service of the mind, but the service of the heart and the heart is a person's intent. 


A technique I have found helpful is to pause before each blessing, take a deep breath and contemplate how much you need the requested item and how wonderful it would be to have it fulfilled. Deep breathing before and after each blessing helps you to regroup and refocus on the meaning and significance of what you are about to say. It helps you remember that true desire is a prerequisite for an effective prayer request.  
Rabbi Arush says that after a person passes away and comes to the Heavenly Court it will tell him: Dear Jew, you did not pray during your entire lifetime. He will reply: How can you say that? I prayed three times a day, every day. They will tell him: “No such prayer reached us here. Throughout your entire lifetime, you only read from the prayer book. We can give you a good mark for reading because it was quick and smooth. You pronounced the words well. That was excellent reading. But where was your prayer? Where was your heart? Where was your soul? The entire character of prayer is the will. Where were your intentions when you prayed? The words that you recited were lacking will, so they cannot be considered prayer. They had no soul or vitality at all. Therefore, they did not rise to heaven.   
Reading this paragraph should really shake us up and motivate us to pray with proper will, devotion, and intent. We must truly mean what we say and pray with a sense of urgency really wanting what we’re requesting. In this way, our prayers will be more than just a pro-forma recitation of published text. Rather they will be heartfelt pleas to Our Father in Heaven. He will surely respond favorably to this type of prayer!


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