Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.
When we see the length of the exile and how much each day we cry out to Him and yet are not saved, there are those of our people, the Children of Yisrael, who err in their heart, G-d forbid. [They say] that all their prayers are for naught. But in truth, it is not so. The tzadikim of each generation raise all the prayers and erect them, as in “Moshe erected the Tabernacle.” They raise each and every part to its place and build the structure of the Shechinah bit by bit, until the full measure of its structure is realized. Then Mashiach, who is Moshe, will come and consummate it, by erecting it perfectly. — Likutey Moharan I, 2
It can be disheartening when our prayers seemingly go unanswered. And it’s natural to question the effectiveness of our prayers when we don’t see any change in circumstances. We begin to wonder if the time and emotion invested, had any effect at all.
In this lesson, Rebbe Nachman teaches that we must never lose faith in the strength of our prayers. We may not see it, but every word is heard and has a lasting impact.
The Talmud states, “If a person says, ‘I have worked hard but have not found success,’ don’t believe him. If he says, ‘I have not worked hard, and I have found success,’ don’t believe him. If he says, ‘I have worked hard and I have found success,’ believe him.” Regarding the latter statement, Reb Noson asks why would we need to believe him; shouldn’t we be able to see the success?
Reb Noson answers that many times, when a person is succeeding in life, they don’t necessarily see or recognize the success. And Hashem specifically designed it this way. For if a person saw the incredible effect of each good deed (e.g. each dollar to charity, each act of kindness, etc.), then there would be no free will; doing good would be the only option. Our test is to continue pushing forward even when we don’t immediately see the fruits of our labor.
Rabbi Maimon explains that the same applies to our prayers. If we were answered immediately or if we were able to see the tremendous effect of each prayer, there would be no test. And as we’ve previously discussed, the greater the test and effort put forth, the greater the reward.
On a related note, Rebbe Nachman explains that it’s extremely difficult to have the proper concentration when praying. Understanding the power of prayer, the Evil Inclination attacks from all sides attempting to distract us. Suddenly we are bombarded with extraneous thoughts.
Rebbe Nachman advises, “The best remedy for this is to make sure the words emerge from your lips in truth. Every word that comes from your mouth in truth and sincerity will provide you with an exit from the darkness that is trapping you, and then you will be able to pray properly. This is the fundamental principle whenever you are praying or meditating. You may feel unable to say a single word because of the intense darkness and confusion that hedge you in on every side. But see that whatever you do say, you say truthfully as much as you possibly can. For example, you could at least say the words, “G-d, send help” truthfully. You may not be able to put much enthusiasm into the words, but you can still make yourself say them sincerely and mean what you say quite literally. The very truth of your words will send you light and you will be able to pray with the help of Hashem. When you do this, it sustains and perfects all the worlds.”
Rebbe Nachman assures us that while praying with the proper mindset and focus is invaluable, still the battle itself and the frustrated attempts are also cherished by Hashem. Every bit of energy is considered significant.
As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “Even if sometimes you cannot pray at all, the effort you put into forcing yourself to pray is also very precious to Hashem, even if you don’t actually succeed in praying as you should.” (Likutey Eitzos, Tefillah # 90)
As the Baal Shem Tov said, “When a Jew comes from work in the late afternoon and says, ‘Oy! There are just a few minutes to sunset!’ and hurriedly davens Minchah, the angels in Heaven tremble before his davening.”
Of course, we must always strive to perfect our prayers, but at the same time, we should remember that every bit of effort is precious and beloved by Hashem.
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