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How to Get What You Want from G‑d

How to Get What You Want from G‑d


There are two ways to ask for something. One is to kvetch. The other is a little more sophisticated.

Here’s a high-level example:

I’m working at home on what turns out to be one of those summer days when there’s no school, no camp, and nothing for the kids to do.

Printer runs out of ink. My chance to escape.

“Dear, I’m off to Staples for some ink!”

One foot is already out the door. But wife is desperate.

“Take the kids! Please!”

Throw kids in van. Drive mile to Staples, at Centerpoint Mall. As I’m pulling in—no, no, please save me from this! I can’t handle this! It’s hot as a frying pan out on that pavement! I have work to do! I can’t handle this at this point in my life!

But, it’s there. The ferris wheel. And the rest. They’ve set up an entire theme park on the shopping center parking lot, and I’ve just driven straight into their trap, holding the victims of prey in the back seat.

Firmly, I resolve not to surrender. I am a man of iron will. I have work to do. Responsibilities. As tough as it’s going to be, I will have to say no, we’re just getting ink and going home. Tomorrow your mother will take you. If you ask nicely.

I’m ready for them now. I’m strong. Relentless.

But they’re a step ahead of me. I can hear them already whispering back there. A conspiracy is underway.

And then, in unison, they burst out,

“Oh, thank you, Daddy! You’re the best daddy in the whole world! You brought us for a surprise! Yay Daddy!”

Five minutes later, I’m standing on the hot pavement, at the foot of a ferris wheel, waving to my kids.

Some folks think that if you don’t kvetch about what you don’t have, G‑d might not notice you don’t have it. It’s not true. The best way to get what you want is to be grateful for what you got. That’s not manipulative; that’s an act of trust and love. As illustrated above.

And that’s the secret behind an awful lot of our prayers, beginning with the all-inclusive petitions we make right after the morning blessings, all the way through the Amidah, the summit point of the morning service: First give thanks for what you got, and only then ask for what you need.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Nicholas Cheshire U.K. December 20, 2012

Ha Shem is good all the time ! I am very thankful for reading this article, & also for everything I have in this life, & in the life to come ---- Thanks be to our G-d ---- our loving caring Father who keeps ALL His promises --- other wise He would not be "The Almighty" Amen ! Reply

valerie ohio December 12, 2012

gratitude - humility = win the lottery to LEVI -- GOSH could i relate to your wonderful comments!!!!! thank you so much!!! Reply

Hirschel israel December 10, 2012

The Wife It's really in the merit of listening to the wife that the kids got their prayers answered (even before they knew they wanted it)! That's the secret too - shalom bayis, harmony in the home. Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva December 7, 2012

What Comes First Interesting. As a free-minded person I pray according to my own system. This is just as described above, because I always give praise and thanks to G-d before making my requests for health and happiness! Surely this is the logical and natural way. Reply

Levi M Brooklyn, NY December 6, 2012

Graditute Humility = win the Lottery Thanks, god, for the gift of sight. (pokeach ivrim) The other day I saw a guy walking via a pole whose bottom edge was red, seeping it side to side And thanks for the ability to walk. (matir asurim) Like the fellow I treated last night in the ER. He was a quadriplegic. I don't know what keeps him going. So, yeah, God, I really do appreciate the the freedom of movement. And last night I was so worn I was like a squashed sponge. I'm now fresh. Oh, and thanks for providing me with shoes - it's all I need to go about my day. And for the self esteem. (gvura) And the respect from others (tifara) And for the higher standards you expect of me (goy) And for the freedom (eved) And for the opportunity to be the breadwinner (sorry..) NOW, I do have some enemies, you know.... (yehi r) Like that evil neighbor, who reported me to the IRS, the landlord, who wants to evict me, the mafia, who's trying to kill me.... Ah, the Men of the Great Assembly taught us how to get what we want! Reply

Suzy Texas December 6, 2012

Dear Kate I was never like those children either. I never made fun of or conspired against anyone even now. However, as I see G-d as my partner in life, I think it is fine for me to speak my mind to Him as He really knows it already. I speak to him informally as any child would a parent. Sometimes I cry, or beg or nag, not for myself but for others I love and others I hope will receive blessings. G-d knows what we want and need but he wants us to ask anyway. It shows our love and dependence on Him. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma December 5, 2012

For GIVE ness... to feel the wonder, that is sheer sheer awe We all take unique journeys through life, and each journey is as intense, and as beautiful as the next. It could be said, that every stop, every single moment, is where we are supposed to be. To see how momentous this is, if we could stop time, to see that joy, Is the children's laughter, Is the feeling of Surprise itself. There is something to letting go, in going with flow. To relinquish that feeling of control and let G_d, the River, whatever word you want to give to time itself, bring us toward Awe, toward "Shir" recognition. It's for SONG. People proselytize: Emet: it's about how we express that awe, not about the codification. It's about the sensitivity that leads toward and into Wonder, Pervasive wonder IS prayer. Is praise. Overpowers with LOVE. When one see this, the entire world is a synagogue, and one becomes, the ultimate time traveler. Reply

Suzy Texas December 5, 2012

Kvetch I went to an Episcopal retreat although I am now a Catholic and I remember the Bishop saying the best way to get your prayers answered is to "Nag, nag, nag!" I have not forgotten this and I often Kvetch if I think it necessary. It just means I pray more. : ) Of course, giving thanks is just good manners and clearly it goes a long way in get good results. Reply

Travis Canada December 4, 2012

Do you consider having your other half in Marriage as a need or want? I have never asked any human for anything, not a parent, not a friend, but have served others, and tried my best to be cheerful, just knowing GOD, but I still don't have my Other Half in Marriage, and now I am old. I never dated, have kept myself for one person only, and I feel like my life is over before it ever started. Reply

Kate Gladstone Albany, New York, USA December 4, 2012

I do not want to be like those children. I do not want to be like those children. And I never did — even as a child. I got into a lot of trouble with my brother, my sisters, and other children because I refused to join in such tricky "conspiracies." And now you present such behavior — as the way we should think and act?! Reply

Renee NJ November 28, 2012

This brought such joy to my heart, thank you for sharing! Yep, your kids knew: be thankful & show gratitude. And He knew: a ferris wheel ride is what your children & you truly needed that hot afternoon. Reply

Anonymous November 28, 2012

Beautiful! Always inspiring thoughts to read from Rabbi Freeman! Reply

Craig Hamilton MA November 28, 2012

During my life, in youth I would curse G-d for everything I didn't have. I got nowhere doing that, except that G-d paid me a visit and told me that He was punishing me. Then, realizing my folly I changed, and when I did that, things that were beyond my wildest dreams, such as having a wife, and a child, where actually accomplished. These are the days I celebrate daily for I know what it is not to have, and when I loved Him, a power greater than I, it was as if I left hell and entered heaven, meaning I know what it is to be blessed and what it is to be cursed by G-d. Reply

Golda November 28, 2012

You use your gift well. . Thank YOU! This helped me remember to keep things in perspective and be in the moment. It is very difficult to be thankful for things like. . life threatening illness and demands that seem to be soo different than "my nature" . Thanks to this article and much of your writings, I feel supported and reminded. Reply

Michal Germany November 28, 2012

Really thank him first??? I don't agree really. He knows what I want, before I put it into words. He knows, what I think, when I think: "My prayer will be answered quicker, when I thank him first. Then I would use it as a "method in order to get my wishes fulfilled. What I need, is to pause a little, remember that He is always beside me and already knows what I need. Often my soul looks at Him and smiles. I am just happy, that He is, as He is and knows my innermost feelings. Then I just ask Him, what I want or for what I need His help. (Only when I pray for someone else I "kwetch" sometimes.) Nevertheless it is good, what you wrote. We are all different. He loves us all the same. But our ways to Him are also different. Reply

Gavriel Eliezer ben Ze'ev Gershon Largo November 28, 2012

Yasher Koach! Really, Yasher Koach for putting the kids before yourself on this. There was no way to win if you hadn't given in anyway, regardless of whether they kvetched or praised! Keep well Rabbi! See you when in TO! Reply

valerie akron, oh November 28, 2012

Getting what we want from G-d this is absolutely something to read every day - it's wonderful...and what a reminder to be thankful!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH Reply

SarahB November 28, 2012

Thanks I totally agree. You let people know what you like by saying thanks aloud and you reward them, which makes them like to please you. Reply

Michelle uk November 26, 2012

bless you and thanks. Reading this helped me lots of ways I can't explain! Reply

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