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Why Pray If Everything G‑d Does Is Good?

Why Pray If Everything G‑d Does Is Good?

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Question:

We trust that G‑d knows what’s best for us and does only good for us. Why, then, do we pray? Even if we don’t see the good, it’s good, right? So why are we trying to change what G‑d gives? Aren’t we lacking in our trust and faith if we pray to G‑d to change what is?

Answer:

This is a question with which philosophers have struggled since time immemorial. Many answers have been given to this question, and I will attempt to give you some of the answers offered:

Prayer is G‑d’s way of allowing us to explain to Him how things look like from our perspective. From G‑d’s perspective—seeing the whole picture, of past and future, physical and spiritual words, etc.—everything is good and perfect and accomplishing exactly what is necessary. But prayer is G‑d’s way of saying to us, “Tell me how things look like from your perspective in your world, and I will try to accommodate your perspective, by alleviating what seems like negative and showering you with more of what looks like positive.” G‑d, being infinite and omnipotent, can obviously accomplish the “good” of His plan while still doing it in a way that looks positive to us and that is openly revealed good. (See my essay Baby Talk for more elucidation on this subject.)

Furthermore, prayer serves many different purposes.

The Hebrew word for prayer, tefillah, means “self-judgment” and “introspection.” Prayer is meant to be an introspective process. The reason why we pray is not always to change what G‑d had intended for us, but for us to get a better picture of true reality. We might enter the prayers thinking about all that we need and want, but we are meant to finish the prayers with a new realization of all that G‑d does for us and how little we may actually deserve.

A person who experiences prayer this way, as it is intended to be experienced, will finish off his prayers as a very different person than he began. The person who began the prayers (as a selfish, self-oriented individual) might not have really deserved what he was asking for, but the new person who concluded the prayers (as a thankful, grateful and more spiritual being) might now deserve it. In this way our prayers are actually answered, because we change in the process, and any negative decrees are then naturally averted.

Check out our Prayer Anthology for more insight on this crucial component of our service to G‑d.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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Fruma Delray Beach, FL August 29, 2013

So from His point of view... ...was the Holocaust good and perfect? Clearly the intense, heartfelt prayers of millions of Jews didn't affect the results. Why then should ours? Reply

dc November 27, 2011

Why Pray, if everything God does is good? I love this concept, and Chana Weisberg’s answer – and to whoever asked it, thank you for a wonderful thinking point, for opening a spiritual “doorway” to consider something so profound.
I believe that our prayers honor God. Most of us know that He encourages prayer and requests our prayers, throughout the Bible. In trying to understand God, in the manner of an amoeba trying to comprehend Plato, going only on the clues in the Bible, we are told that God loves us; He created us in His own image. How does a father love his child? Doesn’t he want only the best for that child? Doesn’t he dedicate his life to trying to protect, teach and provide for that child? Wouldn’t he do everything in his power for that child, whatever that child asked providing that it was in the best interest of the child?
Imagine that the same is true of God, for us. If you have children, how much do you encourage them to communicate with you, open up to you, stay in contact with you? Reply

Anonymous June 2, 2011

? I dont fully understand. In many of the prayers we ask G-d for things...? Reply

Anonymous Waterloo April 11, 2011

Why not? Thank you so much for this article. Its really biblical to pray. Not just to ask for things but to talk to God and thank Him for all that he has done. It may seen pointless but Im sure that it is MUCH harder to say things aloud to God than think things in your head about what you want and love in this life. It helps you to grow in your faith and relationship with Him. Can't just walk the walk. You have to talk the talk with God. As he has written.
Also we cannot expect in prayer for success. We have wants and needs we address but finish praying in AMEN and let God's will be done, not yours or mine. Reply

Eeden galway, Ireland November 5, 2010

Prayer I understand that what I've commented on is more or less what you are saying in your article above. But I still think that there isn't much point in praying if that's what people think praying is for. And I reckon that is what most folks think it's about. I think praying is, for most people, about getting help from a supernatural being in their own lives. Reply

Eeden galway November 5, 2010

Prayer This may seem very simplistic. I understand that people pray for many reasons, mostly for comfort, I think. It often puts me in mind of the idea that if you can't decide something, you should flip a coin - not in order to make the decision, but so that you will finally understand, when the coin is in the air, how you really want it to fall.

However, I don't understand the idea of someone praying for success (for example, winning a race, or a contract, or "let the hurricane miss my home [and probably therefore hit someone else's"]), if your success will mean that someone else (who may also have prayed) losing the race, or missing out on the job, or losing their life/home/family/livelihood. Reply

Crucify this Austin, TX June 23, 2010

Why pray? Foolishment? Delusion? How do you connect with something that shows no signs of existence, whatsoever? Do any of you who pray really believe you are having a conversation with some being? Do you hear voices? Any sign that it has any effect at all?

I don't expect to get many backers here, but your life will play out the same, whether you pray or whether you don't. It's just a poor excuse for a security blanket.

I was a Xtian for more than 20 years, so I know the routine. I just woke up and smelled the coffee... Reply

drew hollywood, fl May 12, 2009

Re: why pray? I love this explanation! It's genius! Reply

Cheryl Q Orange County, CA April 24, 2009

Why pray if everything G_d does is good? I love the answers given in this article. It seems some see prayer as asking God for what you want. Prayer is much much more. It is an opportunity to make a conscious connection to G_d.. It is an opportunity to put one's life into perspective and to experience the peace that comes with true gratitude. In respone to the first two comments about G_d needing our prayers, perhaps G_d does not "need" our prayers but knows how much WE benefit when we do. In other words, it is OUR need. G_d gives us the OPPORTUNITY to pray. Many times I have begun my prayers full of anxiety only to find it gone and replaced with a increasing sense of serenity.as I prayed. How foolish I would be to abstain from prayer for any reason! Reply

Daniel Coppell, TX April 20, 2009

I've asked too, and but still... I've thought about the same question before,why pray when/ God's will (if there is a God) will be his will and there's no amount of praying that's going to change that. So what is the point when/if things will be the way they will be, why pray. God isn't going to change his mind, cause afterall, he is God and he doesn't change for us. And if things aren't going to change by our prayers, seems a pointless thing. Many have said that prayer is what God wants, but really, is he that self righteous that he needs us to thank him for what he gave us. Shouldn't a supreme being just give for the sake of giving and not to have us thank him daily for it? I do for my kids because I love them without bounds, and I don't expect them to thank me daily for anything, as it's out of pure love, so how is it that a supreme being needs that constant reassurance? Reply

Robin January 19, 2009

Prayers and existentialism Just wondering, What would G_d do with our prayers? Does his ego need to be satisfied? Do we need to reassure ourselves for the nth time anyhow, knowing that G_d is not going to wink to us? Do we have to thank him for life and for what we have if we didn't ask to be here in the first place? Can't we trust in G_d without having recourse to any kind of expression at all? Reply

Anonymous Austin, Texas December 25, 2008

What a cool site! How interesting - more answers than I even had thought to ask!

I am a Unitarian, raised Lutheran (Protestant Christian), was raised where there were no Jews, and have not even had Jewish coworkers in my life, yet with so many media personalities who make a point of talking about their Jewishness - it just raises so many questions about what Jewishness is. Reply

Rob W. Pittsburgh, PA / USA October 28, 2007

Purpose(s) of Prayer Great article, Ms. Weisberg. Off the top of my head, I can think of 3 types of prayers: thanks; repentance; and petition. The third is the most problematic for me -- maybe. I told an atheist friend that one need not be a full-blown atheist to rid one's life & mind of superstition. He questioned this. I told him the purpose of my saying grace was not to ask G-d for a miracle -- to change the laws of nature to do me a favor, like "give me a million dollars without my having to earn it." The purpose was to thank G-d for what I had. Reply

Anonymous Honolulu, Hawaii/USA May 30, 2007

Why pray if everything G-d does is good? The question and the response have inspired me to talk less and listen more in prayer. Reply

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