Dear Rabbi,

My friend’s family is going through a very rough time. She stays home most of the time praying to G‑d that her situation change, but it does not. She is trying very hard to be faithful, but the more she prays to G‑d, the angrier she gets.

Should I advise her to stop praying so that she won’t be so angry at G‑d? Or should I encourage her to continue, even if that means she’ll keep getting angrier?


Thanks for your question. Your friend is lucky to have a friend like you, who cares and takes an interest in her wellbeing.

Prayer: Part of the Picture

Your question relates to a common misconception many people have about how a relationship with G‑d works. Some believe that one should pray to G‑d, ask for what you need and want, and that’s it. They feel that prayer and faith in G‑d should magically bring changes and blessings.

However, the truth is that we need to be like the faithful farmer: he prays to G‑d for success, and then, full of faith that he’ll succeed, he goes and plows the field. G‑d created this world for us to work and be creative in. Yes, this is difficult, and remaining at home can be much easier, but that is not what G‑d wants from us in this world.

We need to make a receptacle in which to receive blessing. In addition to creating a physical receptacle, we also need to create a spiritual receptacle. We can do that by adding to our Jewish observance. Through these channels, G‑d bestows His blessings on us.

The effect of prayer on us should be that we should feel closer to G‑d and joyfully accepting of what He wants us to do in this world. After your friend prays in this way, she can determine what’s in her power to do, and then do it.

What Is Prayer?

Prayer brings G‑d closer to us, and reminds us that He is with us during difficult times just as during good times, and that the awesome G‑d may do things that we do not understand. It helps us recognize that everything that’s not in our power is G‑d’s department, and that our personal wants are not necessarily what is ultimately in our best interest. The same way a parent may not fulfill all of a child’s wants because they have a better understanding of a situation, so too, we rely on G‑d’s judgment to do what is best for us.

Prayer is our connection to G‑d as our Creator. Standard Jewish prayers discuss the greatness of the infinite G‑d who created all of reality, and who still chooses to be involved in every detail of a finite human being’s daily life.

Prayer also gives us the time to contemplate and recognize the blessings that are literally raining down on us and drenching us. Often, we do not even extend a cup to catch the drops. We do not spend time contemplating G‑d’s creation and the good fortune we have to be alive, functioning, with family and good friends. When our focus is on what we want and are not receiving, nothing but frustration and a suspicion that G‑d doesn’t like us (G‑d forbid) will build up.

One of the greatest forms of charity is assisting another in finding an occupation so that they can be self-sufficient. By helping your friend focus on the areas where she can take control or do something, and by gently helping her highlight the positive aspects of her life, you are doing a great charitable deed.

Please see Why Do We Pray? from our Jewish Prayer section.

Rabbi Zalman Nelson, LMSW
for The Judaism