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What do you pray for?

If you had a moment alone with G-d, what would you ask for?


Belief in a higher power being central to Judaism—we believe in an Almighty G-d whose power and abilities are infinitely greater than any physical creature’s—an expression of this belief is prayer. While many religions incorporate prayer in their faith, Judaism was the first to have a set daily prayer schedule.


We pray three times a day, ideally in a synagogue with a minyan; but prayer can happen anywhere—at home, at work, on a bus, train or plane. We also can—and are even encouraged to—pray outside of the set schedule, on our own whenever we feel a prayer is warranted.


But what do we pray for? If prayer is that moment we have alone with a sublime G-d, should it be wasted on asking for something mundane? Or, since prayer is an opportunity to connect with G-d, should our prayers be limited to “G-dly” or spiritual matters?


Taking a look at the life of our patriarch Jacob, we will find the answer to this. While escaping the wrath of his brother Esau, Jacob ended up sleeping on Mt. Moriah—later known as Temple Mount—considered the holiest place on earth. After dreaming about angels climbing to Heaven from that location, he was startled awake by the realization that he was sleeping in a holy place.


And guess what he did next? He prayed to G-d for food, shelter, and clothing. Moments after realizing that he was on holy ground and regretting sleeping there, he prays for his material needs. Not for his spiritual pursuits, not to be able to study more Torah, and not even to be able to be more aware of holiness around him. All he asked for was that his mundane needs be tended to.


That’s because a Jew’s relationship with G-d goes far beyond the spiritual. Were we to limit our interaction with G-d to spiritual and holy matters, that would be akin to saying that G-d only relates to spirituality and no more. But that couldn’t be further from the truth; G-d’s infinity dictates that He can be found everywhere and in everything. He is in the grocery store as much as He is in the synagogue, and He hears our prayers about mundane things in the exact same manner He hears our prayers for spirituality.


G-d doesn’t limit Himself to the esoteric and sublime, so neither should we. G-d wants us to connect with Him in all areas of our lives, even—and especially—in the parts of our lives that are less than holy. Bringing G-d into our spiritual lives is nice, but that isn’t a great accomplishment; it’s when we make every part of our lives G-dly, when everything we do is imbued with G-dliness, that’s when we demonstrate G-d’s true infinite nature.


So when you pray, wherever you may be and whatever you may be praying for, know that it is your moment to connect with the Infinite, and that by doing so, you become the channel through which G-d’s true existence is realized in the entire universe.

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