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Prayer Skills: Degel Machane Ephraim: Don’t Grant My Request!

The 17th of Iyar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sadlikov, grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, author of Degel Machaneh Ephraim (1748-1800): There is an ebb and flow in man’s prayer life. It is not possible for him always to have the highest motives and conduct himself on the most elevated plane. The two versions are interpreted as referring to prayer but to two different stages, one higher than the other. Both refer to those who pray for the sake of God, not for themselves. One worshiper declares that God’s will, not his own, be done. While he acknowledges that tradition demands that he entreat God to satisfy his needs, he accepts in love that God may not answer his prayers. His service is without conditioning for reward. It is simply his duty to pray, leaving the rest to God.


The second stage in the life of prayer is still higher. Here the worshiper conditions for no reward. He, too, prays for his own needs, since he is so obligated to do by the tradition, but he does not want his request to be granted. His true desire is always to be in a state of need so that he can come again and again before God to present his petition. The particular things he needs form only the excuse he has for praying to God. What really matters for him is the joy of approaching his Maker.

This parable can be given. A man is possessed of a powerful desire to commune with the king, his heart burning in longing for it to happen. The King decreed that who ever presents his requests to him will have them answered. This man, whose desire and longing it is to converse with the King, is apprehensive that, when he comes to present his request, the king will grant it and he will then have no further excuse for conversing with the King. He prefers that the king should not grant his request so that he will have good reason for coming again to the king and having once again the joy of conversing with him. (Degel Machne Ephraim; Haftarah Ki Teitzei)

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