Prayer Skills: Mabit: Waiting For an Answer
The 23rd of Nisan is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Moshe (ben Yosef) MiTrani, the Mabit: I first thought, it would not appear correct to offer special praise to God before asking for one’s needs. When a person praises his neighbor and then asks for a favor, it is evident that the only reason for this praise was so that the request would be granted.
When one looks into the concept of prayer more deeply, however, it becomes apparent why such praise is necessary before prayer is accepted.
No human being is perfect, and therefore any praise of a mortal man must contain some overstatement: When one asks a favor and praises his neighbor, it is impossible that his praise does not contain some overstatement, speaking of qualities that the other does not have. This is mere flattery, it’s only purpose being that the request be granted.
When a person prays to God, on the other hand, he must realize that no one can fulfill his request and petition other than God, since He is the Creator of all and the Prime Mover. We must therefore begin by uttering His praise, stating that we know and recognize His greatness. It is fitting to pray to Him, since He is the one who makes poor and rich, lifts up and casts down, who “says, does, decrees and fulfill.” It is for this reason that we, “Cast our burden upon Him, and He sustains us.”
Just as it is necessary to praise God before praying, it is also necessary to conclude by giving thanks for one’s portion. One is then like a servant who receives his portion from his master, who praises him and then departs, as taught by our sages.
It is somewhat difficult to understand what is meant when they say that he is like a slave who had received a portion from his master. This would seem to indicate that the prayer has already been answered.
Here, however, we are taught a major point regarding prayer. When a person prays, his aim should not necessarily be that his prayer be answered! Our sages thus teach that one who anticipates an answer to his prayer will end up with pain in his heart, as it is written, “Hope deferred makes the heart ache (Proverbs 13:12).”
When our sages say that such a person is like a servant who has received a portion from his master, the intention is that he should consider it as if he has already been answered.
The main goal of prayer is not that his request be fulfilled, but to reinforce the concept that in all creation, there is none to whom it is fitting to pray other than God. One must be aware of his needs and lacks, and must realize that no one can fulfill them other than God. When a person expresses his needs before God, he is expressing this concept, and the reward will ultimately also,.
We therefore see that the main purpose of prayer is not to receive that which one requests. For then, if he knew that he would not be answered in a particular prayer, he would not say it at all.
This also answers another difficulty regarding prayer. At first thought it would appear improper to make the same request numerous times. If one asked an earthly king for the same thing two or three times, the king would become angry with him. If the king had wanted to fulfill the request, he would have done so the first or the second time. If a person keeps on urging the King, his request becomes superfluous, and can actually injure his position.
It is therefore difficult to understand why we pray to God each day, morning, noon and night, saying the same prayer. For the most part, our prayers are not answered, but still, we do not desist from saying these daily prayers.
The main intent of prayer is that we should recognize and express the fact that there is nothing in the universe to whom it is fitting to pray other than God. He is the Master of the universe, and we mentioned our many needs in our prayers in order that we should recognize that there is none who can grant our needs, and save us from all our troubles, other than God. Upon In we cast our burden period
It is with this intent that we fulfill our obligation to pray. God will do what is good in’s eyes, whether He accepts our prayers or not. (Rabbi Moshe of Trani, Beit Elokim, Tefillah 2)