By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)
In this study I would like to examine what prayer is, and what praying will accomplish. The first time we see ‘praying’ in Scripture is found in:
1 Sh’muel (Samuel) 1:1-18 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name [was] Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite: And he had two wives; the name of the one [was] Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto HaShem of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of HaShem, [were] there. And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but HaShem had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because HaShem had shut up her womb. And [as] he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of HaShem, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? [am] not I better to thee than ten sons? So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of HaShem. And she [was] in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto HaShem, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, HaShem of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto HaShem all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. And it came to pass, as she continued praying before HaShem, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I [am] a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before HaShem. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant [thee] thy petition that thou hast asked of him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more [sad].
Strong’s Concordance gives the definition of ‘praying’ as:
6419 palal, paw-lal'; a prim. root; to judge (officially or mentally); by extens. to intercede, pray:-intreat, judge (-ment), (make) pray (-er, - ing), make supplication.
If the prime meaning for the Hebrew root word for ‘praying’ is to judge, then whom are we judging? We can get a clue to the answer by understanding that the Hebrew word ‘palal’ is reflexive, that is, the speaker acts upon himself. From this we understand that ‘praying’ is judging oneself!
It is understood that a person can have only one ratzon, only one desire at a time. If we examine our current desire and ask, “Why do I desire this thing?” If the answer leads us to an underlying desire, then we need to repeat this question until we arrive at the answer: “I desire this thing for no other reason than I desire it”. At this point we understand what is our ratzon, what is our innermost desire. Getting to our ratzon can be a very difficult and embarrassing ordeal, but the exercise will help us to pray.
For example: I want to earn more money. Why do I desire more money? I desire more money because I desire a new car. Why do I desire a new car? I desire a new car in order to attract...
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