PRAYER (pps.176-183)

hard cover page 182

with, or allowed man to be afflicted by, sickness: man wishes God to restore him to good health. God has placed man, or allowed man to be placed, in a situation of poverty; man aspires to good fortune. He pleads with God to grant that which heretofore has been withheld. Is it not the height of audacity and unseemliness for man to presume to “pressure” God with prayer and argument in an attempt to dictate to God how He shall act! Moreover, the very act of prayer, unless it be completely futile, assumes that prayer is efficacious. The apparent implication is that the will of God is subject to change. Yet God and His will are one. Hence, God’s will, which is identical with His essence, is itself eternal and immutable. Thus any change in the divine will is an impossibility. What. then, is the purpose of prayer?

The notion that an individual who prays fervently, and with faith that the prayer will be answered, will necessarily receive a favorable response to his petition is not explicitly formulated in classical Jewish sources. . .

Later scholars …stressed the contemplative and introspective nature of prayer and its effect upon man. The nineteenthcentury writer, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, viewed prayer primarily as an occasion for introspection rather than as an attempt to communicate with the Active Intellect. . . . A similar description of prayer as an act of self-judgement in the ongoing conflict between man’s good and evil inclinations, as well as a similar philological analysis of the term tefillah, is found in the preface of Rabbi Jacob Zebi Meklenburg’s commentary on the prayerbook, Iyun Tefillah. The author of this work was a contemporary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.

Maimonides, in his Guide, regards prayer essentially as an exercise designed to enable man to achieve spiritual perfection rather than as an attempt to elicit a response on the part of God. Indeed, in his formulation of the principle, Maimonides carefully avoids any comment with regard to the efficacy of prayer… Maimonides views prayer as an opportunity to contemplate the nature and grandeur of the Deity. This contemplation leads to intellectual perfection and the establishment of

——————- NOTES ——————-

658 Bleich, With Perfect Faith, p. 238.
Cf. Gordis, A Faith for Moderns, p. 270. “One medieval thinker went so far as to declare that there is only one true prayer: ‘May it be Thy will that Thy will be done.’ ”

659 Bleich, With Perfect Faith, p. 239.
Cf. ibid., p. 239. “Hirsch’s explanation of the effect of prayer on the worshipper is based upon his philological interpretation of the Hebrew word for ‘prayer,’ tefillah. Hirsch regards this term as being derived from the verb ‘pallel,’ meaning ‘to judge,’ forms of which occur twice in I Samuel 2:23. Grammatically, the Hebrew word for the verb ‘to pray’-le-hitpallel-is in the reflexive form. Prayer, then, for Hirsch, is a form of self-judgment. Prayer becomes the occasion for man to bring himself to trial, to engage in selfexamination with a view to determining whether his conduct conforms to the norms required of a true servant of God, and to reflect upon the ways in which his conduct may be improved and brought into conformity with these ideals.”


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