Thoughts on Prayer
I am having a lot of trouble believing in the power of prayer lately. I daven, but I think it is more for me than anything else. I actually don't doubt that there is a lot of power in prayer, but the power I see in it is more for the individual to gain strength from it rather than it changing any sort of outcome. Maybe that's cynical, which I hate to be (idealist that I am), but I have a hard time with the thought that asking Hashem for something is going to make it happen. I think prayer gives an individual many things - peace of mind, the feeling that Hashem is listening and supporting you, the feeling that you are doing something in a situation that may seem out of control. All of these things will calm a person and give them some measure of strength. And that is great. But I have a hard time believing that prayer helps bring something to fruition that isn't meant to be from the beginning. For example, I can ask Hashem for strength to get my through a difficult situation. And I might end up having the strength to deal with the situation in the way I want to (and I hope that I do). But if I do have the strength, I don't think it is a gift I received from Hashem specifically because I prayed for it. It is something that Hashem gave me from the day I was born and through all the experiences I have had since then. The act of my praying for strength very well may help me channel my energies into having greater strength and therefore "answer" my prayers that way. But I don't know that Hashem is actively giving me strength because I ask for it. I guess I feel that prayer is in the mind. It absolutely can not hurt. It can strengthen a person immensely and channel their energies. But the outcome, I feel, is up to individual. It is up to free will. I have always had trouble with the concept that Hashem always answers prayers, there are just times when the answer is no. I think we answer our prayers, that we have within us the power to make things happen and that those prayers can help and give us the knowledge of what we need to do. I just think we have to make up in our mind to have the resolve to enact change before we can expect anything to really happen. It has to be up to us to do for ourselves. It's weird, because I still believe in miracles. I just don't know if those miracles are the answers to prayers, or if they are just what Hashem means to happen. I know all this doubt in the power of prayer goes against much of what Torah says. And I don't have a way to reconcile that. Part of me knows that this doubt comes from the feeling of being helpless, of struggling day after day, asking and praying to Hashem for things and not feeling that I am getting answered. It makes me so sad that I don't believe that I am getting answered; I want desperately to not hold this cynical view. It's just hard sometimes to fight against it. Does that mean that I don't pray? Of course not, I pray every day. I can't imagine my life without my daily dialogues with Hashem. But when I want something to happen, I think I need to do something about it. I think I need to gather my courage and strength to make it happen. I think it is within me, and that it is part of the gifts Hashem has given me and I just need to utilize, to make the changes that I want to see. I guess I think we all have the power within ourselves to answer our prayers. Maybe prayer helps me gather these gifts together, maybe my prayers actually get answered. I hope it's the latter.