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Can we pray to God for a Mercedes Benz?

01/22/2017 05:00:00 AM


Can we pray to God for a Mercedes Benz?

Earlier this week I had a meeting with a young woman who asked, "Are there acceptable and unacceptable things to ask God for in prayer?"

We discussed the four general purposes of prayer: praise, petition, gratitude and forgiveness. We explored what the Mishnah said (a collection of Jewish law from the 2nd century CE):

One who prays over what has already happened, this prayer is in vain. How? If his wife was pregnant and he said, "May it be your will that my wife give birth to a boy or a girl." This prayer is in vain.

If he came on the way and heard the sound of screaming in the city, and he said, "May it be your will that these are not the children of my house." This is a prayer in vain.

Lastly, we homed in on one question, "Who is prayer for?" Is prayer for God? Does God need prayer? Or, is prayer for us? Is prayer for the individual?

The answer is of course both and somewhere in between. However, it is important to recognize that prayer is just as much for ourselves as it is for God. Prayer has the potential to energize, connect us to ourselves and the universe, to allow us an opportunity to self-reflect and to meditate. Prayer done well and meaningfully has the potential to help us to rewire our brains and strengthen the neural networks in our minds.

In order to do this important work it is important to ask another question: What are our goals in prayer? What do we hope to accomplish by praying to God?

Prayer is ultimately about your relationship with God, and therefore, what you pray for will either strengthen that connection or not. Therefore, one needs to be mindful in their prayer of whether that prayer truly serves their own spiritual goals and their development and relationship with God.

The question of what is it okay to pray for to God is not a question with an objective answer. Rather the answer is highly subjective and dependent entirely on you. One needs to have personal guidelines and boundaries in prayer. Once you decide what you want from prayer, what is in bounds and what is out of bounds, it will help realize what you should and can pray to God for in your life (Then you will know whether or not to pray for the Mercedes Benz).

Shabbat Shalom

Fri, August 14 2020 24 Av 5780