Thursday, March 15, 2007

Unanswered Prayers

posted by Amanda

Many times throughout davening and especially the amidah we request specific things from Hashem. Yet, while sometimes, our prayers are successfully answered, other times our prayers are seemingly unanswered.
According to Helene Ciaravino in her book titled Unanswered Prayers and Spiritual Dry Spells, she writes about various possible reasons for Hashem to not answer our prayers. First she mentioned that true prayers takes patience and perseverance, in other words you cannot expect to daven for something one day and receive it the next day. Rather, only after one has davened a long time for a specific thing does one earn it. Next, she mentioned that sometimes we think that we know what is best for ourselves, when in fact Hashem having the greater picture in mind knows what is in fact best for us even when it may seem as if it is not the best. Nevertheless, Rashi said that prayer can change a Jew’s predetermined destiny from bad to good. Therefore, Rashi disagrees with Helene Ciaravino because he believes that by praying one can ultimately change one’s fate.

Why do you think Hashem doesn’t always answer our prayers? What do you think happens to our unanswered prayers?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prayer is one of those complex things that people over the ages have a hard time comprehending. Hashem does not ignore our prayers. But just as Helene Ciaravino said, Hashem always knows whats best for us. So even if he didnt answer exactly what we wanted, he is still listening, btu sometimes what is best for us now, may not be the best for us in the future in the world in general. This blog reminds me of " Bruce Almighty" when Bruce is G-d and prayers come in throguh emial. Instead of him looking at every single prayer because it would take him a lifetime to look throguh every single persons in the worlds email, he jsut clicks yes and all prayers are answerd. The result of this is full frontal world war, death, and complete and utter upheavel. This would be the result if every persons prayer would be answerd. Yes, many people would be healed and maybe in the short run would have mroe money etc. But think of every single time youve wished a bad thoguht upon someone else, would u really want that prayer to be answerd? It is in our best interest that Hashem does not answer all our prayers yes, and he does not ignore us, jsut sometimes, he says no but absorbs the prayer.

March 18, 2007 6:43 PM  
Blogger tali said...

Ok Esti has officially changed my life, so that it revolves around country music, and there's this song called "Unanswered Prayers" by Garth Brooks, which I think is extremely poignant. The reader's digest version is that this guy sees his ex-girlfriend at a game and appreciates how much he loves his wife and daughter, and thanks God for not answering his original prayers to marry that other woman.
So that agrees with what Shira says and generally the perspective when it comes to unanswered prayers.
But about Amanda's blog and that if you pray hard enough and long enough, you can earn what you want, according to both sources. I can't help but think of that story with the lottery, where the guy prays to win it so bad, and then God finally calls out "It would help if you bought a ticket!"
I think prayer is more for us than for God, and that by wanting and needing something so badly, we will find a way to make it happen for ourselves. We should never underestimate our own human potential, and if every day you pray for 20 years, with true righteous concentration that you will get a Hummer, my guess is, you'll find a way to get that Hummer. Because by then its more than just a hope, its an obsession, and human nature starts to kick in.

March 19, 2007 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Dasi said...

I agree with Shira that Hashem knows what the best is for us and therefore does not answer our prayers. An optimistic theological answer, however, how satisfying can that be for the family of the Israeli soldier that was murdered? Didn’t thousands of people pray for him? What happened? Jut to say that Hashem is just doing the best for us, though it may be true, is not comforting. But what is comforting, however, is he prayer itself. The thousands of people coming together, praying for one thing. The person who has never prayed before to say tehillim about a divine power which has ultimate control, and can destroy or create. The prayer takes the mind to a more important and spiritual place. You can havea conversation with the "person in power". even though your "modim" is painful, it forces you to thank God for what you have. In SHma Koleinu, however, you can pour your heart out and hope that Hashem will think that what you think is best for you is really best for you.

March 19, 2007 7:57 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

I am going to try to put a different perspective on this: if God answered all our prayers where would our faith come from? The idea of faith is that it is not definitive and clear. For all we know God could have a hands off approach in this world (I am not endorsing this is simply an opinion).God can't answer everything because we would take him for granted, and I honestly believe we would not see his greatness, unless we are able to fully comprehend the horrors in the world (so we can see the goodness). There must be a yin and yang

March 19, 2007 8:08 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

yes, hashem does not always answer our prayers, but they are ALWAYS heard. it is impossible for god to answer and fulfill all our prayer. that would require getting everything we wanted and that is unrealistic on every level. we dont have the right judgement to truly know what is best. what we want, may seem like the best for us but most of the time in the big picture and in the long run this isnt actually the best. therefore i agree with Helene Ciaravino. only hashem who control the world can know what is best. therefore when i prayers arent answered we cant blame god rather we have to accpet/ beleive in his correct judgment of the issue. "gam zu l'tovah" everything is done for the good we just have to beelive it.
however it is crucial to also know that just b/c our prayers werent answered DOES NOT MEAN that we should lose faith/give up b/c hashem did 100% hear them, however just can not always listen and do.
even if our prayers werent answered, we must continue to follow and even give us a greater motive to work harder on our davening and concentrate more.
(i.e. never give up)

March 19, 2007 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

first off i would like to say that if what helen ciarvino said about having to daven multiple times in order to get what you want...then me praying my heart out the day i took the SAt was kinda poiontless
secondly i would like ot talk about someothing thats a little off topic but is mentioned in the blog. you wrote that Rachi discusses theat tefilah can change our predestined course. do JEws belive in predestination? for i thought that was a more Christian {calvinist to be exact} idea. that people were created for a specific mission and whatever they do/the outcome of their actions has already been predetermined. as the Calvinists say, ones afterlife has been predestined by god and one is only good to give off the impression that he will go to heaven. is that really the case? and furthermore predestieaiton goes agianst Jeiwsh ideal, for if we were predestined wouldnt we not have free wiill cuz our lives would alreayd have been "decided" unless RAshi didnt mean predestination, rather he meant the JEwish people's history as a whole. By interpreting peestination as Hasehm only getting invovled with the big picutre of Jews and non jews then we can c how prayer could chagne the "plans" such as with the people of Ninveh who prayed and consequently the course of action Hashem took with them changed. someitmes though, no matter the amout we pray to GOd, our prayers dont deserve to be answered, either as punishment, or as a lesson. As human beigns our egos we forget about GOd, someitmes God needs to do soemtihng to remind us that He is there. as for sometihng as horendous as the Holocasut, prayer could not have sotpped that either bc it was such a major event that change dmuch of Judaism, altohugh it was a negative thing, the impact of the HOlocaust has ahd multiple outcomes and changed the course of Jewish history. so while prayer may not be for the individual's predestination, as a mass congregation it will onl someitmes change the course of history.


March 19, 2007 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Suz said...

I think hashem always hears our prayers, as other before me have stated. and, he does know what is best so his decision to allow or abstain is of course the proper decision. however i think that just because one does not recieve what one wants, it does not mean it wasnt answered. it means he said no. for example, if yo really want to be asked out by guy x, so you ask hashem that guy x will ask you out. but nothing happens and instead guy y asks you out and guy y is an awesome dude and you end up marrying. had guy x asked you out you never would have met guy y and would not be the person you are. trust in hashem and he'll take careof you, answered prayers or "unanswered" prayers.

March 20, 2007 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont think it is possible to sum up my opinion in one blog but i will do my best to condence. I think from what i have been told that god always receives our prayers. If we believed Hashem didnt hear our prayers then prayer would be an even more straining topic. Yet when one comes across a prayer he had unanswered whether it was something little or big or something he prayed for a long time or a short period it is always frustrating. This is where ones faith has to be at an all time high. If one doesnt have faith in Hashems divine plan then it is almost impossible to pray again for anything. All faith would be erased from the individual. But then poses another question, Suzane said that we need to trust hashem in what he does with our prayers, but if he is going to do with the prayers what he pleases than why daven in the first place?
Shabbat Shalom iris

March 22, 2007 8:27 PM  
Anonymous Shira M said...

ok so prayers is a very big but important issue. I have said this before and I think that prayers is not just for Hashem but also for us. I agree with Tova and think that our prayers are always heard and sometimes fulfilled. But the ones that arent fulfilled-werent for waste, howver they made us on a higher level and brought us closer to Hashem. Of course all of our prayers cannot be answered but that doesnt mean we shouldnt daven in the first place. Hashem has his reasons why he answers one prayer and not the other and since we dont know which one he chooses we must pray for it. It is like Rabbi Kresst's quizzes. Every week we have to be prepared for a quiz even though sometimes he will give it to us and sometimes he won't we still must prepare. This is a conflicting issue for me too becasue I know I have prayed for things with all my heart and when they are not fulfilled I just ask why. But it could also be a test for us. If one of our prayers arent fulfilled that does not mean we should say to ourselves that we should give up and Hashem isnt listening, but on the contrary we should daven with more Kavanah and instensity and really believein Hashem.

March 22, 2007 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Amy said...

So, im going to have to agree with Rashi on this one. How could the author of this book say that God doesnt answer your prayers unless you work at them for a long time, if we are specifically told that when a bad event or an emergency occurs we should pray to god. even if you are going to pray a minute before the bad event would occur, i still would have faith that god would save us if our prayer is sincere. Also, a lot of times people dont feel inspired to connect with god, or feel phsically incapable of doing so, and then after not praying for a while you feel a rush and a desire to connect. I think that prayer means so much and i feel that the author is wrong in denying that that prayer woulndt come true because the person hadnt prayed every single day.

Something that bothered me was that in someone's post they said that "if God answered every prayer- where would faith come from?" so, now i know that God cant answer every prayer because a lot lot of tehm are destructive to ourselves or to other peopel or for various other reasons... but isnt faith the hope that god Will answer every prayer? I f we didnt believe that god would answer our prayers , then why would we say them at all??!!??!

March 22, 2007 10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, prayers are not solely a wish list-as a child would have for santa (not a jewish one of course), but rather are a way one can connect to God and strengthen such bond. Therefore, before i attempt to answer such question i wanted to clarify that prayers do not necessarely mean requests for a fulfilled desire, but rather they serve additional purposes. However, I do agree Helene Ciaravino in that Hashem does see the big picture and therefore it is sometimes beneficial for us to not have our prayers answered. Secondly, I am unclear with rashi's theory about prayers-does he actually believe in predestination? because last i heard that's not really a jewish concept. (Though i may be wrong and therefore if i am please someone correct me). And lastly, i do not think that prayers are some sort of entity, meaning that i do not believe that prayers are like emails one sends to God and God rejects. I think that prayers are pure expressions of the soul's desires and spiritual needs, and therefore i am unclear with the question of "where do the unanswered prayers go". However i applaud Amanda's main idea.

March 22, 2007 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think that hashem doesnt answer all paryers since hashem does everything for the good and maybe if we asked for something, maybe hashem knows that it would be bad for us even if we dont understnad it as bad.

March 23, 2007 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was writing this blog all I could think about was the movie Bruce Almighty. As shown in the movie, if Hashem said yes and responded favorably to everyone's prayers then it would cause chaos.Therefore Hashem has to chose who to respond favorably to but always does what is best. Hashem knows the future and knows what is best for us even if we may not think it the best.


March 23, 2007 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was writing this blog all I could think about was the movie Bruce Almighty. As shown in the movie, if Hashem said yes and responded favorably to everyone's prayers then it would cause chaos.Therefore Hashem has to chose who to respond favorably to but always does what is best. Hashem knows the future and knows what is best for us even if we may not think it the best.


March 23, 2007 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


March 23, 2007 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was writing this blog all I could think about the movie Bruce Almighty. As shown in the movie, if Hashem answered favorably to everyone's prayers then the world would be chaos. Therefore, if Hashem cannot answer every prayer favorably. We may think Hashem is not answerign our prayers but Hashem is always answerign our prayers even when He says no Heis still answering our prayers.


March 23, 2007 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry for posting so many times i didnt realize

March 23, 2007 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't God answer all of our prayers...there are an infinite number of possible reasons, naturally we will never know, but I will share thoughts that I would like to believe. I would like to think that Hashem hears all of our prayers, but only chooses to answer some of them. It is also possible that Hashem doesn't answer some of our prayers, because He wants us to solve our problems on our own. He would interfere with national problems, and crises involving the entire Jewish nation, but not for individuals. Hashem cannot intervene all the time or, on a certain level, our free will is eliminated.
It can be very difficult at times to feel that God is present if he doesn't answer one's prayers. Patients on my oncology floor of the hospital ask me all the time if I believe in God or how God could cause them and their loved ones such physical and emotional pain. I could never answer this question, but maybe, as Rabbi Tessler said, we will find out God's reasons after we pass on. As for now Hashem just owes us one for the important unanswered prayers.

March 23, 2007 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Avraham was praying to Hashem to not destroy Sodom, Hashem knew what the outcome was going to be. He knew that Avraham would not be able to find 50 people that were worth saving- He was going to destroy them. Why would Hashem do this to Avraham? Avraham’s prayers were going to be rejected, but it was not for nothing. Avraham became a better person, even though, Sodom was not saved. He was not thinking of himself, instead he put others first. When we daven for other people and our prayers are not answered, it is frustrating because we think that our davening was for nothing. This is not the case. We become better people by putting others before ourselves. What counts is trying and putting forth the effort, not necessarily just the results.
Naomi Z

March 25, 2007 3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

first of all, just b/c we dont beleive hashem isnt answering our prayers doesnt mean he actuially isnt. he always hears them, but might not necesarilly answer them the way we want. i definetly agree with the author when she says that only hashem sees the bigger picture and knows what is right for us. at the same time, what if a request is selfless, and happens to be something u really want, like asking hashem to help someone recover from cancer, and daven and daven but the person dies anyway? how can u argue that hashem is indeed answering our prayers? the fact is, we may not always understand why, but there is always always always a reason. also, the power of tefilla is incredibly powerful, even if u dont get exactly what u asked for. u might just find different answers that help u see the situation in a different perspective. the beauty of tefila is that u can ask for anything that u want, and say anything that u want, and there is noone to judge u for ur thought and requests except for hashem. and that in itself is powerful.


March 25, 2007 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Eliana said...

To answer this question would be to answer all the questions about the mysteries of god and how he works and why things happen the way they do. You cannot say that prayers are unanswered because someone didn’t pray hard enough for it. You cannot say that prayers are unanswered because someone wasn’t a good enough person. This goes to the fundamental question of why good things happen to bad people, and why bad things happen to good people. And clearly there is no good answer for that question. If you want to look at it from another point of view prayer is there for our own purposes. When we pray I think we’re getting in touch more with ourself than an external force. Or maybe that supernatural force is actually within ourselves, and we’re just tapping into our own powers.
In a “heretical” way of looking at it, prayer is incorporated in religion because it actualizes that there is in fact a supernatural force out there that is in fact controlling everything. You can pray to it and it will give you what you pray for, or at least consider what you pray for. Except that clearly if you don’t always get what you pray for, and there is no consistent explanation for why you get what you pray for or why you don’t then perhaps there really isn’t a rational force out there. Or perhaps there isn’t any force at all.

April 11, 2007 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Rabbi Krestt said...

Why is that a "heritical" way of looking at prayer (other than that last bit)? I think Chazal definitly felt that there was utilitarian perspective to prayer as well as a spiritual one. In fact, I think they would agree with what you said earlier -- prayer is more for the one who prays than for Hashem.

April 17, 2007 9:31 PM  

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