It is clear to me that G-d does not answer all prayer. But it is also clear to me that G-d surely is involved in the lives of those who bring Him into our world; I feel G-d’s kisses on a daily basis, and I know many others who do as well.
Last night we watched It’s a Wonderful Life with a number of our kids who had never seen it before. Its core message is profound: the impact we make on others is what matters. Or, as seen on the wall of the Bailey Building and Loan: “All you can take you is that which you’ve given away.” If we extend the aphorism beyond mere mammon, we might be onto something!
Last week I wrote on what makes a successful prayer in the Torah. Simplified: the most divinely-favored prayer in the entire Torah is that of Avraham’s servant, in large part because the servant is praying for his master. The two dovetailed perfectly into a simple, yet fundamental logical progression:
1: If we want to matter to G-d, we must care about, and pray for, other people.
2: In order to maximize G-d’s blessings to us, then, we should deliberately arrange our affairs so that when others are blessed, we are as well.
In other words, a community in which people lift each other up and form an integral support network is one where G-d hears prayers. So if we make choices that result in the success of other people leading to blessings in our own lives, then G-d will be with us when we call on Him.
A society blessed by G-d is more like capitalism, where a rising tide can boost all ships, where the pie can grow such that everyone can benefit from the success of others. This is the antithesis of a zero-sum game, in which for every win there must be equal-and-opposite loss.
In practical terms, then, I am talking of endeavors where we honestly and legitimately pray for others before ourselves: think of a doctor who prays for their patients, a mother who prays for her children, a businessman who prays for the welfare of his shareholders. Indeed, any person who prays for their friends, family, and neighbors is someone who sees their own success through the prism of the success and blessings of others.
All who are engaged in holy work (e.g. investing in other people, elevating the world in some way, spreading knowledge and wisdom, etc.), pray just as Avraham’s servant did: that our master (G-d Himself) should be blessed with a successful result for His endeavors in this world. The prayer and divine intervention becomes a positive feedback loop: If we seek to maximize the kindness we show to others (and pray for them), then the benefits reflect on us. The more we love, the more G-d loves us.
I am finding that changing my worldview in this way has changed my prayers and their success.
What do you think?