Question of the week:
Is it wrong to keep praying for the same thing over and over again? Is it demonstrating a lack of faith that our Heavenly Father is not hearing our prayers or is it showing that we believe that our prayers will be answered because we are demonstrating our faith?
I believe He is very busy but cannot become overwhelmed as He can do anything we can imagine and more.
~ Jim L.
Praying is never demonstrating a lack of faith. This is true even if events have tragically reduced one to praying in a mood of resentment and even anger. Speaking to Him is always better than ignoring Him.
The English word ‘pray’ originates with an old Latin word for ‘beseech’ or ‘implore’, in other words, asking for something. However, ancient Jewish wisdom’s insights on prayer reveal it to have much more to do with communicating than with requesting.
In fact, praying effectively involves five steps: (1) Candid self-judgment; (2) Commitment to change (3) Contemplation of God’s love for us (4) Expression of praise and gratitude (5) Requests.
Because prayer is a personal and intimate experience between an individual and God, no communication is “wrong.” However, the question of whether at a certain point we should stop praying for the same thing over and over is a good and often-asked question.
In our book, Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language, you will find a chapter on the Hebrew word for prayer. One of the points we note is that the verb “to pray” is reflexive in Hebrew (in other words, an action that we do to ourselves), that also has an element of self-judgment in it.
The idea is that so many people have difficulty learning how to pray. Well, it turns out that a good way to start is by seriously contemplating the difference between what we think of ourselves and what God is probably thinking about us. In other words, judging ourselves through His lens of what we are capable of achieving.
When our prayers aren’t answered quickly in the manner that we hoped for, it gives us a chance to reflect. God is all-powerful, but it is possible that what we think is best for us may not actually be the best. Think of someone wanting a specific job, spouse or possession. God may well be answering us, but with a clear, unambiguous ‘No’. This grants us the opportunity to re-think whether we are asking for the right thing.
On the other hand, we have the example of many of our Biblical matriarchs who ceaselessly prayed for a child. How fortunate they and we are that they didn’t give up! The delay granted them time both to get closer to God as they reached out to Him and also to reflect on their desires for their children’s lives, not just for those children to be born.
Praying for someone’s recovery from ill-health is another example of prayer that may seem repetitive but should be maintained until prayers have been answered in one way or the other. If the answer to our requests for a restoration of health is “no,” that prayer still served a purpose. We simply may not have the whole picture to understand where it will come into fulfillment.
Continuing to pray while also re-examining our goals and motives is worthwhile. Quite apart from anything else, praying is a habit that paradoxically strengthens us. Secular people have sometimes tried to disparage prayer as the refuge of the weak. However, they are wrong because it takes great inner strength to pray to God and doing so strengthens the inner will in powerful and mysterious ways.
Repeatedly asking a human father for the same thing is sometimes seen as nagging, but not to our Father in Heaven. No matter what, we can be sure that He always desires our connection to Him.
May all our prayers be answered for good,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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Unit One focuses on the six days of Creation and foundational principles from the beginning of Genesis. This First Lesson discusses Genesis 1:1, how God communicated with man through the Hebrew language, and how studying the Bible in Hebrew opens up a world of deeper meaning.
20 thoughts on “Too Much Prayer?”
IS GOD’S WORD ( THE BIBLE ) CONTRADICTORY ? I
Cheryl, I often find that I write something in an email and I know what I mean but my husband has no idea what I meant. We enjoy concise writing, but I’m afraid I don’t understand your comment.
I learned more about prayer on February 22, 2011 than I had ever dreamed. I was on my knees, asking God to help me with my financial issues. As I got up off my knees a voice spoke saying “Draw nigh to Me and I will draw nigh to you.” I was by myself and no one else was on that end of my house. I thought, “That’s Bible,” so I ran for my concordance and sure enough there it was in James 4:8, except it was different. James says, “Draw nigh to God and God will draw nigh to you.” I’d heard “Draw nigh to Me and I will draw nigh to you.” What I’d heard was in first person context, not 3rd person like James had written it. It was at that moment that I realized my prayer had been answered by God himself. That was the beginning of a relationship.
Then a couple of years later we postponed a trip to Israel because I’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I refused medical treatment but started on the Gerson Therapy treatment. Then a couple years later my son-in-law called me with the message, “Yesterday while feeding my livestock a voice spoke to me saying “The reason your father-in-law hasn’t been healed from his cancer is that he didn’t go to Israel. Tell him he needs to repent.” The tickets to Israel were purchased before we went to bed that night. We spent 3 months in Israel working in a mission for Russian indigents down in S’derot. Every time something happened I’d wonder if this was why we were there. Then came Passover, 2016. We spent Passover in Jerusalem and my life changed again. This time I was visiting with a 10 year returnee, when she suddenly started stuttering and then turned to me telling me “This is not normal, but I was just told to have you anointed with the Mantle of Moshe’. So on the last Friday afternoon, just before the Sabbath, My wife and I were anointed on the corner of Jaffa Road and Ben Yahooda Street. I’ve skipped over a number of other events, but an anointing on the slopes of Mt. Moriah was the last thing I ever anticipated. I have no idea what else He has in mind for us, but I’ve learned to pray, keeping in touch. The Gerson Therapy gave me 20 minutes every morning doing a colon detox. I started using this as a time to talk to God. I still do it, even though the cancer in non existant because it gives me that prayer time, every morning. God is Good – Thanks, Steve Meitzler
Rabbi Lapin, I really enjoyed the lessons of part one Scrolling Through the Scriptures. When are we going to start the next session?
Hi Terry, we are actively taping and working on Unit 2. There is a great deal of work involved but we hope it will be available in the fall.
We’re working very diligently on making sure that Unit 2, picking up with Genesis 2:4 comes out soon and is of very high quality. Meanwhile, maybe you will consider reviewing Unit 1 and locking it into your heart by hearing it one more time.
Can’t wait to share this new unit with you.
Rabbi! You have written like a prophet! Well done. And thanks.
But thanks Lloyd.
I’ve been reading your comments for years. This may have been the best one yet, although there are many excellent ones to choose from. I printed this one out so I can re-read it and reflect on what you’ve written. Linking prayer and self-reflection and improvement makes so much sense, and you’ve made the case so clearly.
Thank you Rabbi Lapin and Susan for your excellent work. I listen to your podcast regularly and have purchased many items from your site. And I do NOT think it’s offensive that you advertise your website and what you have to offer on your free podcast. By building a successful business, you and Susan can more effectively and consistently provide valuable materials that are both free and for purchase to so many. Thank you.
Thanks for your thoughtful letter, Steven,
It is so encouraging for us to read words like you have written.
My Dad felt so bad because when his wife was dying a very painful death he kept praying the same thing over and over to heal her , to take the pain from her….then later he read that we aren’t supposed to pray the same things over and over Matthew 6:7( New Testament ) do not pray vain repetitious pray as the gentiles do , I told him I think this means like a chant over and over and over ,his prayers weren’t vain , they were very much from his heart , and God took her home where the pain did stop… so I would say his prayers were answered .
I am sure your words comforted your dad, Karen,
Thanks for telling us about it.
I obviously do not pray the correct way using the 5 steps. Why do we need to praise God and for what would we specifically praise Him for in prayer? Does he want or expect us to do so? I do love God and always express gratitude for all his blessings, but personally I wouldn’t want, need or enjoy all that praising.
I enjoy listening to all your podcasts and always look forward to them. Thank you and Susan for all you do and teach us about how the world really works!
God does not need our expressed gratitude. But He knows that we need to learn to express it. As I have taught on the podcast, expression of gratitude each day produces inner happiness and above all, optimism and hope. God wants His children to have the benefit of thanking Him. In the same way, wise parents teach their children to thank them. They don’t ‘need’ it but they realize that their children must learn to express it.
I’ve thankfully discovered a concise prayer
which,although only covering point 3 above,
can be used silently when walking down the
street,through the woods or even en route
to an interview:-
“Dear Lord,thank you for your great Love”.
Excellent idea Roderick.
I pray over meals and I also do a “silent prayer” every morning and night to clear my mind and just observe any thoughts that pop in there or listen for God’s word. Psalms 40:10 “Be still and know I am the Lord your God” As well as praying for, friends and family or many times out loud praises of gratitude when I am alone and communing with God. I’ll leave a bit of personal experience here: Be careful what you pray for, you might actually get it. Also, remember God is outside time and space so prayer may not be as linear in our mortal experience as you would think my most amazing experiences with prayer have been somewhat 4’th dimensional so to speak.
Your ‘4th dimension’ comment, Jason,
while complex, is very important.
Perhaps you have experienced it as well when dealing with God? Small adjustments to the past due to present prayers, but it was as if it were always that way, and yet I am aware of it. It’s very deep stuff. We are truly communing with a force we can hardly comprehend and He loves us!
G-d is never too busy to answer prayer. Sometimes you get a Yes, sometimes a No, and sometimes a Wait. Just be mindful of what you ask for. Remember that G-d wants relationship, and He’s not to be taken for granted. Don’t limit what He can do.
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