Even when nothing is truly wrong in our lives many of us will immerse ourselves in our problems and pour out our hearts to God. We’ll ask God for all our personal needs, the needs of our families and neighbors and even of the Jewish People as a whole. Definitely commendable!
But rarely do we actually stop to think what it is that we are really asking of God and whether our mouths are saying precisely what we want. Some of us may find that it is no longer the substance but the motion that becomes the supplication.
The Talmud of the Land of Israel (Berachoth 4:5) warns us that one should not go overboard with prayer, at least in individual prayer, lest one inadvertently ask for something that one does not really want.
Hannah prayed to God to grant her a child and in return for that she vowed to dedicate him to God’s service for the term of a Levite’s service (50 years).
Rabbi Levi points out that although in the end God grants Hannah a son named Samuel who becomes a great figure in our history, she had actually shortened his life by specifying the term of a Levite’s service.
The Sages of the Land of Israel advised thoughtful, well-crafted prayer over mere out-pours. Prayer – and an abundance of it – remains a mainstay of Jewish existence. However, just as one must be careful in one’s daily speech with people, how much more so in one’s speech with the Al-mighty.
As in Hannah’s case, it is quite likely that upon introspection one will readily find in one’s own supplications ambiguities and superfluities that can amount to the total opposite of what we are actually asking for.
May God give us the wisdom, carefulness and focus to ensure that our prayers are most effective!