Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
Can Prayer Change G-D’s Mind?
Published: Thursday, November 3, 2016 04:12:45 PM
Number of views: 1801

What does a sick person hope to accomplish through prayer? G-D knows exactly what we need. My Rebbe Rav Pam, would repeat the question a cancer patient asked him in all sincerity. If pain and suffering are caused by one’s sins (Shabbat 55) and serve as a purifying process to spare the person from suffering in Gehenom, how may one pray that G-D remove the pain? 

Does a critically ill patient tell the physician not to operate or administer painful treatments to cure him of the deadly illness? Of course not! In fact, he pays the surgeon great sums of money to do so. If G-D, the Great Physician, is administering treatments to cleanse me of my sins, asks the patient, how can I pray that the suffering be removed? 

Rav Pam related that this very question is answered by Rav Chaim Volozhin in Nefesh HaChaim. Rav Chaim explains that praying to G-D to remove personal or communal suffering is not an attempt to change G-D’s mind. One’s intention should be to relieve the pain that G-D Himself, as it were, feels when we suffer pain. This is what the Talmud (Sanhedrin 46) says, “When a Jew suffers for his sins what does G-D say? ‘I have pain in My Head! I have pain in My Arm.’” 

Additionally, when a community of Jews is in distress, this is also a great Chillul Hashem because the non-Jews say, “Where is the Jewish G-D, who allows His chosen people to suffer?” 

When a Jew prays for relief from his suffering, his intention should be to remove the Chillul Hashem that such suffering brings, and the aspect of “I (G-D) am with him in his suffering” (Tehillim 91).

Thus the verse in Shmuel 1 states, “and Chana prayed AL HASHEM” which means Chana prayed for G-D. Chana meant to say that if I am suffering then surely You G-D are also suffering. So she prayed for the relief of G-D, and thereby she would also benefit. 

By praying for relief from suffering, one is attempting to reduce this Divine Pain, as it were. Such prayer is not only permissible, but is also an essential aspect of AHAVAT HASHEM (Love of G-D). 

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