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    Does prayer work? – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. If I ask God for something, does this mean that I want Him to change His mind? Can God change His mind?

    pray daven tefillah salvation shamayimA. The question was asked by Joseph Albo in the 15th century. His formulation was, “If God has decided to benefit a person, there is surely no need for prayer. If He has not decided to benefit that person, how can prayer change His mind?” (Ikkarim 4:18).

    Let me offer four possible answers:

    1. Albo’s own answer: prayer does not change God’s mind. It changes man. Man becomes a different person, for whom a different determination is possible.

    2. The answer of Yitzchak Arama: prayer is not meant to affect the Divine will, but to make oneself capable of accepting His will (Akedat Yitzchak 58).

    3. The answer of Rav Kook: “When one’s intention is to request something in prayer, one must make sure that the intention (‘kavvanah’) is to remove evil and darkness from the world and increase goodness and light, the fullness of the Divine light, so that when it manifests itself, it will not merely fill a particular lack alone but supply all lacks and repair all flaws whatsoever”.

    4. The answer of Eliezer Berkovits: one should not pray for a miracle to change the course of nature; nonetheless, God retains His freedom of action and if He decides to work a miracle, miracles are not only possible but (Pir’kei Avot 5:9) provided for from the time of Creation.

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