Getting Prayers Answered
By Nachum Mohl
Getting prayers answered is a serious business. We beseech G-d to help us to solve our problems. Yet many times our prayers are not answered the way we would like.
The matter can be understood by way of a story:
In a far off kingdom, there was a great and awesome king. Normally it was not permitted for the common people access to the king. He was much too busy to deal with individuals and so he let lesser servants deal with the public.
On one occasion he announced to his subjects that for one hour on a certain day he would open his palace to the public. Any one who would like to make a request of the king could come forward and have a personal audience with the king.
Who did not have a request to make to the king? Both rich and poor, healthy and ill alike marked the day on which the king would open his palace and grant an audience to everyone who had a request.
On the appointed day, the gates of the castle were opened to all. For the first time ever the town's people were permitted to enter into the castle. Never before had they been permitted to enter the king's grounds.
Inside the gate, the people were met by the most beautiful gardens they had ever seen. Colorful flowers of all types and varieties were arranged in the most beautiful manner. There were sculptured trees and bushes which adorned pathways leading in all different and interesting directions. Some of the town's citizens decided to tour the garden before they continued to the palace.
As the remainder approached the castle's front doors, several of the town people stopped to admire the beautiful carved wooded doors adorned with silver and gold trim, the door was a masterpiece of artistic work.
The remainder of the people ignored the handsome doors just as they had ignored the garden and continued to rush in to the palatial building.
Inside they were met with the most stunning waiting room. A vast array of great and rare paintings and sculptures adorned the room. It became difficult not to hesitate just for a few moments in order absorb some of the extraordinary splendor of the king's art collection. Yet those who began to admire the works of art became so enthralled with the overwhelming beauty that they could not continue.
The few people that continued onward were met by a second room even more elegant than the first. It was decorated with silver and trimmed with pure gold. The walls were made from marble carvings inset with precious jewels. The ceiling was decorated with a most intricate and complex fresco. The room was lit with gigantic crystal chandeliers. It was difficult for even those few simple town-folk to resist the urge to pause to admire this unique sight. Yet like the others, those that paused to enjoy the beauty of the king's outer chamber were mesmerized by the beauty and did not continue their tour.
Still, a very few people managed to enter into the kings inner chamber. There the sight was awesome. Immaculately dressed guards with swords drawn stood at attention all around the perimeter of the king's chamber. The most beautiful and colossal carpet lay on the floor in front of the king's throne. The throne was itself a thing of beauty and splendor, carved from the most expensive wood and inlayed with precious jewels. Few people were able to continue after seeing such an awe inspiring sight.
Those very few that managed to come forward to the realm of the king, were immediately frozen in their tracks when they caught sight of the king himself. Fear and awe gripped them and they were unable to articulate their request.
Of all the people that came to the castle, each person had been sidetracked by various degrees of beauty. Some never got past the garden, other became absorbed in the artwork and painting. Each person had something that caused him to unwittingly postpone his mission and eventually abandon it. Few even made it to the inner chamber of the king. Only one, however actually made it to speak with the king.
Who was this person that had not been tempted by the splendor of the palace?
One person, the poorest of the poor, the neediest of the needy, who had wrapped himself up in his only garment. It covered his body and his head. He was the only one who was able to walk past the beauty of the palace and come straight to the king to request the king's assistance. He was the only one that the king helped from all the town's people who came that day.
This is what the psalmist alludes to (Psalm 102:1): "The prayer of the afflicted when he is enwrapped, and in front of G-d his pours his speech."
What is the meaning of the afflicted when he is enwrapped? It means that he does not look around in his prayer. He desperately needs G-d's help and nothing else means anything to him. Therefore all the worldly things and events are banished from his mind. His heart is aching to connect with G-d.
To him G-d answers.
When our prayer is on par with this afflicted man, G-d will not turn us aside, but when our prayers are tainted with external thoughts and other worldly desires we can never be certain that G-d will help.
from the January 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine