Avoid Pride from Answered Prayers
דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם כָּתַב בְּסֵפֶר תְּהִלִּים (ד, ב): "בְּקָרְאִי עֲנֵנִי אֱלֹהֵי צִדְקִי... חָנֵּנִי וּשְׁמַע תְּפִלָּתִי". נִרְאֶה לְפָרֵשׁ הַפָּסוּק עַל פִּי מַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה: כָּל הַמְבַקֵּשׁ רַחֲמִים בִּתְפִלָּתוֹ וְנַעֲנָה מִיָּד — אַל יִתְגָּאֶה בִּתְפִלָּתוֹ בִּשְׁבִיל כָּךְ, לַחֲשֹׁב בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁהוּא צַדִּיק בַּאֲשֶׁר שֶׁנִּתְקַבֵּל תְּפִלָּתוֹ מִיָּד
King Dovid wrote in the book of Tehillim, “Answer me when I call out, God of my righteousness…, be gracious to me and hear my prayer” (4:2).
I believe this verse can be understood in light of the Sages teaching that if person’s prayers are answered immediately he must not become conceited and suppose it to be on account of his righteousness.
וְזֶהוּ כַּוָּנַת דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ בְּאָמְרוֹ: בְּקָרְאִי עָנֵנִי, אֱלֹהֵי צִדְקִי, אָכֵן לֹא תֵּכֶף וּמִיָּד, אֶלָּא: חָנֵּנִי וּשְׁמַע תְּפִלָּתִי, וְאַחַר כָּךְ תֵּן וּתְמַלֵּא בַּקָּשָׁתִי
This is what King Dovid meant when he said, “Answer me when I call out, God of my righteousness.” That is, he did not wish to be answered immediately. He wished first to find grace and to have his prayer heard and only afterwards to have his request fulfilled.
Even a tzaddik like David Hamelech worried about his merits and whether he deserved Hashem's Compassion, so he first prayed "Chaneni - be gracious to me." He wished for Hashem's Grace despite his flaws, and then asked Hashem to hear him out.
Don't Despair of Unanswered Prayer
וְכֵן יַחֲשֹׁב הָאָדָם בְּדַעְתּוֹ, שֶׁאַף אִם הֶאֱרִיךְ בִּתְפִלָּתוֹ וְלֹא נַעֲנָה — לֹא יִתְיָאֵשׁ מִלְּהִתְפַּלֵּל עוֹד, כִּי אַדְּרַבָּה: הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מִתְאַוֶּה לִתְפִלָּתוֹ כְּשֶׁהִיא בְּכַוָּנָה, דְּהַיְנוּ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הַלֵּב יוֹדֵעַ לְכַוֵּן לְמַה שֶּׁהַפֶּה מְדַבֵּר
By the same token, a person who prays at length and is not answered should not despair of praying again.
For the Holy One Blessed is He does indeed desire his prayers but He desires that they be with proper intent. That is, the heart must concentrate and know what the mouth utters.
This is true even when the answer is "No."
After her son Nachshon was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists during a rescue attempt by Israeli commandos, Esther Wachsman noted that Jews prayed for 2000 years to come Home. The fact that we are able to live in Eretz Yisrael is the result of all those seemingly unanswered prayers.
"Eventually," she said, "the time comes for a prayer's fulfillment."
One of the commandos involved in the mission was a secular guy who told Nachshon's father:
"You know, you are probably wondering what happened to all the prayers and mitzvot and chapters of Tehillim everyone said for your son. But I'll tell you. Because we know exactly what happened to them. You see, when we were in that house holding your son, we all should have died. We have no idea how we were alive today...it should not have happened. You see, all of those prayers said for the Jewish soldier Nachshon Wachsman are the only reason any of us are alive today. Hashem took all those prayers and, for whatever reason, used them to save different soldiers."
Final Tips for Potent Prayers
הַכְּלָל הָעוֹלֶה מִפֶּרֶק זֶה: שֶׁטּוֹב לָאָדָם לְהִתְפַּלֵּל מְעַט בְּכַוָּנָה וּלְהָרִים יָדָיו וְאֶצְבָּעוֹתָיו בַּתְּפִלָּה וּבַבְּרָכוֹת וְהוֹדָאוֹת וּבִקְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּבַתְּפִלָּה שֶׁל "וּבָא לְצִיּוֹן", וְיַרְחִיק עַצְמוֹ מִן הַגֶּזֶל וּמִמָּמוֹן שֶׁאֵינוֹ שֶׁל ישֶׁר — אֲזַי אֲנִי עָרֵב בַּעֲדוֹ, שֶׁחֵפֶץ ה' יַצְלִיחַ בְּיָדוֹ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, וּשְׂכָרוֹ יִהְיֶה כָּפוּל בָּעוֹלָם הַבָּא, כְּמַאֲמַר הַמְשׁוֹרֵר: וּמָאתַיִם לַנּוֹטְרִים אֶת פִּרְיוֹ
To summarize what we have learned in this chapter:
~It is better for a person to pray for a shorter amount of time with concentration than for a longer time without it.
~And let him raise his hands and fingers whenever he prays, utters blessings, gives thanks or recites the Shema or the prayer “And a redeemer will come.”
~Let him distance himself from theft and from all ill-gotten gain.
Then I will be his guarantor that Providence will cause him to prosper in this world and that his reward will be double in the next world. As it states, “And two hundred for those guarding its fruit” (Shir HaShirim 8:12).
When God Says No - The Story of Nachshon Wachsman
To read a moving essay by his mother, Esther Wachsman:
His Name was Nachshon Wachsman
For more posts quoting the Kav Hayashar on various topics:
Inspirational Kav Hayashar