The word “prayer” actually comes from the Latin word meaning “to beg” – exactly what many people feel prayer is. They imagine a big king in the sky who is getting a big ego boost from watching his subjects beg. This is a terrible image of our selves and of God.
God actually wants us to l’hitpallel which has nothing to do with begging Him to change His mind. L’hitpallel is a reflexive verb and it means to do something to your self, not to God.
Exactly what you are doing is palleling yourself. And what exactly is that? We see the word palel in the story of Jacob and Joseph. When Joseph learns that his father Jacob is nearing his death, he goes to his father for a blessing for his two children. Jacob says, “I never palel-ti that I would ever see your face again, and God has granted me to even see the face of your children.” What do you think the term means here? I never hoped…? I never imagined…? I never dreamed…? I never anticipated?
The great 11th century Torah commentator Rashi explains the verse to mean, “I never would have filled my heart to think the thought that I would ever see your face again.” Therefore, when we l’hitpallel, we are actively, intentionally filling our hearts, thinking the thoughts, dreaming the dreams of what it is that we want to see and do in this world, and then change ourselves in order to make these things happen. It is not God whom we are trying to change. It is ourselves and our relationship to God we are trying to change through prayer. If we change ourselves, we change our whole situation.
Please do not misunderstand this important principle. L’hitpallel does not mean to meditate and talk to yourself as if you could ever make things happen for your self, without God. Of course, God listens to our prayers and answers but we are not trying to change God’s mind we are trying to change ourselves.
God’s mind is steadfast. He only and always loves us, and wants to shower us with His blessings. Prayer is about changing our selves. Prayer is about attuning our will to God’s will and making our selves receptive to receive His loving presence and blessings into our lives. God is waiting to hear from us and invite Him into our lives.