You are here: Kabbalah Library Home / Other Authors / Gems of Wisdom / Torah and Mitzvot / What Is a Prayer?

What Is a Prayer?

One does not call upon the Creator loudly, but discreetly, from the heart and from his internality.

Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotzk


A request is something that a person feels that he is lacking. It is in the heart. It makes no difference what he says, since “a request” means that one asks for what he lacks, and all of one’s wants are not in the mouth, but in the heart. Therefore, it makes no difference what a person says, but the Creator knows the thoughts. Hence, Above, only what the heart demands is heard, not what the mouth demands, for the above reason that the mouth is not deficient and needs to be satisfied.

Rabash, The Rungs of the Ladder, “What is, ‘A Woman Who

Inseminates First, Gives Birth to a Male,’ in the Work”


The prayer must be a whole prayer, that is, from the bottom of the heart. It means that one knows one hundred percent that there is no one in the world who can help him but the Creator Himself.

Yet, how does one know that, that there is no one to help him but the Creator Himself? One can acquire that awareness precisely if he has exerted all the powers at his disposal and it did not help him. Thus, one must do every possible thing in the world to attain “for the Creator.” Then one can pray from the bottom of one’s heart, and then the Creator hears his prayer.

Baal HaSulam, Shamati [I Heard], Article no. 5,

“Lishma Is an Awakening from Above”


Since half a thing is not given from Above, one must pray to the Creator to give him complete help. This means that during one’s prayer—when he arranges what is in his heart, since a prayer is work in the heart—one must decide for himself that he wishes for the Creator to give him a desire to annul before Him altogether, leaving no desire under his own authority, but that all the desires will be only to glorify the Creator. And when he decides on complete annulment, he asks of the Creator to help him carry it out ... This is called “a complete prayer,” since his desire is for the Creator to give him a complete desire, without any compromises for himself, and he asks of the Creator to help him always be with His righteousness.

Rabash, Letter no. 65


The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.

Psalms, 34


What does it mean that ‘The Lord heals the brokenhearted’? It is known that man’s essence is his heart. The heart is the Kli [vessel] that receives the Kedusha [holiness] from Above, as we learn concerning the breaking of the vessels—if the Kli is broken, anything that is placed in it will leak out.

Similarly, if the heart is broken and the will to receive governs the heart, the abundance cannot enter it because everything that the will to receive receives goes out to the Klipot [shells]. This is called “the breaking of the heart.” Hence, when one prays to the Creator and says, “You must help me because I am worse than everyone else, since I feel that the will to receive is governing my heart, hence nothing of Kedusha can enter my heart. I want no luxuries, but simply to be able to do something in order to bestow, and I simply cannot. Therefore, only You can save me.”

By that, we can interpret what is written (Psalm, 34), “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,” to those people who ask of the Creator to help them make their hearts unbroken, but rather whole.

Rabash, The Rungs of the Ladder,

“Return O Israel unto the Lord Your God”


There is no happier state in a man’s world than when he finds himself despaired with his own powers, meaning that he has already toiled and did everything he could possibly do, but there is no cure. This is so because at that time, he is worthy of a whole prayer for His help, for he knows for certain that his own work will not yield him the benefit. As long as he feels that he has some power of his own for the work, his prayer is not whole, since the evil inclination rushes in and tells him that first, he must do all that he can, and then he will be desirable to the Creator.

It is said about that, “The Lord is high and the low will see.” After one has exerted in all sorts of labors and has become disillusioned, he arrives at a point of true lowliness. He knows that he is the lowest of all people because there is nothing in his entire body that is good. At that time, his prayer is whole and he is answered by His generous hand. The writing says about that, “And the people of Israel sighed because of the labor ... and their cry rose.

Baal HaSulam, Letter no. 57


By not being able to exit the will to receive for oneself and feeling needy of the Creator’s help, a need is born within for the Creator’s assistance. And His help is through the Torah, since the light in it reforms him, meaning he receives vessels of bestowal.

Rabash, The Rungs of the Ladder,

“What Is the Basis upon which Holiness Is Built”


From one’s praying to Him, to draw him near by Dvekut (Adhesion), called “equivalence of form,” discerned as the annulment of the will to receive to be in order to bestow. The Creator says about that, “My sons defeated Me.” That is, I gave you the will to receive, and you ask of Me to give you a will to bestow instead.

Baal HaSulam, Shamati [I Heard], Article no.19,

“What Is the Creator Hates the Bodies, in the Work”


There are three conditions in prayer:

1. Believing that He can save him, although he has the worst conditions of all his contemporaries, still, “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short” from saving him? If not, then “the Landlord cannot save His vessels.”

2. He no longer has any counsel, that he has already done all that he could, but saw no cure to his plight.

3. If He does not help him, he will be better off dead than alive. Prayer is the lost in the heart. The more he is lost, so is the measure of his prayer. Clearly, one who lacks luxuries is not like one who has been sentenced to death, and only the execution is missing, and he is already tied with iron chains, and he stands and begs for his life. He will certainly not rest or sleep or be distracted for even a moment from praying for his life.

Baal HaSulam, Shamati [I Heard], Article no. 209,

“Three Conditions in Prayer”


When one goes to pray to the Creator to help him, he must first prepare and examine himself, to see what he has and what he is missing, and then he can know for what to ask the Creator’s help. This is the meaning of the words, “Out of the depths I have called upon You, O Lord.” “Depth” means that a person is in the lowest possible state, as it is written, “Depths of the nether-world,” meaning his deficiency is below and he feels that he is beneath all other people.

In other words, he feels so remote from Kedusha [holiness], more than all other people, meaning that no one feels the truth, that his body has no connection to Kedusha. Hence, those people who do not see the truth—that they are remote from Kedusha—can be satisfied with their work in the holy work. But he is suffering from the state he is in.

Rabash, The Rungs of the Ladder, “What is, ‘A Woman Who

Inseminates First, Gives Birth to a Male,’ in the Work”


We should understand what our sages said, “One does not find himself in debt” (Shabbat, 119). Accordingly, one cannot correct his actions, for he will never see that his actions are corrupt and require correction. Thus, one must always remain corrupt.

The thing is that it is known that man was created with a nature of wanting only to delight himself. Therefore, in everything he learns, he wishes to learn how he can enjoy. Thus, if a person wishes to enjoy, he will naturally avoid learning other things than what his heart desires, for this is his nature.

For this reason, one who wishes to draw near to the Creator and to learn things that show ways by which to bestow upon the Creator, must pray to the Creator to give him a different heart, as it is written, “Create for me a pure heart, O God.” This means that when he has another heart, when the desire in the heart is a desire to bestow, then in everything he learns, he will naturally see ways that show only how to bestow upon the Creator.

However, he will never see against the heart. It is said about that, “And I will remove the stony heart from within you, and I will give you a heart of flesh.

Rabash, Steps of the Ladder,

“One Learns Only where One’s Heart Desires”


When concealment overpowers one and he comes to a state where the work becomes tasteless, and he cannot picture and feel any love and fear, and he cannot do anything in holiness, then his only counsel is to cry to the Creator to take pity on him and remove the screen from his eyes and heart.

The issue of crying is a very important one. It is as our sages write: “all the gates were locked except for the gates of tears.” The world asks about that: If the gates of tears are not locked, what is the need for the gates at all?... Thus, when were the gates of tears not locked? Precisely when all the gates were locked. It is then that there is room for the gates of tears and then one sees that they were not locked.

However, when the gates of prayer are open, the gates of tears and weeping are irrelevant. This is the meaning of the gates of tears being locked. Thus, when are the gates of tears not locked? Precisely when all the gates are locked, the gates of tears are open. This is because one still has the counsel of prayer and plea.

This is the meaning of “My soul shall weep in secret,” meaning when one comes to a state of concealment, then “My soul shall weep,” because one has no other option.

Baal HaSulam, Shamati [I Heard], Article no. 18,

“What Is My Soul Shall Weep In Secret”


Everything, great or small, is obtained only by the power of faith. And the reason why we must toil and labor is only to discover our lack of power and our lowliness—that we are unfit for anything by our own strength. And then we are ready to pour out a whole prayer before Him.

We could argue about that, “If this is so, then I will decide in advance that I am good for nothing, and why all the trouble and effort?” However, there is a law in nature that none is as wise as the experienced. Before a person actively tries to do all that is within his power, he is completely unfit to arrive at true lowliness, in the true measure mentioned above.

Hence, we must toil in Kedusha [holiness] and purity, as it is written, “Whatsoever you find that you can do by your own strength, do,” and understand that for it is deep and true.

Even though you do not see a thing, since even when the required measure of labor has been made, this is the time for prayer, until then, believe in our sages, “I did not labor and found, do not believe.” When the required measure is reached, your prayer will be whole and the Creator will respond generously, as our sages instructed us, “I labored and found, believe,” for prior to that, you are unfit for prayer, and the Creator hears a prayer.

Baal HaSulam, Letter no. 57


The essence of the work is the choice, meaning “Therefore choose life,” which is Dvekut [adhesion], which is Lishma [for Her name]. By that, one is rewarded with adhering to the Life of Lives.

When there is open Providence, there is no room for choice. Hence, the Upper One elevated Malchut, which is Midat ha Din [quality of judgment], to the Eynaim [eyes], which caused a concealment, meaning that the lower one sees that the Upper One is deficient, that there is no Gadlut [greatness] in the Upper One. At that time, the qualities of the Upper One are laid down in the lower one, meaning they are lacking. It follows that those Kelim have equality with the lower one: as there is no vitality in the lower one, there is no vitality in the Upper qualities, meaning that the Torah and Mitzvot are tasteless, lifeless.

And then there is room for choice, meaning that the lower one should say that all of this concealment that he feels is because the upper one restricted Himself for the sake of the lower one. This is called, “Israel that have been exiled, Divinity is with them,” meaning he declares the flavor that he tastes, and it is not his fault that he feels no flavor of liveliness, but in his view, there truly is no vitality in the Upper One.

And if one overcomes and says that he finds a bitter taste in these nourishments only because he does not have the proper Kelim [vessels] to receive the abundance, as his Kelim are to receive and not to bestow, and regrets that the Upper One had to hide Himself, thus enabling the lower one to slander, this is considered that the lower one is raising MAN. By that, the Upper One raises His AHP—and ascent means that the Upper One can show the lower one the praise and delight in the Kelim of AHP, which the Upper One can disclose. Thus, with respect to the lower one, it is found that he raises the GE of the lower one by the lower one himself seeing the merit of the Upper One. It follows that the lower one rises along with the AHP of the Upper One.

Rabash, Steps of the Ladder,

“Association of Mercy with Judgment”


One who was not rewarded with His love, it is as though all that he did in his work in the purity of the soul in the previous day has been completely burnt the following day. And each day and each moment he must begin anew, as though he had never done anything in his life. And then, “And the children of Israel sighed because of the work,” since they evidently saw that they would never be able to produce anything from their own labor. For this reason, their sigh and prayer was whole, as it should be, and hence, “Their cry rose,” etc., since the Creator hears a prayer, and only awaits a whole prayer.

Baal HaSulam, Letter no. 57


The labor and toil in one’s heart during the prayer is the must reliable and most successful, and reaches its goal more than all other matters in reality.

Baal HaSulam, Letter no. 56


Anyone who comes to unify the Holy Name and did not intend in it in heart, and will, and fear, so the upper ones and lower ones will be blessed in him, his prayer is thrown outside.

The Book of Zohar with the Sulam [Ladder] Commentary,

BeShalach, Item 278

Back to top
Site location tree