2) Prayer is the Jew's main weapon. Whatever battles a person has to fight, whether against his evil inclination, or against those who put barriers and obstacles in his path, they should all be fought with prayer. Prayer is the source of our very life. If you want to attain the true holiness of Israel you must pray profusely. Speak to God and beg Him to help you in every way. Prayer is the weapon with which to win the battle (2:1).
3) A person may have prayed profusely and secluded himself with God day after day for years and years and still feel that he is very far from God. He may even start to think that God is hiding His countenance from hm. But it is a mistake if he thinks that God does not hear his prayers. He must believe with perfect faith that God pays attention to each and every word of every single prayer, petition and conversation. Not a single word is lost, God forbid. Each one leaves its mark in the worlds above, however faintly. Little by little they awaken God's love. If there seems to be no response, the reason is that as yet the holy edifice he is destined to enter is not yet complete. The main thin g is not to give up and fall into despair. This would be foolish. Be firm and continue with your prayers with new determination. In the end God's love will be aroused and He will turn to you and shine His radiance upon you and fulfill your wishes and desires through the strength of the true Tzaddikim. He will draw you towards Himself in love and a bundant mercy (Ibid. 6).
4) It is impossible to achieve perfect prayer except through observing the Covenant with perfect purity. Therefore each Jew must bind his prayers to the Tzaddikim of the age, because they know how to raise every single prayer to its proper place, and out of all the prayers they build the structure of the Shechinah, which brings the coming of Mashi ach closer (Ibid. 2:6).
5) You must give charity before you pray. Charity is a protection against the distracting thoughts which come while praying (Ibid. 4).
6) Never feel that you are entitled to a reward for anything. All the good deeds we do are sent to us by God. At times God may help a person in a certain way, or he may achieve a certain spiritual success. But he should not think that this is a reward for his Torah study, prayers, or good deeds, or anything else. Everything is sent by God, and if it were not for His great mercy, he would have been sunk in failure long ago, God forbid (Ibid.).
7) Torah study and prayer reinforce one another and throw light on each other. Both of them are necessary (Ibid 6).
8) The greatest of the Tzaddikim draw down sparks of the light of the Infinite over all who are close to them and joined to their name. At times it happens that a person is in the middle of his prayers when suddenly he takes fire and says a number of words with tremendous passion. The reason is that God in His mercy unveils the light of the Infini te and shines it down upon him. Consciously, perhaps, he does not see these sparks, but his guardian angel sees it (cf. Megillah 3a) and his soul is immediately kindled with a fiery passion to be bound with the light of the Infinite. As long as the revelation lasts he says all the words which shine their light to him with tremendous intensity and absolute self-surrender. It is only with the help of the great Tzaddikim that it is possible to have experiences like this, because they alone have some apprehension of the light of the Infinite and only they have the power to radiate the sweet pleasantness of this illumination to each person in accordance with the capacity of his heart (4:9).
9) Each person should say to himself: `The whole world was created only for my sake,' One should therefore constantly be looking for ways of improving the world in order to make up for any deficiencies, and one should constantly pray for the world (5:1).
10) You must pray with all your strength. The sound of your voice will then penetrate your mind and you will be able to concentrate on your prayers. Your heart will hear the words your lips are saying, and you will be able to straighten the crookedness of the heart and attain true joy. Your joy will be so great that you will be able to carry out a ll the mitzvoth with a great joy derived from the mitzvah itself and you will be able to clothe your prayers even in story form. You will have the power to annul all harsh decrees even after the decree has already been made (Ibid. 3).
11) It is absolutely vital to empty your mind of all foreign ideologies and extraneous ideas. You must never allow your Divinelygiven intellect to be infected in the least by the chametz yeast of these fallacious beliefs or by physical appetites and desires. They distort and sully the mind, making it impossible to concentrate while praying or to experience real joy. You should never be afraid of anything except God. All other fears are simply an obstacle to concentration on prayer and joy. The main thing is to guard the mind against `yeast' by avoiding all bad thoughts and physical appetites. This `yeast' is rooted in the domain of death. You must do battle against these loathsome though ts and expel them completely from your mind. Don't let them enter your mind at all. As regards fear of Heaven, you should aim to combine it with love. Then you will be able to purify your mind and pray with all your might and with intense concentration to the point where your prayer will be like `thunder.' Then you will attain true joy (Ibid. 4).
12) Prayer is `faith.' It has the power to improve the memory and banish forgetfulness, which is caused by an absence of faith (7).
13) The fountain of the wisdom of the Torah flows from prayer. To reach a clear decision in matters of Torah law therefore depends on prayer. A legal decision in Torah is tantamount to renewing the world. Torah law concerns the distinction between what is permitted and what is forbidden, what is pure and what is impure. Therefore the clarification of the law is a vital part of the process of sifting the good from the bad in the four elements of the universe. Through this the opponents of truth are cast down to the earth and humiliated (8:6-7).
14) Our very life-force comes from prayer. You must pray with all your strength and put your strength into the very letters of the words or the prayers in order to renew it there. Through this you will attain true faith (9:1).
15) The quality of a person's prayer has an influence on his marital union and his livelihood (Ibid. 2).
16) Perfect prayer brings a flow of life into the three divisions of the universe: the terrestrial world, the world of the stars and the world of the angels (Ibid.).
17) As soon as a person stands up to pray, he is immediately surrounded by extraneous thoughts and kelipot, `husks,' which leave him in darkness and make it impossible for him to pray. The best remedy for this is to make sure that the words emerge from your lips in truth. Every word which comes from your mouth in truth and sincerity will provide you with an exit from the darkness which is trapping you, and then you will be able to pray properly. This is a fundamental principle whenever you are praying or meditating. You may feel unable t o say a single word because of the intense darkness and confusion which hedge you in on every side. But see that whatever you do say, you say truthfully as far as you possibly can. For example you could at least say the words `God, send help' truthfully. You may not be able to put much enthusiasm into the words, but you can still make yourself say them sincerely and mean what you say quite literally. The very truth of your words will send you light and you will be able to pray with the help of God. When you do this it sustains and perfects all the worlds (Ibid. 3).
18) You will also be able to break open the way for others and free them from the traps they are caught in and help them return to God (Ibid.).
19) It requires great merit to be able to offer up a person's prayers so that they ascend to the gate of his tribe. Each person must therefore bind his prayers to the Tzaddik of the generation, because the Tzaddik understands how to reach the different gates and cause each prayer to ascend to the proper gate (Ibid.).
20) You must pray so intensely that you pour your heart out like water before God. This will help to bring the Mashiach (Ibid. 9).
21) The secret of true prayer is known only to the Tzaddikim of the generation. Anyone who has a problem in his household should go to the Sage to appeal for mercy. God yearns for the prayers of the Tzaddikim. Those self-important people who refuse to go to ask the Tzaddik to pray for them and who try to stop others from going as well are preventi ng God from satisfying His yearning (10:4).
22) One should have no wish to occupy oneself with worldy pursuits at all. His whole concern should be with his soul. When he prays, his only thought should be for his spiritual welfare. Even when it comes to the prayers which seem to deal explicitly with material matters, such as the prayer for healing (`Heal us!') and prosperity (`Bless this yea r!') one should have in mind not the needs of the body but of the soul. The thought should be that the soul should be blessed and healed, etc. As a person perfects himself spiritually all his material problems are straightened out too. But his only thought should be for his spiritual welfare (14:9).
23) One should get into the habit of always praying for whatever one needs, be it livelihood, children or healing for someone who is sick at home, etc. The main recourse should always be to prayer, in the faith that God is good to all. One should always put one's main effort into searching for God and not go running after all kinds of other soluti ons. Most of them are no help at all, and the few that could be he probably isn't aware of and won't find in any case. But God is always to be found. If we call on Him it will help for everything (Ibid. 11).
24) When you pray, it should be with a sense of complete selfsacrifice. You must nullify your body and your whole sense of self and let no motive of personal gain enter your thoughts at all. Indeed you should not think of yourself at all. You should nullify yourself as if you simply did not exist. The way to achieve this is through `judgement' - - secluded meditation in which you speak to God and examine and judge yourself with regard to all your actions. Through this the faculty of fear is elevated to its root which is Da'at, the knowledge of God. This is the gateway to the revealed aspect of Torah, through which one can come to pray with true devotion and surrender. When your prayer is on such a level you will be worthy of uncovering the secrets of Torah, the `light stored up for the Tzaddikim.' Happy is the man who is worthy of this (15:2-4).
25) There is a serpent which induces people to pray for their own benefit: `Give us life! Give us food!' and so on. You must be firm and try to pray without any intention of gaining something for yourself. Simply pray as if you did not exist in this world at all. Then you will be worthy of the light stored up for the Tzaddikim (Ibid. 5).
26) The Holy One, blessed-be-He, yearns for the prayers of Israel. When we pray we are satisfying His desire, and He has great joy from us (Ibid.).
27) It is a great kindness of God to permit us to address Him in human terms in our prayers and blessings and to answer our appeals and requests when we do so. If it were not for His kindness, it would be completely inappropriate to call upon God with names and praises made up of mere words and letters. This thought alone should move you to pray w ith fire and passion: when you consider the true greatness of the Creator -- to the extent that you can form any conception of it at all -- and how He is exalted beyond all our human praises and titles, it is a wonderful sign of His love and tender mercy that He has given us permission to address Him in human terms and to pray to Him in order that we should be able to bind ourselves to Him. Therefore we should at least be sincere when we address Him in this way, since it is only through His love and mercy that we are able to do so at all (Ibid.).
28) When a Sage is about to give an exposition on Torah he must first pour out his prayers before God in order to arouse the Supreme Heart to send him words hot as coals of fire. Only then should he begin his discourse. For then illumination will flow down in abundance from the Supreme Heart (20:2).
29) When he prays before his discourse, he should plead with God and beg Him for a gift -- a free present which he knows he has not earned. He should not rely on his own merits. He should stand before God like a poor beggar and beg for His help. Whenever a person prays, he should never try to force matters and insist that God should to exactly wha t he wants Him to do. He should make his request and entreat God's love. If God grants it, well and good. And if not, then not (Ibid. 5).
30) When the Torah teacher prays before his discourse he should bind his soul with the souls of all his listeners. This will make his prayer into a `communal prayer' which `God never spurns,' and it will surely be accepted. The bond between all these souls will cause a great concentration of holiness in the worlds above (Ibid. 4).
31) No matter what level a person is standing on, it always has two aspects: the revealed and the concealed. These correspond to Torah and Prayer respectively. Each individual must constantly climb from level to level and thereby transform what was previously concealed from him into something revealed. The way to achieve this is through devotion t o Torah and praying intently. A person must study intensively and pray to God again and again until He reveals what was hidden from him until now. Then it will be revealed, leaving a new level of concealment even more exalted than before. He must now pray again until this in turn is revealed. In the same way he must climb from level to level, cons tantly pleading with God to grant an even higher perception. He must go on until he is merged with the first point of the world of Emanation -- the highest of the four worlds -- and thereafter he will be merged with the Infinite. Then he will be worthy of the `Torah of God' and the `Prayer of God.' This is the way to attain joy, and it is joy that gives us the strength and determination necessary to enter the gates of holiness and draw close to the genuine Tzaddikim. With their help we can attain complete faith. The basis for all these attainments is prayer. Prayer encompasses everything. In essence prayer stems from awe -- the awe which fills one with such a deep sense of shame before God that one could never think of transgressing, God forbid. One who reaches the levels we have mentioned will have `hands' with which to receive the guidance of the true spiritual leaders. Then the world will be free of persecution and divisiveness and peace will spread everywhere. Peace will reign between Israel and their Father in Heaven, and the forces of Holiness will be secure under the `seal within the seal' (22:10).
32) When a person prays with such intensity that he sacrifices himself completely and `kills' himself in his prayers, he should understand that wherever he finds extraneous thoughts entering his mind which need to be elevated, this is where he needs to put in the fiercest efforts in order to elevate the sparks of holiness (26).
33) It takes great determination to deal with the extraneous thoughts which come while praying. The whole medley of thoughts and ideas which are with a person all day suddenly marshal themselves and demand attention precisely at the moment he is trying to pray. This is why we have to be so firm in dealing with them when we are praying (30:7).
34) The secret of prayer is to be bold. We have to have the audacity to ask God for everything we need -- even if we need to ask Him to work miracles for us. The only way to stand up and pray to God is with boldness and daring. When we consider the utter greatness of the Creator -- to the extent we can form any conception of it at all -- and think of our own smallness and worthlessness, how can we stand up and pray before him? When we are praying we have to cast aside our timidity and boldly ask God for whatever we need. This boldness and assertiveness are necessary in order to thwart the opposition which tries to prevent us from serving God (Ibid. 8).
35) Prayer must be spoken out loud -- literally. It is not enough to think the prayers. It is true that God knows what we are thinking. But the words have to be spoken, because speech is a vessel with which to receive the influx of blessing. The blessing we receive is in accordance with the words we speak. When we articulate the words on our lips and our speech is well-ordered and dignified we are then able to receive rich blessings. This is the reason why one should pray for whatever one needs, whether spiritual or material, in words: then one will be able to receive the influx of blessing (34:3).
36) The reason for clapping our hands while praying is that it has the power to purify the place we are praying so that it becomes like the `air of the Land of Israel.' The `air of the Land of Israel' is the remedy for the extraneous thoughts which come while praying. All idolatrous thoughts are cast aside and murder and destruction cease from the world (44).
37) Even if a person stands up and prays in the place where a Tzaddik has prayed it is still very hard for him to pray there because he is not accustomed to the air of that place. All the more so when a Tzaddik prays where an ordinary person has prayed. This is why one must set a fixed place for one's prayers, as the Rabbis taught (Ibid.).
38) Through prayer the secrets of the Torah are revealed (Ibid.).
39) A remedy for the confusing thoughts which flood in and disturb us when we are trying to pray is to give charity for causes in the Land of Israel. In this way we become merged with the pure air of the Land and we are freed from distracting thoughts. The mind becomes clear and we achieve tikkun habrit (Ibid.).
40) When a person who is praying feels such excitement in his very hands that he claps them together, speech is brought into being thereby and the mouth can then receive the words within it (45).
41) Clapping our hands while praying sweetens the harsh judgements, thus protecting us against forgetfulness and putting strife and conflict to rest (46).
42) When we pray with such fervor that we put all our strength into the letters of the prayers and `all my bones will say, Lord, who is like unto Thee?' (Psalm 35:10) the words of the prayer are themselves the words of the Holy One, blessed-be-He. The power of these letters gives fresh strength to the Ten Utterances through which the world was cre ated (48).
43) Intense prayer is a segulah for having children. It saves us from conflict and opposition, and strengthens the power of truth in the world. The whole world is brought to serve God with one accord, and the true teacher of the generation is revealed (Ibid.).
44) Intense prayer, the Land of Israel and the mitzvah of succah are interrelated concepts (Ibid.).
45) In essence, prayer depends on the heart. One must concentrate one's whole heart upon one's prayers, binding the thoughts in the heart to the words of the prayers. It is no good if the heart is far from the words the mouth is speaking. You must listen carefully to what you are saying. Then the kingship of God is revealed and exalted and the sov ereignty of evil collapses. The Jewish people is blessed with a flow of life and riches and goodness without end. The upper unification and the lower unification are completed and the mystical Torah of the Ancient One is revealed (49).
46) When a person observes the Covenant in purity and binds himself to the true Tzaddikim, who are the embodiment of the Covenant, he is able to taste the sweetness in the words of the prayers and a lion waits to consume his `sacrifice' -- his prayer. But one who abuses the Covenant and tastes the `bitter waters' will be unable to taste the sweetn ess of the words of the prayers, and a dog will come and snatch his `sacrifice' (50).
47) The `dogs' are the brash and arrogant people who stand round waiting to divide up the spoils of the prayer of the Jew who has not taken care to observe the Covenant faithfully in all its details. Not that his own failures are any excuse for the sin of these people in trying to distract and confuse him. It is true that it is his own shortcoming s which have brought this opposition against him in the form of these `dogs' who stand about waiting to snatch his `offering.' But the crime of these `dogs' themselves is that they have torn their own souls away from their roots in the realm of holiness and sunk to the level of dogs. Their victim, on the other hand, must put all his efforts into c oncentrating on his prayers and praying with devotion. It may be that he still doesn't taste the sweetness of the words of the prayers. But the efforts he puts in are themselves very precious. As for his opponents, they are literally like dogs and their sin is `too great to bear' (cf. Genesis 4:13) (Ibid.).
48) When the innocent person tries to judge the evil-doer in the scale of merit, his eyes will be enlightened and he will begin to perceive the righteousness of the Holy One, blessed-be-He. He will understand that even though the guilty party has won his case, God is still perfectly righteous. The innocent one will thereby be able to straighten hi mself out of the crooked thinking which he suffered from previously. His faith will be strengthened and now he will be able to pray (45:3).
49) Prayer is a battle against evil -- specific evil and evil in general. Specifically, the person who is praying must nullify his own coarse body and materialistic impulses, just like the saintly men of old, who divorced themselves completely from all physicality when they prayed. The general evil is the prayers of the `sinners of Israel' with wh om he is praying. He must nullify this evil completely and transform it into a throne of holiness (Ibid. 5).
50) He must also bind himself both in general and in particular with the nefesh, ruach and neshama of the souls of those who `lie in the dust.' He must stir them up through his prayers until they are praying with him. The particular case refers to the nefesh, ruach and neshama of his own soul which have already come into the world in previous inca rnations and attained perfection. The general case refers to the nefesh, ruach and neshama of all the others who `lie in the dust.' He must stir them up as well so that they too will pray with him (Ibid.).
51) There are three other things which a person must also try to achieve through his prayers. Firstly he must fortify those who have fallen victim to alien belief systems and seek to plant true faith in their hearts. Secondly he must aim to achieve intense concentration when he prays, because when his own heart is concentrated on his prayers it is a cure for the hearts of all the speculative philosophers who would otherwise be led astray by their `wisdom.' Thirdly, the more perfect his own prayer becomes, the more immune he is to the insults and abuse which his enemies hurl against him, because he can turn them all to his own credit (Ibid. 6).
52) When a person prays he stands in the palace of the King. At that moment he must nullify himself completely so that he sees nothing except the King Himself, blessed-be-He. He should feel no sense of self at all while praying. When he attains this, the insults and abuse will simply disappear (Ibid. 7).
53) When we pray with true intensity, the light of the merit of the patriarchs shines, and then we can have the experience of the holiness of the Land of Israel even in our present exile. Through this we become worthy of witnessing the fall of the wicked. The main thing is to judge the wicked in the scale of merit. Doing this can enable us to pray (Ibid.).
54) Not everyone is able to achieve the three things mentioned above and to humble the wicked and crush his enemies through his prayers. Only the Tzaddik on the highest of levels -- the `Moses' -- can do so, and even he needs tremendous strength in order to stand up against the most powerful amongst the wicked and destroy and nullify them (Ibid. 9 ).
55) It is through studying the codes of Torah law that one can achieve true prayer which emerges from the heart with complete sincerity. If a person really knew and believed wholeheartedly that the entire world is filled with God's glory and that God stands over him while he is praying and hears every word of his prayers, he would be scrupulous ab out saying them in the correct way and praying with total concentration and devotion. But people's hearts are divided, and they do not feel this reality with all their heart. Instead their hearts are filled with questions and doubts -- because it is in the heart that the Evil Inclination fights his battle. Now the legal codes set forth the final d ecision of the law after all the arguments between the Sages. These arguments are really the source of the turmoil stirred up by the Evil Inclination, because even that which is unholy derives its vitality from the realms of the holy. The legal codes represent the resolution of conflict, and therefore studying them resolves the turmoil in the hear t at its root. Then one can pray as one should -- wholeheartedly and truthfully (62:2).
56) The ultimate goal of prayer is to make the whole prayer into a single unity. When a person stands up to pray, as soon as he starts on the first word -- Baruch, `Blessed...' -- and the first letter of the word -- the letter bet -- emerges, the letter immediately begins to plead with the soul and beg her not to leave her. The letter tries to sto p the soul from moving on and saying more. She holds on to the soul and clings to her in an effort not to be parted from her. And when he completes the whole word, the word as a whole clings to the soul and holds on to her, trying to stop her going on and saying the other words of the prayer. When a person is saying the words of the prayers, he is collecting beautiful flowers and blossoms. He gathers them one after the other and makes them into a first bunch. Then he goes on and gathers more, until he makes a second bunch and puts it together with the first. So he goes on, gathering more and more beautiful garlands. Thus it is when he prays: he goes from letter to letter until he joins sev eral letters together and makes up a word. Then he goes on and joins more letters together and makes a second word. The two words are joined together. Then he collects more, until he finishes the first blessing. He continues and passes from the first blessing of the Amidah -- the blessing of the fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- to the second, w hich speaks about the power of God. Then on to the third, which speaks of His holiness, and so on. Who can describe the beauty of these precious garlands which a person gathers as he goes through the words of the prayer? When the words emerge from his lips they come from his very soul and are heard by his ears. The words plead with the soul not to be parted from her. As soon as the first letter comes from his lips it clings to him, refusing to allow him to go further. All the more so when he finishes a whole word -- the word grasps firmly onto the soul, embracing her and trying to stop her from continuing: `How can you go on and leave me? Do you not see the preciousness of my beauty, my ra diance and glory? Am I not the word Baruch? Listen, please listen to what you are saying. Let your ears hear what your mouth is saying. How can you go on and be parted from me?' But you must go on. You have to continue and gather more precious treasures. Yet still, `how can you separate yourself from me and forget me? Well if you must, at least se e to it that wherever you get to, you still never forget me. Do not be parted from me.' True prayer is when we make one whole out of the entire prayer. When we reach the last word of the prayer we are still at the very first. Even at the end of the prayer we are still not parted from the very first letter. And then the prayer is complete and perfe ct. But the only way to attain this is with the help of the true Tzaddik, who is the `Master of the Supernal Field.' He alone can bring each one of us to the ultimate goal, which is truly good and truly One. Through his help we can make a unity of the whole prayer and achieve perfect prayer (65:2).
57) When a person genuinely prays for the sake of God alone with no ulterior motives of gaining anything from flesh and blood, he is able to bring the World to Come into this world, and by means of this the wicked are cast down. The greatness of the true Tzaddikim and the righteous is then revealed, just as it is destined to be revealed in time to come. Speech attains perfection as the vessel for holiness, and through this the potential can be made actual and it is possible to accomplish all the holy tasks one yearns to complete (66:3).
58) It is hard for someone who is dependent on other people to pray. It may be that he depends on them for his livelihood, or it could be for something else -- for example if he wants their respect and admiration. Anyone who depends on other people in any of these ways can easily start lying when he prays. For example, he may start swaying or clapping his hands, etc. in order to give the impression that he is praying with great devotion, because he wants to attract the attention of certain people he depends upon for his livelihood or his sense of importance. There are other cases of people who are somewhat more honest than this and cannot bring themselves to lie so blatantly. But because they are still dependent on other people it is very hard for them to pray with perfect honesty and sincerity. They would be ashamed to try to deceive people with a show of great devotion, and indeed they may even genuinely want to pray sincerely. But they are over-sincer e, so to speak, because they deceive themselves with their own sincerity. They want to make some movement like swaying or clapping their hands in order to impress someone they depend on. And so they manufacture a rationalization, telling themselves they genuinely need to make this movement as part of their devotions. They hide the basic lie with a veneer of truth. But the Searcher of Hearts knows that this is not the truth. There is only one truth -- devotion to God alone with no other motive. If a person is in any way dependent on flesh and blood he will find it very hard to pray with the community, because as soon as he is among other people all sorts of extraneous motives immediately st art crowding in on him -- false motives which he covers with a veneer of truth. At the time he is praying, at least, one should see to it that one has a sense of complete independence of other men. He should place all his hopes and trust in God alone. Then he will be able to stand up even among thousands of people and pray with perfect sincerity t o God alone (Ibid.).
59) You should pray with all your heart. You must feel the words of your prayers in every bone. When a person doesn't put his heart into his prayers, his soul is separated from her source. She becomes weak and his bones begin to shake. His soul and his bones lose their vitality. Prayer without the heart causes the wisdom of the elders and the wise to depart (67:8).
60) With the help of the true Tzaddikim we can draw the `cooling waters' which have the power to revive the soul when she is faint. Then a person can pray with his whole heart, and all his bones hear the words of the prayer. `All my bones will say: Lord, who is like unto Thee?' (Psalms 35:10). He prays with all his strength, and his whole mind and very essence are concentrated on his prayer. This is true prayer (Ibid.).
61) When a person prays intensely and binds his thoughts tightly to the words of the prayers he can come to understand the inner secrets of the Torah and his prayers will bring rich blessings into the world. God yearns for his prayers (73).
62) When a person speaks words of Torah and prayer, all the fallen sparks are elevated and restored and the fallen worlds are renewed. It is accounted to him as if he had created heaven and earth and all the worlds afresh. This is why we must speak only words of holiness and nothing else, in order to elevate the sparks and restore all the worlds. This will bring the coming of Mashiach closer (75).
63) Someone who is prepared to sacrifice himself for the sanctification of God's Name can attain peace. Through this he will be able to speak words of holiness -- Torah and prayer -- with full concentration, binding the thought and the words together so strongly that he truly hears and understands what he is saying. His speech becomes sanctified, and God has great joy from this (80).
64) When you find it hard to concentrate on your prayers properly because of irrelevant thoughts and distractions, remind yourself that you would be prepared to die for the sanctification of God's Name -- and even the sinners of Israel are willing to sacrifice themselves for this, as has been proved on many occasions. This sense of selfsacrifice will enable you to bind your thoughts to the words of the prayers and pray with total concentration. You should always pray in this spirit of self-sacrifice (Ibid.).
65) Every Jew has the power to achieve absolute mastery through his prayer and accomplish whatever he wants. The main obstacles are arrogance, praying for ulterior motives, and being distracted by irrelevant thoughts. There are some people who are filled with a sense of pride whether because of their family connections or because they feel they ha ve labored hard in the service of God, etc. But such a state of mind will make it impossible for them to achieve this mastery. They should simply forget about their pedigree or their spiritual achievements and imagine to themselves that they were created today and that they are alone in the world with no family connections whatsoever. In the same way they must banish all the other improper or irrelevant thoughts which creep in while they are praying. Then they will experience the true power which prayer confers. God's desire will be fulfilled, and He will have great joy from this person's prayer. Abundant blessings will be drawn into the world (97).
66) If someone is in trouble, those who pray on his behalf should avoid mentioning his name, in case the harsh judgements are stirred up with even greater force, God forbid (174).
67) Everybody offers up bad prayers at times. As the Rabbis said: `The thief at the entrance of the breach calls on the Lord for help' (Berachot 63a). These prayers confuse him when he stands up to pray good prayers. The remedy is to offer hospitality to a Torah scholar (209).
68) Clapping our hands while praying makes it possible to express the praises and titles with which we address and depict God in a fitting manner, and `gaze upon the similitude of the Lord' (Numbers 12:8). The idea of clapping hands is also contained in Ezekiel 10:21: `And the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.' Through clapping one's hands, the prayers are merged with the written Torah and the oral Torah (212).
69) Prayer has the power to change nature and to humble and crush the atheists and disbelievers (216).
70) When you are saying the passage in the morning prayers which describes how `the host of Heaven prostrate themselves before You' you should pray for anything you need. At that moment the entire host of Heaven come to worship and praise God. This is the time to ask God to command them to send you whatever you need. If you are not well and you ne ed healing, have in mind that God should instruct them to channel the necessary powers of healing into the bread you eat and the water you drink. The same applies to everything you need (231).
71) When you reach the words `Praise the Lord from the Heavens, praise Him all His messengers' (Psalm 148:1-2) you should rouse yourself and pray with real life and fire. You are calling on all the angels, the seraphim, the ophanim and the chayot hakodesh and all the worlds to offer praises to God (232).
72) Hearing another person praying with fervor can inspire you to pray with passion yourself. In exactly the same way you can be aroused simply by hearing the words you yourself are saying (270).
73) You may feel totally unable to open your mouth to pray or meditate because of the materialism you are sunk in or because of your troubles, physical or spiritual. This is precisely when you should make a special effort to stir yourself and call upon God from the very midst of all these pressures. The truest inspiration comes when a person makes the effort to arouse himself amidst troubles and difficulties. In almost every case you will find that the relief God sends will be so intense that you will be able to pray and meditate with true devotion and perhaps even reach the level of ruach hakodesh, the spirit of holiness (279).
74) Usually people find it impossible to pray with real involvement and vitality and with a sense of yearning for God because of a sense of inadequacy and dissatisfaction with themselves. They are aware that their actions are far from good. Before you start praying you should therefore put new life into yourself by searching until you find the goo d points in yourself. No matter who you are, you must have done many mitzvot in the past. Maybe there was an admixture of questionable motives, extraneous thoughts, etc. But there are still good points for you to be happy about. When you gather them all together it will give you a new vitality and you will be able to pray as you should (282).
75) Whoever leads the prayers of the community has to have the ability to gather together all the good points which are to be found in each member of the congregation. All these good points will be merged together in the prayer leader, so that when he stands up to pray it will be with all this goodness. A community which finds such a prayer leader is fortunate indeed (Ibid.).
76) At the present time prayer itself is in exile because of our many sins. Prayer is really something very exalted, but people treat it lightly. When they stand up to pray all they want is to be through with it. Only when the three basic character flaws are corrected -- the appetite for food, money and sex -- is prayer released from its exile, an d then it is possible to attain true prayer. The need for doctors and medicines disappears because prayer can channel healing powers into our very food and drink, and then we can be healed with bread and water alone. Prayer such as this has the radiance of Mashiach, and it brings under its sway the entire host of Heaven: the planets, the constella tions and the highest of the angels. All are sustained by this prayer; all of them are captivated by its grace and charm. Prayer such as this can bind one with the roots of the souls of Israel -- with the most renowned of the true spiritual leaders and all the souls that come under their wing. In the face of such prayer, the false leaders, whose w hole influence comes from arrogantly pushing themselves forward, lose all their power. A Jew who attains this level of prayer has dominion over the very angels themselves -- and this is the ultimate destiny of the Jew and the reason why he was created (II, 1:8-9).
77) There are three things which spoil our prayers. Firstly, an attitude of contempt for other people. Secondly inadequate faith -- which is tantamount to idolatry. And thirdly, lack of moral purity. Only when we rid ourselves of these shortcomings can we achieve genuine prayer (Ibid. 10).
78) There are illnesses which do not manifest themselves openly. They remain hidden, and no doctor can ever cure them. But a person who attains true prayer can be cured, even if the disease is not manifest. He need never fall sick at all (Ibid. 11).
79) Perfect prayer depends on the quality of truth. This we achieve through praise and acknowledgement of God and the study of Torah law. This is the main delight of the World to Come (2).
80) The prayers of Israel give them strength and power. They cause all the harsh decrees of God to be revoked, and then Israel are called by the name of the Lord (Ibid.).
81) True prayer must be filled with the quality of love. Prayer is a plea for God's grace and kindness. The ability to love depends upon understanding. When the forces of the Other Side sap the strength of love, God forbid, it becomes flawed. Anger and cruelty come in its place and understanding diminishes. Immoral desires become rampant. At a tim e like this, prayer comes under the shadow of God's somber judgement, and the forces of the Other Side sap its strength. It takes a leader of tremendous strength to pray at such a time. The task is to release the vitality which has been captured by the forces of the Other Side in order to restore things to their pristine state. When this happens, it causes large numbers of people to convert, and the glory of God is exalted and magnified. The power of prophecy comes into the world. Man's creative and imaginative faculty is cleansed and he is able to attain perfect faith. Then he is worthy of singing the song which is destined to be sung in time to come (8).
82) When one newcomer is added to a community of Jews -- for example when a number of Jews are praying and one more soul is added to them -- the whole house of prayer is enhanced beyond measure. The forces of holiness are multiplied and whole new edifices are built in the highest realms of holiness. Awesome joy spreads over the worlds above. The m outh cannot declare it nor the heart conceive it. Sin is forgiven and healing comes into the world (Ibid. 6).
83) When irrelevant thoughts come into your mind while you are praying, you should simply ignore them. In the end they will go away by themselves. Even if the same thought comes again and again, simply remain firm and refuse to pay any attention. Just concentrate your mind on the words of the prayer you are saying at the time. In the end the irrel evant thought will simply go away (51).
84) When a person prays he must be so tightly bound to God that he does not notice anybody else at all. He should think that there is nothing in the world except God, and that he himself is the only creature in the world. All he should hear is what he himself is saying before God. It is true that the ultimate goal is to surrender yourself so much that you do not even hear yourself. But even if you have not attained this level, you should at least not hear anybody else (103).
85) It is through prayer that we become attached to God. Prayer is the gate through which we enter the path to God and it is through prayer that we can know Him (84).
86) It often happens that when a person is praying he begins to have feelings of grandeur and pride. This is the `exile of the Shechinah.' But intense prayer has the power to overcome these thoughts and false motives, and the Shechinah is released from her exile and restored. The Holy One, blessed-be-He and the Shechinah are unified through this. Intense prayer also causes God's oath to the patriarchs to be renewed. It is as if He had made the oath just now (Ibid.).
87) Prayer helps for everything. Even if a person is unable to study Torah he will be able to do so if he prays for it. Everything good can be attained through prayer: Torah, devotion, holiness... everything good in all the worlds. Amen (111).
88) You must really force yourself to concentrate on your prayers. I disagree with the people who say one should not try to force it. It is very hard to pray, and people are usually not able to pray more than a portion of the prayers. But even if you sometimes cannot pray at all, the effort you put into forcing yourself to pray is also very precio us to God, even if you don't actually succeed in praying as you should. These efforts are accounted as sacrifices, and this is the meaning of the verse: `But for Your sake we are killed all the day; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter' (Psalms 44:23). This refers to the effort we put into our prayers even if we find it impossible to pray. This is a general principle in serving God. Even if we do not manage to serve Him in a way that is fitting, the effort we put in is still very precious, and in the worlds above it is accounted as a sacrifice (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom 12).
89) You should be very careful to get up and pray early in the morning. As soon as the first light of day begins to appear you should start praying without delay. You shouldn't learn, and you certainly shouldn't do anything else -- work or business or the like -- before you pray. And don't make the mistake of those who are overly concerned with ev acuating their bowels and waste a lot of time on this. How much Torah and prayer are lost because of this! They can also harm themselves physically and even become ill. It is all very foolish and futile. It is one of the deceptions of the Evil One, who appears in the guise of `extra strict devotions.' In actual fact, as long as a person does not a ctually feel the need to relieve himself it is permissible for him to pray. Pay no attention to the arguments of those who are overly strict in this. They have made a big mistake. Even if there is a legal source for the stricter view the majority opinion is not to be strict. And you can be sure that the Sage who takes the stricter view had no inte ntion of legitimizing mere foolishness. All too often the people who are unnecessarily strict in this miss the time limit for reciting the Shema and the Amidah, and even afterwards they suffer from a lot of distractions while trying to pray. Pay no attention to any of it. You can rely on the majority ruling. Most of the Tzaddikim in our times have advised us to pay no attention to it at all (Ibid. 30,31).
90) Sometimes you may feel absolutely no enthusiasm at all for your prayers. When this happens you have to manufacture the enthusiasm as it were. It is the same as when a person works himself up into a temper until he becomes genuinely angry. The same applies to praying. You must work yourself up until you are warm and your heart begins to burn wi th enthusiasm for the words of the prayers. In the end you will feel this fire genuinely. The same applies to being happy. Even if you find it impossible to be truly happy through following the advice we have given about joy (See Simcha), you should pretend to be happy and eventually you will come to genuine joy. This applies especially to being h appy when you are praying. You must be very careful about this, and if necessary you should follow this idea of pretending until you feel the real thing. It is a good thing to make it a habit to sing the words of the prayers to a joyous melody (74).
91) What is true prayer? Simply to say `Blessed art Thou, O God...' according to the simple meaning of the words. Just concentrate on the plain meaning of the words and listen to what you are saying. You should not try to follow the Kabbalistic devotions of the ARI even if you have started to study his writings. The only people to whom these devot ions apply are those who have already attained such a level that for them these devotions are the plain meaning of the words! This is the level of the truly great Tzaddikim. But all other people should simply concentrate on the straightforward meaning of the prayers (Likutey Moharan II, 120; Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom 75).
92) Even if you find it totally impossible to pray you should still force yourself to say the words with absolute simplicity -- as if you were a little child at school. You should say the words just like this, without any sophistication. Say a few words and simply try and listen to what you are saying and pay attention to the words. You should con centrate your thoughts intently so that you are not distracted by anything outside. All your thoughts should be concentrated on the words of the prayer. You should go through the prayers in order until in the end you will most likely be inspired and you will be able to pray with great passion and yearning. Only you should not make a test out of th is (Ibid.).
93) As a general rule, to achieve anything holy you must throw all your strength into it and use whatever ingenuity you can to succeed. This applies especially to prayer, which is on a supremely high level. Even if you don't succeed, don't be put off. You can still try to say some psalms or one of the other prayers with sincerity. If you can't man age this either, what then? You must hope for God's help -- perhaps in the fullness of time you will attain sincere prayer. Follow this path confidently and you will achieve everything good (Ibid.).
94) You should be able to feel another person's troubles in your own heart. This is especially true when many are suffering. Cry out to God and pray for them (Ibid. 39).
95) Good news can enable you to say psalms (Ibid. 97).
ADVICE from RABBI NACHMAN
Online English translation of Likutey Etzot
A compendium of Rabbi Nachman's practical teachings on spiritual growth and devotion.
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5766 / 2006