Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
Prayer is the root of all attachment and devotion to God. Prayer is the gate through which we approach God, and through prayer we may come to know Him.
Likutey Moharan II, 84
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.
Likutey Moharan II, 111
"Every person must say: The whole world was created for me" ( Sanhedrin 37a) .
If the world was created for me, it is therefore my constant obligation to examine and consider what is needed to repair the world and provide everyone's needs, and to pray for them.
Likutey Moharan 1, 5
The secret of prayer is to be bold. We must have the audacity to ask God for everything we need - even if we need to ask Him to work miracles for us. Only with boldness and daring can we stand up and pray to God.
When we consider God's utter greatness - if 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? Even so, when we pray, we must cast our timidity aside and boldly ask God for everything we need. Only with bold assertiveness can we overcome the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of our service of God.
Likutey Moharan I, 30
Never insist on anything in your prayers. Ask for what you want as a request. If God grants it, He will grant it. And if not, then not!
Regardless of what you need - livelihood, children or anything else - it is forbidden to insist stubbornly that God should fulfil exactly what you are asking for, because this is like taking something by force: it is a kind of robbery. Just pray and entreat God for kindness and mercy.
Likutey Moharan I, 20 & 196
God does us a great kindness by allowing us to use human terms when addressing Him in prayer and by answering our requests. If it were not for His kindness, it would be completely inappropriate to address Him with names, descriptions and praises consisting of mere words and letters. The fact that we are able to do so is all due to God's kindness.
The realization that, although God is exalted beyond all human titles and praises, He permits us to address Him in human terms in order to bind ourselves to Him, should be sufficient to inspire us to pray with fervor and passion. This is a sign of His great love and tender mercy. We should therefore at least be sincere when we address Him this way, since it is only through His love and mercy that we are able to do so at all.
Likutey Moharan I, 15
Pray with great strength, putting all your power into the words of your prayers.
You must force yourself to pray. Some people say that a person should not force himself to pray, but the opposite is true. You must force yourself to put all your strength into your prayers.
True devotion is to bind the thought to the word, focusing your mind on the words of the prayers by listening and paying careful attention to what you are saying. This way your inner power will enter your prayers automatically.
All your inner power waits for the moment when it is drawn into words of holiness. When you focus your thoughts on what you are saying, this power rushes forth into the words. Simply pay attention to the words and your inner power will enter your prayers without your having to force it.
Sichot Haran #66
Sometimes you may feel no enthusiasm during your prayers. You should then act as if you feel enthusiasm, making your heart burn with the words of the prayers. This is similar to the way a person can work himself up into such a temper that he actually becomes angry. People then say, "He's making himself angry . "
Sometimes when you pray, you must likewise work yourself up into a passion. You must force yourself to put fire and emotion into the words. Eventually the enthusiasm will become real: your heart will burn for God and you will pray with genuine fervor.
Sichot Haran #74
People say one should pray quietly as if standing before a king. But I say, pray with cries and hand-clapping. This is the way to leap into Gan Eden with joy!
Tovot Zichronot p. 107
It is best to pray early in the morning. Prayer is of supreme importance - who knows if you will be able to pray later? Make every effort to pray as early as you possibly can.
Sichot Haran #31
Chassidus is not associated with any specific style of prayer. One can be a Chassid and pray in Nusach Ashkenaz.
Siach Sarfey Kodesh 1-90
When reciting Psalms and prayers, make sure you find yourself in everything you say. It is simple and easy to find yourself in all your prayers: you don't need to be clever.
The Psalms in particular were written for the entire community of Israel and for each and every individual. All of a person's internal wars and struggles and everything else he endures are all expressed in the Psalms , which mainly relate to the war against the evil urge and its forces. These are the main enemies seeking to keep a person from the path of life and drag him down to the deepest hell if he is not on guard against them. The entire Book of Psalms is about this war.
The foundation of all the different pathways to God lies in reciting Psalms and other supplications and offering our own personal prayers from the heart, entreating Him to draw us closer to His service. This is the only way to win the war. Happy is the man who persistently prays and entreats God at all times and in all situations, because he will certainly win the war.
Much good advice exists about different ways of coming closer to God, but in most cases it is very hard to carry out the actual advice. Therefore the main thing is prayer and supplication. Regardless of who you are or the circumstances in which you find yourself, always try to offer some prayer and request to God to take you from darkness to light and bring you to complete repentance. Give Him no quiet until He answers you. Even if you cry to God for a very long time and He still seems very far away, if you are persistent in your prayers, He will certainly answer you eventually and draw you to His service.
Likutey Moharan II, 101
Even if you consider yourself a sinner, you must still keep firm and make every effort to pray.
Tell yourself: Maybe I am far from God because of all my sins. Yet if so, there can be no perfect prayer without me. Didn't the Rabbis teach that "every prayer that does not include the sinners of Israel is not a true prayer" ( Keritot 6a) . This is because prayer is like an incense offering, and the Torah requires that the incense must contain galbanum even though , by itself, it has a foul smell .
Therefore even though I consider myself a sinner, I am an essential ingredient in the prayers and the service cannot be complete without me. If I am a sinner, I must strengthen myself all the more to pray to God. I must have trust that in His mercy He will accept my prayer, since the perfection of the prayer depends on me - the the galbanum in the incense.
Just as the foul-smelling galbanum is a vital ingredient in the incense, so too my tainted prayer is a vital ingredient in the prayers of all Israel . Without it, they will not be complete.
Sichot Haran #295
The greatest of all religious devotions is still easier than making a living and trying to acquire worldly possessions!
How much effort a merchant devotes to getting to the market on time! The moment Shabbat is over, he starts getting busy. First he has to find a wagon. Next he must hurry and load up his wares. Then he has to travel through the night, driving sleep from his eyes and breaking his whole body as he sits on top of the loaded wagon. After all this, he has to stand on his feet for the whole day in the freezing cold...
The merchant has to endure all this hardship and discomfort for the sake of a mere possibility: perhaps he will make a profit! He might equally well lose everything including his expenses, which is what usually happens. To make a living in this world, people go to the greatest lengths, enduring extreme hardship - all because of the slender hope that they might make a small profit.
The greatest possible religious devotion is prayer. And yet, when we stand up to pray, we pray and we manage to complete the prayer!!!
Chayey Moharan #558
When a person stands in prayer, reciting the words of the prayers, he is gathering beautiful flowers and blossoms, like someone walking in a meadow picking lovely flowers and blossoms one by one until they make a bunch. Then he picks more, one by one, until they make another bunch, and he puts them together. So he goes on, picking and gathering more and more lovely bouquets.
So it is in prayer: one goes from letter to letter, until several letters are joined together to make a syllable. One does the same to make whole words. Then one joins together two words, and goes on, picking and gathering, until one completes a whole blessing. Then one goes on picking more and more, and passes from the first blessing of the Amidah prayer - the blessing of the fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - to the second, which speaks of God's might . One then proceeds to the third blessing, which speaks of His holiness, and so on. Who can adequately praise the great splendor of the gleanings and gatherings one makes with the words of the prayer?
When speech comes forth, it comes from the soul. The utterance comes forth and is heard by the ears, for "you must let your ears hear what you bring forth from your mouth" ( Berachot 15) . The utterance then begs and pleads with the soul not to leave it behind. As soon as the first letter comes forth - the Beit of the word Baruch , "Blessed" (opening word of the Amidah prayer) - the letter begs and pleads with the soul not to part from it.
The letter says to the soul: "How could you allow yourself to become separated from me, considering the great bond of love between us? See my precious beauty, my radiance, my splendor and glory! How could you tear yourself away from me and leave me? True, you have to continue with the prayer and gather more precious treasures and delights. But how can you separate yourself from me and forget me? At least see to it that, wherever you go afterwards, you never forget me or become cut off from me."
All the more so when one finishes a whole word: the word pleads and entreats in the same manner, caressing and embracing the soul, refusing to let the soul move on. Yet the truth is that one must go on: there are many more words to be said and many more blessings and prayers to be recited before the conclusion of the service.
The solution is to make the whole prayer into one - to make it into a single unity, so that each individual utterance contains all the utterances making up the whole prayer. From the beginning of the prayer to the end it should all be one, so that when you reach the very last word of the prayer you will still be standing at the very first word of the prayer. This way you can pray the entire prayer and never be separated from even the first letter of the prayer.
Likutey Moharan I, 65
"The wicked walk on every side" (Psalms 12 :9) . This means that the unholy surrounds the holy, because "God made the one corresponding to the other" ( Ecclesiastes 7:14 ) . This applies especially to someone who has already succumbed to the temptation to sin and is so attracted to the unholy that this is where his place is, God forbid. "The wicked" - in the form of strange thoughts, feelings and temptations - have this person surrounded "on every side."
When such a person experiences a spiritual arousal and wants to return to God, he finds it very difficult to pray and express himself to God because of all the strange thoughts and feelings surrounding him on every side. Each person experiences this in his own way. One finds it impossible to bring out the words before God with the proper reverence, love and vitality. None of one' s words and prayers are able to penetrate the screens and barriers separating one from God, and they remain down below.
Only when a person repents with genuine honesty and sincerity will he be able to express himself acceptably with words of reverence and love springing from the depths of a heart truly aroused. Then his radiant words will break through all the barriers and coverings. And with them all the words and prayers that remained below until now will also ascend.
How does one achieve this? The key is through truth, and everything else depends on this. You must follow the path of truth - on your own level. For, "The seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is truth!" ( Shabbat 55a, Yoma 69b) . Truth is the foundation of everything from beginning to end. Truth is the head, the middle and end of the entire creation.
When a person attains truth, it is as if God's own light is clothed in him, since truth is God's seal. Someone like this can rightly say, "God is my light and my salvation" (Psalms 27:1) . Because God shines to him, he can find plenty of openings to escape the darkness and exile in which he is imprisoned.
In reality many openings exist there. The Rabbis said, "If a person comes to defile himself, there are many openings for him" ( Yoma 38b, Menachot 29b) . If there are many openings through which a person can fall, it follows that there are also many openings through which he can escape. It is just that "the fool goes in darkness" ( Ecclesiastes 2:14 ) : he simply does not see the exits, and he remains tied and bound, unable to escape. That is, until he succeeds in speaking to God truthfully. When he does this, the words radiate with light and God shines to him.
It is only then that "the opening of Your words shines light; it gives understanding to the simple" (Psalms 119:130) . For the shining words themselves - words of truth - show the person the opening. "It gives understanding to the simple" - because those simple people who are caught in darkness and cannot see how to get out will thereby understand and see the opening and then they can escape the darkness. "Saying to the prisoners, 'Go forth!' and to those who are in darkness, 'Be revealed!'" (Isaiah 49:9) .
But the truth has to be the complete truth: clean, clear and without blemish.
Anyone with sense and understanding should pray all his days to be able to say one true word to God the way he should, even just once in his life.
If you are trying to pray but cannot say a single word because you feel you have sunk in to confusion and darkness, try to say what you say with truth, even on the most elementary level. For example, say the words "God help me!" truthfully, even if you cannot say them with any real enthusiasm. Just say the words honestly in whatever way you can. With a true word you will be able to see the openings in the darkness and escape into the light so as to pray properly.
Likutey Moharan I, 112
One who is dependent on other people finds it easier to pray alone, because as soon as he prays with others he becomes subject to all kinds of false motives. His prayer becomes a lie because he feels he must put on an act in order to impress others. This is because he needs them for something. Some depend on others for their livelihood. Even a person of independent means may still depend on others for his own self-esteem , because he needs their approval or adulation . Such needs can easily cause a person to put on a false act for others as he prays.
Someone else may be more honest. Being somewhat in awe of God, he would feel ashamed to act out a cheap lie in his prayers merely to impress. He would like to pray truthfully - but his truth is excessive. And therefore it is not really the truth, because there is no such thing as excess truth : there is only one truth .
Such a person would be ashamed to think of himself as lying outright in his prayers, so he tries to cover over the lie with truth. For example, he may want to make a gesture of piety - perhaps a clap of the hands - to impress someone. Only he is ashamed to do it merely to impress. Accordingly he deceives himself: his evil urge leads him on a trail of thought which persuades him that he really does need to make such a gesture as part of his prayer. He finds a rationalization for his gesture or handclap, a veneer of truth to cover up the lie.
But he has much too much truth. For the fact is that there is only one truth: to pray truthfully to God and God alone. But this person has multiple truths . He uses many different truths to cover the underlying falsehood. This is all because he depends on others, and this is why he is filled with false motives. He produces a truth to persuade himself that his intention is really this or that... Yet in reality there is only one truth.
Likutey Moharan I, 66
Many irrelevant thoughts may come into your mind while you pray. Don't pay any attention to them at all. Simply do your part: say your prayers in the proper order, ignoring all disturbing thoughts.
These extraneous thoughts are actually of great benefit. Without them prayer would be impossible. Tremendous maligning powers seek to denounce our prayers, but these irrelevant thoughts disguise our prayers so that unholy forces disregard them, enabling our prayers to enter on high.
God knows our innermost thoughts. We may have distracting thoughts, yet God knows that in the depths of our hearts, our thoughts are focused only on God. When you pray, your innermost thoughts are always directed toward God. God searches all hearts and He sees this innermost desire. He sees through the disguise and accepts the prayer in love.
"Many thoughts are in man's heart, but God's counsel is what stands" (Proverbs 19:21 ) .
"Many thoughts are in man's heart" - these are the many extraneous thoughts a person has when he prays. Yet "God's counsel is what stands". This means that there is an innermost point in your heart where your thoughts are directed to God alone. This innermost point is called "God's counsel." Within this point, your intent is to God alone. This can never fail, for "God's counsel is what stands."
You therefore need pay no attention to irrelevant thoughts and distractions. Simply ignore them and continue with your prayers.
Sichot Haran #72
Some people say that if you pray with true inner intention and are wholly focused on your prayers, you should not hear any outside disturbance because your devotion will be strong enough to block out everything else.
This is not true. Even the greatest Tzaddik would be distracted and distressed if, while praying with outstanding intensity and devotion, someone approached him and disturbed or ridiculed him.
Sichot Haran #284
You should force yourselves to pray with great devotion, powerfully binding your thoughts to each word. True devotion means listening attentively to the words you are saying.
It is not advisable to try to pray using the mystical intentions of the prayers as found in the Kabalistic writings - and this applies even to people who are fit to study such works.
Perfect prayer is when you say the words of the prayers with complete simplicity: Baruch Atah. "Blessed are You." Listen carefully to what you are saying: concentrate on the meaning of the words.
It is ridiculous to say that one should not force oneself to pray. Quite the contrary: you should pray with all your might and put all your strength into each letter of the words of the prayers.
As to the disturbing thoughts that occur during prayer: ignore them completely. Keep doing your part, going systematically through the service in order, paying no attention to any distractions. Turn your mind away from all such thoughts completely.
It is impossible to pray the entire service with complete devotion, but each person can say a certain portion of the service with genuine feeling. One person may recite the passages dealing with the Temple incense offering with great feeling. Someone else may pray best during the Psalms of Pesukey DeZimra , the "Verses of Song".
This is because the physical human body has a spiritual counterpart, each of whose limbs corresponds to a portion of the prayer service. Each person is associated with a particular limb of the transcendental form. When he reaches the section of the service relating to his limb, he is aroused to great devotion.
Sometimes you may pray a section of the service with great devotion but suddenly the feeling vanishes and you find it impossible to pray properly. Don't be discouraged, because this is inevitable: it means you have left your part of the spiritual form. For the rest of the service, just try to say each word with perfect simplicity.
Sometimes you may make great efforts but find that you still cannot pray. No matter what, do not allow yourself to become discouraged. This is the most important rule of all. Force yourself to say each word of the service with complete simplicity, like a child who is just learning to read. Keep saying the words. In most cases God will then touch your heart with a flame and you will pray with great feeling.
However, you should not make a test of this. Deep inside yourself you well know that you are very remote from true prayer, which is supremely exalted. Prayer is even above the study of Torah. How can you be worthy to serve God in such a lofty way?
Do your part. Simply begin the words of the service - Adon Olam Asher Malach , "Lord of the world, Who ruled."
Listen carefully to every word you say. Concentrate on the meaning of the words without letting your thoughts stray. Keep your mind focused entirely on the words of the service. Follow the order of the service, even if you feel no inspiration. Continue word by word, page by page, until God sends you true arousal. And even if you complete the entire service without any feeling, you can still say an extra Psalm or prayer with devotion.
Be sure to offer your prayers in a state of joy and with a happy tune. Put yourself in a cheerful mood before you start your prayers. Seek out your good points, using them to bring joy to your prayers.
The main thing is truth. You may encounter all kinds of distractions when you want to pray, but hold on to truth. No matter what your level, you can speak the simple truth in your prayers. Take this advice to heart and you will certainly be worthy of true prayer.
Sichot Haran #75
What people do at the end, I want you to do at the very outset. People usually pray when they see that all other means have failed. But you should pray at the very outset, when trouble first strikes.
Siach Sarfey Kodesh 1-293
If a dead person were allowed back into this world to pray, he would definitely pray most beautifully, with all his strength.
Likutey Moharan II, 111
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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