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18 Ways to More Effective Prayer (Part 3)

Let us continue our crash course on the art of prayer. The posuk says, “Va’ani sifilasi lacha Hashem eis ratzon – And I let my prayer come before You at a time of favor.” This posuk clues us in on a great secret: That we can carve out for ourselves a favorable time for our supplications. The key to success in this area is to preface our prayers with the performance of a mitzvah. When doing so, Hashem is happy with us because of our mitzvah and therefore He looks more favorably at the request which follows it. One example of this idea is to give tzedakah prior to our praying. As the posuk teaches us, “Va’ani b’tzedek echezeh panecha – And with charity I come to appear before You (in prayer).” Some people follow the custom to give tzedakah during pesukei dezimrah in Vay’vorech Dovid, when they say the verse, “V’atah mosheil bakol – And you rule over everything.” This was the custom of the Arizal, zy”a. It is my practice to keep a Rav Meir baal HaNeis pushka in my talis bag to ensure that I give some tzedakah before my prayers. We must note that the word tzedek in the aforementioned verse doesn’t refer solely to charity. It literally means righteousness. Thus, the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Segel, zt”l, zy”a, used to bring his wife a cup of coffee before davening. This was one of his ways of carving for himself an eis ratzon, a time of favor. He didn’t suffice with this activity alone. He also studied Masechtas Berachos before davening thereby prefacing his prayers with the greatest mitzvah of all, namely the learning of Torah. Both the Chofetz Chaim and the Sanzer Rav, the Divrei Chaim, zt”l, zy”a, recommend that we don’t rely just on the three formal prayers every day for at those times the yeitzer hara, the evil inclination girds itself with all of its might to interfere with our concentration and distract our devotions. They advise that we ask Hashem for His help at different times scattered throughout the day with our own homemade formulas. We should be on the lookout throughout the day for times of favor caused by a mitzvah which create auspicious zones to petition Hashem. For example, the Tuvcha Yabi’u says that if we are walking in the street and a scantily clad female passes by us and we overcome the temptation to gawk – thereby fulfilling the challenging mitzvah of v’lo sasusru acharei levavechem v’acharei eineichem, not to follow after our hearts and our eyes – that’s a time of favor to ask Hashem for a request. We might be tempted to lose our cool when we are at home on a Friday afternoon and in the pressure of frenetic Shabbos preparations. However, if we hold back and don’t get angry, that too becomes an eis ratzon, a time to turn Heavenward and ask Hashem for what we need. Similarly, if we are sitting under an umbrella table, by the coffee station at work, jogging with a friend or working out in the gym and we are sorely tempted to share a story which would involve lashon hara or divulging a secret and we mightily abstain, we should grab that sweet occasion to ask Hashem for a request. This is the reason why our wives, after they kindle the Shabbos candles, pray for children talmidei chachamim and that their husband should only have eyes for them. For when they do their special mitzvah in honor of the Shabbos – and set the tone for an aura of warmth and light for the Shabbos day, and they do their part to reignite the light that was snuffed out by Chava when she ate the forbidden fruit and fed it to her husband – it is a weekly special time for her to ask Hashem for everything important. So too when we are called up to the Torah and we do the very great mitzvah of publically giving honor to Hashem and His Torah, we create such a favorable time with Hashem that we are able to give a mishabeirach, a blessing to our families, our ancestors, and our friends in the shul. May it be the will of Hashem as we continue to learn how to daven better, in that merit may Hashem answer our prayers and may we blessed with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.