Prayer – Finding G-d
Torah Portion: Vayetze (And He Went) B’resheet/Genesis 28:10-32:3
Haftorah Reading Hosea 11:7-13:5
This Torah portion covers over 20 years of Ya’akov’s life. It starts with his escape from the wrath of his brother Esau and ends with him, along with his family, making the journey back to the Land of Promise. These verses cover many thought provoking points. However, I will concentrate on only two.
One point I want us to discuss tonight concerns prayer. As I have studied this week I have read many interesting ideas on the subject and this has caused me to consider my own view on this subject. I want us to look at this together and see what G-d says to us. I would like to start with one person’s definition and see where it takes us. “Prayer is above all else, an intimate encounter between a person and G-d. The prayer’s content includes requests and supplications from G-d, but the essence of prayer is embodied first and foremost, by the act of turning to the L-rd. Content comes second.”
Building on that thought, let us turn our attention to Ya’akov in this portion by reading B’resheet/Genesis 28:10-16. These verses describe Ya’akov’s encounter with G-d as he began his trek to Haran. Remember, Ya’akov is at the beginning of a long and arduous journey over 1000 miles. It is his first adventure away from the tents of his mother and father. I would call your attention to verse 16 especially. In English this verse reads, “Surely the L-rd is in this place and I did not know.” In Hebrew, the last few words of this verse are somewhat different. In Hebrew it reads, “And I, I knew it not.” So, the question arises why is the word I expressed twice? Something I read helped me to understand and also deepen my thoughts on prayer. I think Ya’akov, by emphasizing the “I”, was saying he had been so centered on himself he almost missed G-d. By the Hebrew construction, Ya’akov is saying he came to recognize G-d was there by forgetting about himself and his problems. We sense the presence of G-d when we put ourselves aside and seek out G-d’s view of what is in our heart. Less than prayer changing the world, it changes us.
As I said in the question I sent this week, the very word for prayer or to pray in Hebrew is lehitpalel. This literally means to judge oneself. It means to escape our personal view of a problem and allow G-d to reveal His view to us. The “I” falls silent for a bit and we grasp that we are not all knowing but G-d is. The more we can be still and seek Him out the more effectively we will be able to pray. Our questions often is, “What do I need from life?” The more important question should be, “What does life need from me?” What did G-d create me for in this world? We all have a purpose in life. We are here because the Father wanted us to be here. He created us for a purpose. G-d is always ready to show us that purpose if we are open to being still before Him. Prayer allows us, as Ya’akov says here, to know G-d is in this place waiting for us to slow down and meet Him in our prayers.
As we look through scripture we see two words that play such an important role in our understanding of the Father. These words play a large part in this whole issue of prayer. The words, “hear” and “see.” G-d is involved in hearing and seeing His people. He is not a detached G-d but a personal G-d who is always ready to hear and to see our situation.
One example of this is in our portion in Genesis/B’resheet 32:3. G-d saw how Laban was treating Ya’akov. He was aware. He was there. He sees and hears us. Read Sh’mot/Exodus 3:7 where G-d spoke to Moshe about seeing and hearing the plight of His people in Egypt. We also see this idea in James 5:4 where G-d heard the cries of poor laborers who had their wages held back. I Peter 3:12 tells us the eyes of the L-rd are on the righteous and His ears are open to their prayers.
When we, as His people, pray we can be assured G-d hears us. He wants each of us to experience Him, to see the world through His eyes, to be still and know He is G-d. Take time to find Him in your life and rest in Him. Prayer is more than a list of needs. It is finding Him wherever we are and resting in Him as we communicate with Him.