I find it funny how we still get surprised when our prayers get answered, myself included. I often hear people preface a story of how Hashem took care of them (again) by saying, “You’re not going to believe this”. Why wouldn’t we believe it? Isn’t the idea of praying to Hashem what we’re taught our whole lives, again and again? What’s the big surprise that it works? On the other hand, if it’s so inconceivable that real prayer works, then why do many of us spend so much time doing it? Why climb up a tree that we’re sure has no fruit?
The truth is that Rebbe Nachman says (Torah 7) that prayer is miraculous. It supersedes the forces of nature. But Maybe, since we’re by-no-means accustomed to seeing outright miracles, we get a bit surprised when our prayers force Hashem’s hands to perform miracles on our behalf?
I heard a beautiful story the other day from Rabbi David Ashear of livingemunah.com. There was a boy named Naftali who grew up in a very religious home and started slacking off in yeshiva. Eventually he got kicked out because he was negatively influencing the other kids in his class. His parents became very concerned. A few weeks later he missed the Friday night meal and his parents had no idea where he was. He finally showed up late at night drunk and smelling of cigarettes, with a cellphone in hand, as if it weren’t shabbos. His parents consulted with an expert in the parenting field who advised them that they cannot allow him to violate Torah and Mitzvos in the home. When they relayed those demands to him, Naftali left home and moved in with his new irreligious friends in Tel Aviv. He finally felt free, but after a few months those friends turned on him. They made fun of him and tortured him until he had no choice but to leave. He was wandering the streets depressed. He knew he couldn’t go home either and he decided that he was going to commit suicide. It was evening time and he started walking towards a large tower to jump off of it. On his way up the stairs, he saw a pamphlet on the floor with the words “Mamma Rochel” on the cover. Usually these pamphlets didn’t interest him, but this time he picked it up and started reading it. It was full of stories of salvation that people experienced at Rachel’s Tomb. He started thinking that maybe he should also go to there and pray before he took his own life. He decided to go. When he got there, it was late at night and he was surprised how busy it was there. He saw a group of men praying very fervently and he noticed a sign that nearly made him pass out. It said “Please pray that our son Naftali Yisroel ben Chana Rochel does Teshuva”. That sign was about him. The people there were praying for him to return to Hashem. Then he heard a voice from ladies’ section that he recognized to be his mothers’! She was saying, “Master of the world, please send my Naftali back. I’ll take him back however he is”. He called out to his mother and they reunited. His parents sponsored that group of rabbis to come and pray that night at Rachel’s Tomb so that he would return. Hashem made him find that pamphlet and it worked right away.
Are you surprised? Don’t be!