Investigating Vital Jewish Ideas: If Praying To Hashem Works, Does He Change His Mind?

If you are a frum / spiritual person, then by definition, you assume that praying to Hashem is an important practice.

But, despite the basic religious obligation, why is that so?

This is one of the most complex topics in Jewish philosophy which I want to address here from a Kabbalistic perspective.

The first thing to understand is that Tefilah (prayer) is an art of the soul and, according to the Zohar, associated with the Sephira of Malkhut. It occupies a very special place in religious systems around the world, especially, of course, in Judaism. Like every art, praying to God takes time, effort, and knowledge in order to be mastered. Rebbe Natan writes it comes after many years of labor.

The benefits are seldom seen and then only for those that have perfected it, namely, real Tzaddikim.

So how can we change that situation? And how can we understand the Tefilah?

Introduction to praying to Hashem

Just as one who wants to get in shape needs to constantly train his body, one who wants to refine his perception of God and the soul itself also needs to pray constantly. Deep meditative prayer brings immeasurable benefits (even physical ones) and are a necessity of the neshama.

Moreover, most people know that praying to Hashem can affect our lives and the universe in unimaginable ways, but unfortunately don’t see it. Yet, it is the essence and main venue through which a person can relate to the Creator and ultimately find inner peace. Breslov Chassidut emphasizes prayer a lot because, as Rebbe Nachman teaches, one can gain anything with it, even become a Tzaddik.

Here we will try to explain a little about the magnitude of true praying to Hashem.

Continue reading this article to understand:

  • How we are to relate to Hashem
  • What Tefilah is
  • The wrong way to pray
  • What you can do starting now (whether Jew or non-Jew)

Before we continue, it’s important to give an overall perspective on Hashem’s involvement with this physical world. Even if you don’t agree with everything, I guarantee it’s all sourced from our Sages and real Rabbis.

Who is Hashem?

Hashem is the Creator of the world, He’s the Absolute Being (also called Ein Sof, i.e. without end), the Primary Cause and is beyond anything our minds can conceive. So writes the Rambam as well as many other Jewish luminaries.

Even these “definitions” just presented don’t do justice because our concepts of what is “absolute” and “primary” are limited to parameters that our own mind can comprehend. They can even be represented mathematically or otherwise.

The first thing to keep in mind is: nothing can change Hashem’s “essence” (Ein Sof), because it’s not bound by Creation. Yet, at the same time, he encompasses all of it and all possible scenarios.

If someone ever thinks that at any one point He “changed his mind”, consider that even this other possibility was in His plans. All was included in the myriad of possible scenarios that “came up in His thoughts” (which does not preclude our free will as we will see later).

So, in theory, as an absolute, unique, and perfect being without any conceivable form whatsoever, Hashem would be unapproachable. However, as it just happens, our sages teach that Hashem desires to have a relationship with all created beings and therefore, contracted (so to speak) his infinite essence in order to manifest his attributes with the creation and have a relationship with it.

For this reason, He created the Sephirot, which are attributes which he displays in Creation, both on a communal as well as individual level.

praying to Hashem

Form and matter

Philosophers of old define reality as being a composite of “form” and “matter” (the first filling the second). In Judaism, these terms are termed “vessel” and “light” and this relationship applies to everything we can think of: the moon and the sun, the wife and the husband, the student and the teacher, the glass and the water, the body and the soul.

The explanation on the Masculine pronoun when praying to Hashem

Hashem is therefore referred to in the masculine, not because we are misogynists or trying to establish a patriarchal society as some might be led to believe, but because He’s the “giver” of all life. The relationship between He and Creation is often compared to that of a Father and a Child, a Man and a Woman, or a King and his Servants.

This might seem to put women in an inferior position, that in an ideal world which we are trying to accomplish with bringing the Olam HaBah, this is not so. In fact, one can learn the “idea” husband/wife relationship from real Tzaddikim: they put their wives above everything, even their own concern.

Rabbi Chaim Vital tells us in a few places in the Kitvei Ari that his master, the holy Arizal, “used to honor his wife above his means (by buying her clothes and jewelry), and spent on himself way below his means.

Having said that, it’s important to realize: We are all vessels to receive light from God. Praying is not just a nice act to make one feel good about himself, but a necessity, a built-in mechanism in Creation. It’s a form of creating vessels so they can filled with blessing. With it, we fill ourselves and feel complete, like a glass that’s filled with water.

However, therein lies the greatest difficulty of praying to God.

The essence of praying to Hashem

Praying to God is not a shopping list, but a change of perspective from within, and a Tikkun in and of itself. Forget about getting your wishes granted for a second. The fact that someone actually believes that Hashem is there and is willing to put an effort to talk to Him is a huge spiritual system which has all the 4 spiritual worlds and Sephirot of their own.

Tefilah is also the quintessential form of Devekut (bonding with Hashem), which brings incredible benefits.

We pray the very same “standing prayer” (Amidah) 3 times every single day (with a few exceptions) composed of 19 blessings. In them, 13 requests are repeated over and over during regular days. The other 6 blessings, which include 3 praises and 3 thanksgivings, never change.

Now, why all that? Doesn’t Hashem know what we need before we even think we need something?

Many people might think that praying is a way to get what you can’t and that one needs to get lucky or curry God’s favor to get it. However, as one would expect, this position is mostly wrong. To be more precise, it can be right on a very shallow, superficial level.

This is because Hashem desires to fulfill all our needs more than we desire to receive.

Read that again.

Hashem ultimately needs nothing from us, but He desires prayer. The 13 Attributes of Mercy dictate that everything should be given to anyone in an ideal world. However, the problem resides with us making the vessels in order to receive what we want.

Tefilah the most direct channel of communication we can have with Hashem (thereby establishing a relationship). Otherwise, there would be no reason for a Creation with so much lack. But precisely for this reason that it’s so difficult to realize its importance and convince ourselves to do it for L’Shem Shamayim (for Hashem’s sake) and nothing else. Because, paradoxically, when we pray like that, then we get it.

The Tzaddikim that have prayed throughout the generations did it with the sole intention that Hashem’s glory should not be lacking and therefore received their wishes.

This realization is obviously a very exalted level, and I confess I’m still far off from it.

Praying to God in the desert

The depths of praying to Hashem

While praying to God has many levels of depth, we pray hoping to come to an understanding of Him, and recognizing his Infinite Good that we all take for granted. This is a matter of re-educating ourselves, reprogramming our minds, and fine-tuning our perception.

That’s why we repeat ourselves day in and day out. Spiritual acts that get repeated often are reinforced in the spiritual worlds. This is why we have the very same Tefilah and Mitzvot day in and day out (almost).

But Tefilah can also be a form of thanking Hashem, as we recognize the good in life and bring it back to its Source.

Sight, smell, hands, feet, pleasure. We wake up every day taking these gifts for granted when, in reality, they are gifts renewed at every single moment. We are so used to having such things that we forget to thank for having them.

In fact, though we all must pray for livelihood, what matters most is whether we are doing it for the right reasons.

So, if a person doesn’t recognize the good he has, why would Hashem want to give him more?

The lack of insight

We are, of course, making a simplification of the matter, because when “awarding” something, there are a number of judgments Hashem does beforehand. These calculations are entirely outside our realm of wisdom and understanding, and therefore we tend to think that evil people are awarded and good people are punished.

But we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. What happens after the thieves steal successfully? And when the murderer gets away with it? Nobody can feel what goes inside those that insult us turn and seem to go their merry way.

Do they have peace? Maybe their “job” is to hold on to their “loot” until someone more deserving comes to take it from them? Or… maybe they are just being awarded now for the little good they did in order for them to be completely obliterated in the next world as we learn in Massechet Makkot?

Whatever the case, we need to ask ourselves: are things really as we see them?

The “supposed” thief might have stolen back what was his. Maybe the “murderer” killed a potential killer or the father of a potential mass murderer. Maybe he prevented the victim from suffering an even bigger scam and losing everything. Or maybe the victim had a decree to die written in Heaven because of a wrong he committed but was “let off” with just some monetary loss.

We may never know. We can do justice to what’s within our domain according to what Halacha tells us.

The rest is for Hashem to deal with.

Praying to Hashem, the proper way

Rav Yehuda Ashlag writes extensively about this: We were not created to receive, but rather to transmit, whether that is food, money, knowledge or anything else. This is the highest level of self-transformation: to become a giver.

In essence, we were created to emulate the Creator in all that we do. Becoming like the Creator is the greatest honor possible. And, in fact, deep inside, this is what we carve the most.

The Creator gives us everything, every day, for free. Even less fortunate people have for what to thank. As was said before, the problem is that we take our blessings for granted. We accept our blessings as normality when that’s very wrong.

When we acknowledge the good bestowed on us every day by praying to Hashem, we lift the veil of deception from our eyes. By doing so, we remove a lot of the barriers from within and move close to Him. That, in turn, causes our vessels to open and receive even more blessings.

These blessings in turn help us serve Him better, become holy and promote the “Tikkun Olam” (Rectification of the World) and ultimately being the Olam HaBah.

In doing so, we are able to irradiate Hashem’s light from within ourselves and create a better world.


What are your impressions on praying to Hashem?

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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