A woman has recently been experiencing considerable difficulty running the organization she had started several years earlier. She founded the organization l’shem Shamayim, out of sincere desire to help others, but numerous obstacles arose and she was seriously considering shutting it down. She was awake almost the entire night worrying about the situation and trying to decide how to proceed, and the next morning she prayed with genuine emotion to Hashem, begging Him to guide her in the right direction. That day she noticed an Emuna Daily email that she had received several days earlier but had yet to open. She opened it in the hope that it would provide her with some clarity and guidance concerning her current predicament. As she listened to the recording, she almost fell off her chair. The recording spoke of many people who had started charitable organizations with sincere motives but confronted obstacles along the way and considered giving up. However, they preserved and eventually saw the problems resolved. It was as though Hashem was speaking to her to renew her strength. This was precisely what she needed to hear.
But one might ask, how could we be so sure that this was Hashem communicating with her? After all, the email was there in her Inbox even before she prayed. How could this email message be the answer to her prayer if it was there even before?
A similar question could be asked concerning another story I heard of a Rabbi in Eretz Yisrael who every Thursday night would leave money for his wife for Shabbat purchases. Once, however, he had absolutely no money to give her. He was too embarrassed to tell her and he did not want to cause his wife and children to worry, but he did not know what to do. He went into his room and prayed, saying, “Hashem, I know You run the world and provide food and sustenance to all. I know You can provide my family with our needs at any moment.” He prayed for twenty minutes, and when he came out of the room, he saw the kitchen table laden with freshly prepared food for Shabbat.
He asked his wife where the food had come from, and she explained that their neighbors’ daughter who lives in a different city delivered a baby boy two weeks early, and the neighbors were going to her home for Shabbat to attend the shalom zachor.
“They had already prepared food for Shabbat,” she said, “and so they figured they would offer us the food.” The Rabbi’s prayers were answered immediately. But once again, we might ask, wasn’t the baby born before he prayed? Even before he turned to Hashem, the neighbors had prepared their food and then had to change their Shabbat plans. How could this be the answer to the Rabbi’s prayers?
The pasuk (Yeshayah 65:24) states that Hashem promises to answer our prayers even before we call out to Him. Hashem knows what we need even before we do, and prepares the solutions to our problems even before we become aware of them. However, because He loves us so much, He does not provide the solutions until we ask. Building a relationship with Hashem is even more important than obtaining what we want, and Hashem therefore waits for us to cry out to Him and ask Him for help so we can draw closer to Him and build our relationship. The Alshich draws an analogy to a king who has a large cadre of servants. For those servants whom he does not particularly like, he gives them what they need without waiting for them to ask. But for those servants whom he especially likes, he waits for them to come and ask so he can spend time with them. And thus, David HaMelech says (Tehillim 116:1), “I love when Hashem hears the sound of my supplications.” Of course, everybody is overjoyed when Hashem accepts their prayers. But King David is saying that he loves that Hashem gives him what he needs only after he asks for it, for this shows how important he is in Hashem’s eyes.
All the assistance we need has been prepared well in advance, but we need to ask for it in order to access it. Prayers bring us the help that Hashem had already prepared for us in advance. Hashem loves listening to us pray, and when we pray with the recognition that the solution has already been arranged, our tefillot will be even more effective.