Everything is accomplished through tefillah. Rav Shimshon Pincus writes that even if a person is deserving of a certain blessing or salvation, he will not receive it unless he asks for it. This is the system that Hashem set in place because He wants us to turn to Him in prayer.
There are several reasons why people do not constantly ask Hashem for what they want. Some people feel that they do not wish to use their limited supply of merits by asking Hashem to give them what they want. This rationale, however, is based on a fundamental misconception. Our Sages teach that a person forfeits merits only when a miracle occurs. Ordinary blessings that come through the natural system are not “changed” to a person’s account of merits. And the Maharsha, in his commentary (Kiddushin 29b), writes that anything one receives as a result of prayer is not considered a miracle. Therefore, one does not use up any merits by asking Hashem for something. In fact, it is specifically through the merit of his tefillah that he will be granted his request.
Another reason why some people do not ask Hashem for what they want is because they do not want to feel indebted to Him. Rabbi Yosef Zalman Bloch noted that this reason is entirely without validity, and, in fact, is ludicrous. We already receive infinitely more from Hashem than we deserve; everything we have, without exception, is from Him. By saying that we do not ask too much so we do not feel indebted, we are in essence denying how much we are already indebted to Him.
Rav Bloch drew an analogy to a very wealthy man who was driving and saw what looked like a pile of rags on the side of the road. He told his driver to pull over, and it turned out that it was a destitute, gravely ill Jew wearing tattered clothes who had collapsed and was freezing. The man brought this person to the hospital, where it was discovered that he suffered from sixteen different maladies. The wealthy man covered all this person’s medical expenses and he received the treatment he needed. When the man was discharged from the hospital, he thanked the wealthy man and told him that he was homeless and had nowhere to go. The wealthy man gave him a position in the company with a handsome salary, and the man was finally able to buy a home and respectable clothing. He then gave him his daughter in marriage.
At the end of the last sheva berachot celebration, the wealthy man turned to his new son-in-law and offered him a cup of tea. The groom politely declined.
“Why not?” the father-in-law asked, curiously. “You always enjoy a cup of tea after your meal.”
“I prefer not,” the groom said, “because I don’t want to feel too indebted to you.”
“What?!” the father-in-law bellowed. “You don’t want to feel indebted?! Everything you have is because of me. If I had not taken care of you, you would have died a long time ago. Your job, your house, your car, your wife, your very life – it’s all because of me. And you’re concerned about a cup of tea?”
This is our situation vis-à-vis Hashem. He gives us everything, and we already owe Him far more than we can ever imagine. If we refrain from asking Him for favors out of fear of being indebted, we are, in effect, being ungrateful, showing that we do not already feel indebted.
When we ask Hashem for a favor, we are asking for His compassion, and this is how we honor Him: by showing Him that we need and rely on Him for everything. This is what He wants, and this is how we achieve everything in life.