Question: We often pray to Hashem for yiras shamayim (e.g., in Birkas Rosh Chodesh). But how can we ask Hashem to give us fear of Him?
Answer: I recently received the following from my dear friend, HaRav Zecharia Senter – founder and CEO of Kof-K and the holder of a doctorate in mathematics from Yeshiva University – which I am sure will answer your question:
I heard the following thought from my revered rebbe and teacher, HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l: We all know that “hakol bi’ydei shamayim chutz m’yiras shamayim – everything comes from Heaven except the fear of Heaven.” That is up to us. If so, asks the Chiddushei HaRim, why do we ask Hashem for it every single morning before Shema: “yacheid l’vaveinu l’ahava u’leyira es she’mecha – unite our hearts to love and fear your name”?
The answer is that we fervently pray that Hashem grant us the strength and wherewithal to attain yiras shamayim. In doing so, we express how much we sincerely treasure and devoutly wish to revere His name.
In the Birkas HaChodesh tefillah we recite on the Shabbos preceding the start of a new month, we ask for “chayim sheyeish bahem yiras shamayim v’yiras cheit…chayyim shel osher v’chavod, chayim shetehei vanu ahavas Torah v’yiras shamayim – lives with fear of Heaven and fear of sin…lives of wealth and honor, lives in which we have love of Torah and fear of Heaven.”
Why do we ask for yiras shamayim twice? The first request is as we described above; we are asking Hashem for strength to attain yiras shamayim. The second request follows a series of requests for such blessings as wealth and honor. When someone becomes very successful and wealthy, there is a possibility, if not a tendency, for him to lose his fear of Heaven. Therefore we need a double-dose of yiras shamayim – so that our belief in Hashem is not compromised by wealth and honor.