The third perek of Masechtas Kallah Rabasi teaches us, “Kol hamevakeish shalom, ein tefiloso chozeres reikam – The prayer of a person who pursues peace is never returned empty.” The baraisa then backs up this assertion by noting that the gematria of both shalom (peace) and shave’a (cry out) is 376. The petition of a peace-loving person has great potency.
That’s why halacha instructs us to look for a chazzan for the Yamim Nora’im who is m’urav im habriyos – who blends well with all people, who has the trait of shalom. If we want to strengthen the potency of our tefillos, we must be more tolerant of people and sculpt a pleasant demeanor to everyone.
Another way to strengthen our tefillos is to ask Hashem to answer them due to His kindness rather than anything we did. The Medrash says there are 10 terms for prayer, and the highest level is “v’eschanan.” The root of this word of chinam (free), indicating that the most powerful way to approach Hashem is to ask Him to give us a freebie.
The Gemara says, “Hayored lifnei hateiva – The [shliach tzibbor] went down to daven before the amud.” In Rav Heinemann’s shul in Baltimore, the chazzan actually does take a step down before the amud in sync with the words in Tehillim, “Mimamakim karasicha Hashem – From the depths I called You, Hashem.” By stepping down, we express humility. We are not asking Hashem for blessings because we feel we deserve them. We are praying for a matnas chinam, for a free gift.
We say in the final stanza of Avinu Malkeinu, “Chaneinu v’aneinu ki ein banu ma’asim; asei imanu tzedakah v’chesed v’hoshi’einu – Do for us for free and answer us because we don’t have deeds; perform for us charity and kindness and grant us salvation.” The smart davener knows that Hashem appreciates it when we approach Him with humility rather than with an attitude of “It’s coming to me and I surely deserve it.”
Tehillim 102:1 states, “Tefillah l’ani ki yatof – The prayer of the poor when he feels faint.” The Mishnah Berurah explains that we should pray like a beggar who goes around collecting. Indeed, in Selichos we say, “K’dalim u’churashim dafaknu d’losecha – Like the needy and the poor, we bang on Your doors.”
Rav Schwadron, zt”l, wonders why we talk of a beggar banging on doors. Don’t poor people usually knock respectfully and timidly? He answers: “If the poor man hasn’t eaten in three days, he bangs.” Our best prayer is when we tell Hashem that we desperately need Him.
In the merit of learning more about tefillah, may Hashem answer our prayers and bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.