“The difference between try and triumph is that little umph.” — Marvin Phillips
Burnt out? Join the club. I was stressed and exhausted. To top it off, I had been praying for something specific with seemingly no response from G-d.
I tried everything: Tehillim, personal prayer, saying more from the siddur, saying less from the siddur… I was close to giving up!
“What was the point of praying yet again? How many times did I need to ask only to be rejected?!” I thought. It almost seemed like my prayers were making the situation worse. Maybe I needed a different approach and perspective.
Rabbi Elimelech Biderman shares the following story: A little boy was unhappy with the architects who designed his home because everything was so high up. He lived on the fourth floor, and each step to his room felt like a mountain for his small frame. Once upstairs, if he wanted to turn the light on, he had to climb on a chair. To simply wash his hands or get a drink, he needed a stool. “Why did they build everything so big?” he wondered in frustration.
Eventually, the boy realized that his home was not really built for him, but for adults. It was designed in a way that if a small child needs something, he must ask a parent for help.
So too, Hashem created the world in such a way that if you need something, you must ask Him for it. This world is a big place, and we are designed to lean on Hashem for our needs. The essence of prayer is recognizing this partnership.
Yet, how could I strengthen myself when repetitive asking seemed to lead nowhere?
Sometimes a “no” from Hashem is really a “not yet.” We are like the child reaching for coffee on the counter to whom the parent says, “You need to grow a little more before you can have that.”
Growth can be achieved through continuous heartfelt prayer.
“Kaveh el hashem, chazak v’yaametz libecha v’kaveh el Hashem – Put your hope in Hashem, strengthen yourself, and He will fortify your heart, and put your hope in Hashem” (Tehillim 27).
Why do the words “put your hope in Hashem” appear twice in this verse? Many times, when praying, we don’t initially receive the answer we desire. But that doesn’t mean we should assume “no” is the final answer. Instead, we can strengthen ourselves and place our petition before Hashem yet again.
Trying again presents an opportunity for our prayers to get a revamp.
It’s sometimes easier for me to pray mindlessly from a Tehillim than to search deep within myself, open up my mouth, and cry out with heartfelt words. Somehow, reciting prayers I don’t fully understand takes less work than really thinking and feeling the intensity of the moment.
It’s easier to check off “pray” from my to-do list than to really make myself vulnerable to Hashem. Maybe I don’t want G-d to see my weakness, or maybe I don’t want to face it myself. We are vulnerable in prayer, just like that small reaching child who desperately needs help.
Years ago, after trying for some time to have a child, I was finally expecting. The intense joy and gratitude of the new pregnancy, however, ended in a miscarriage. The pain of the experience was so devastating, yet somehow I was able to pick myself up and try again despite feeling totally broken inside.
Every month that passed became harder for me to turn to Hashem. Then one morning after contemplating giving up, I thought, “Can I find the inner strength to try once more?” I pushed myself to pray again, and I reached depths I didn’t even know I had. Ten months later, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl.
True prayer begins when we really believe that Hashem can do anything. If you feel you aren’t receiving the answers you seek, try changing how you pray, when you pray, or what you pray. Finding a way to expand ourselves, develop new pathways to reach inside, and to connect with Hashem is where the growth lies.
One morning, after endless days of praying for that “thing,” I remembered how I had stretched myself to pray again for a child despite feeling depleted. I used that past experience to put faith in Hashem for this circumstance as well.
I felt better.
When you are burnt out, just open your mouth once more, because Hashem often offers us the gift of comfort afterwards. As the above-quoted pasuk in Tehillim states, “He will fortify your heart.” Praying in a heartfelt way invigorates.
Furthermore, we never know which prayer will tip the scales. Miraculously, I saw my most recent prayer come to fruition. All the negatives that surrounded this request were part of a perfect plan to reveal that affirmative answer through divine intervention.
Trying again is a concept not exclusive to prayer. When we fail at something – whether it be business, school, or parenting – we can reach inside and find strength to give it another shot. Whatever our personal situation, we can pick ourselves up even if the effort feels enormous.
Prayer and other endeavors require “umph.” When we find the motivation to pray again, Hashem speeds our growth so we are ready to receive more. Trying just once more enables Hashem to meet us halfway and pull us toward our goals and dreams.