The Powerful Weapon of Prayer

I am sure that you share with me a sense of overwhelming sadness when we hear of the numbers of those who have come down with the virus and those who have died. This feeling of sadness is especially felt when we hear of the staggering numbers in California. Whereas there are things we can and must do to reverse this virus’ trend including masking and social distancing, and we can have real hope that the vaccines will make a distance, it does seem like Wordsworth wrote, “The world is too much with us; late and soon Getting and spending, we lay waste our power; Little we see in Nature that is ours…”

There is, however, one action I believe that we can do, and I believe that not enough people are doing, and that is the God given ability to find hope even in the darkest moments of life through prayer.

As a pulpit Rabbi for more than 45 years and as hospital chaplain for 30 years at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer in Manhattan, there were many dark moments I shared with thousands of families over the years.

I certainly will never forget when I received a call from one of the Temple families that earlier that day, as he was preparing for a Sunday barbecue, he called his 19-year-old son, who was at a friend’s house, to hurry home. While his son was hastily pulling out of his friend’s driveway on his motorcycle, he was hit by an oncoming car and died immediately. I went over to the family’s homes and we wept and prayed and never stopped praying.

I will never forget receiving a call, while making my weekly rounds at Sloan-Kettering, that there was a patient who refused to go into surgery before seeing me. As she was being prepared for major surgery, she asked her surgeon what the chances were her coming through this operation alive. When he answered, “1%,” she panicked and asked to see the hospital rabbi/chaplain. I went to her, took her hand and prayed so extremely hard. By the way, she did survive the surgery.

Then there was the grandmother of a 14-year-old who was lying in bed in a coma. His lungs were filled with over 40 tumors and he was dying. When she saw me, she came up to me and asked me if I could go into her grandson’s room and offer Tehillim, psalms, on his behalf. I said, “Of course,” and went into his room, took his hand and began praying.

Recently, I was studying the commentary by Rabbi Shalom Arush to Likutei Moharan, the lectures of Nachman of Breslov. I found great comfort and strength when I read his words: “The true sword of a person is Prayer.”

Prayer, either written or from the heart, is one of the most powerful weapons we as human beings have as no matter what the odds against us are, we can always pray. We can always cry out. We can always scream. We can always plead. We can always petition. We can always just speak our minds, hearts, and souls and talk with the Ribbono Shel Olam, the Master of the All Life.

We are now in a battle against this horrible virus. In addition to all the other weapons given to us through the great dedication of researchers and scientists, we have the weapon of prayer. For a while longer, we are told the numbers of those becoming ill and those dying will continue to climb. We have, however, this weapon of prayer which is our “fierce, great and powerful sword” (Isaiah 27:1) that will rip apart at this illness and the depression and negativity that is tearing at our lives and our society.

Heal us Adonai, and we will be healed.

Save us Adonai, and we will be saved. Amen!

About Rabbi Dr. Steven Moss 18 Articles
Rabbi Dr. Steven A Moss is Rabbi Emeritus of B’nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale, NY, a synagogue he has served since 1972. He recently retired to Boynton Beach, FL. He has also authored, God Is With Me; I Have No Fear, and A Poetical Journey Through Sefirat HaOmer.

2 Comments

  1. Sometimes prayer does help, and I do pray regularly. However, being locked down for all of these months, and watching friends succumb to this horrible virus has left me almost speechless. I live in Boca Raton, quite near Boynton where Rabbi Moss lives. There are no rules here in Florida and people take risks they shouldn’t take and people are dying because of it. It’s just very overwhelming to watch smart people behave so stupidly, and although I am normally a very upbeat, positive person, it’s hard to be positive in this environment

    However, I will keep praying and trying — hopefully there will soon be light at the end of the tunnel.

    • God has given human beings free will to exercise it for good or for bad. God has also given prayer as the power that we have to at least give ourselves the belief that we can always do something no matter how bleak things can be. I believe we can prayer for anything and everything and who knows but maybe these prayers will have their desired affect? I would rather believe I can do something rather than throw up my hands and no nothing at all!

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