Abraham traveled south after the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were punished by God. The King of Gerar, Avimelech, summoned Sarah to his palace. Because Abraham identified Sarah as his sister, Avimelech saw nothing wrong in taking her for himself.
At Sarah’s request, God made it impossible for anyone in the King’s palace to violate her, by making them ill. In addition, God came to Avimelech in a dream and told him Sarah was a married woman. God assured Avimelech that Abraham would know prophetically his wife was not violated and would pray for him and his household that their health is returned to them.
Avimelech made amends by gifting Abraham and Sarah with much cattle and valuables, and Abraham prayed for Avimelech and his household to be cured.
Immediately after this story, God’s book of wisdom and instruction (the Torah) tells us God remembered Sarah and that she miraculously conceived.
The commentator Rashi tells us that from the order of events, Sarah conceiving after the prayers of Abraham for Avimelech, we are taught, “Whoever pleads for mercy for someone and can use that exact need themselves, they are answered first.”
We know Abraham and Sarah were already promised by God to beget children miraculously in their old age and parent a great nation, even without the experience between Sarah and Avimelech.
How did the encounter with Avimelech accomplish anything more than what was already promised and assured by God Himself?
The promise to Abraham by God was already several years old and had yet to be fulfilled. Only after Abraham prayed for Avimelech, the Torah makes it a point to tell us Sarah conceived immediately.
Therefore, the lesson the Bible (God) is teaching us is obvious: Even if there is a promise from God Himself, prayer is still helpful and necessary to bring about the results sooner rather than later.
The act of praying and opening up one’s heart to connect with The Source of all that is and all that can be accelerates the fulfillment of those needs.
Prayer for the sake of someone else is so powerful that God’s promise did not materialize until Abraham prayed for Avimelech, and it was only then that his own need was immediately granted.
Prayer is a commandment in the Bible. As Maimonides writes, “The obligation of this commandment is that a person prays and requests his wants from God when he feels the need.”
When a person needs something himself, and he is also aware that this same need exists in his friend, he could rightfully quote Jewish law that says your own life always takes precedence, and perhaps the proper thing would be to focus first on one’s own needs.
The story above teaches a fundamental aspect of the principle in love for another; he/she is concerned and praying for someone else even when he/she needs the same, and finds the time and energy for the other even before, and at the expense of, his own needs.
When one is more concerned for the other than themselves, the abundance of good energy generated gives him the benefits of his extraordinary kindness of charity, and he is answered by God first.
The mechanics are such, that it does not matter whether the only reason he is praying for the other is that he knows how valuable this is in the eyes of God or if his concern for them is only to gain the benefits of this prayer for himself first.
There is no question, however, that making this effort for the altruistic reason of genuinely being there for another remains the purest form and the most valuable.
Chapter 280 www.aspiritualsoulbook.com