When Can I Stop Praying?

In Elijah’s confrontation on Mount Carmel with the hundreds of false prophets of Baal, he challenged them to call upon their god to accept their sacrificial offering. They prayed, they danced, they cut themselves and were bleeding and still no response from Baal.

Elijah mocked them and told them “Cry louder. Perhaps your god does not hear you. Perhaps he is relieving himself. Perhaps he is on vacation”. And as much and as loud as they called upon Baal, there was no response. Only a bitter silence.

It was at that time that Elijah called upon the God of Israel who sent fire from heaven and consumed his sacrifice. God heard his prayer and God replied.

When can I stop praying? For twenty-five years I have prayed thrice daily, and always with the same request. Yet in all those years, my God has not replied. Some say that even silence is an answer. I do not accept that.

I expect that the God of my fathers who were faithful to Him all the days of their lives would reward their pious devotion by responding to my one request. Is that too much to hope for?

Rabbis to whom I have turned for guidance have been unable to offer me a reply that I can live with.

It is written “Hashem hoshiya, ha melech ya’anainu b’yom kor’ainu”…. God will save, the King will answer us on the day we cry out to him.
If that is so, then according to my arithmetic I have been crying out to God for 365 days a year for 25 years. It brings me to 9,125 days that I have been crying out…. All without an answer.

I do not believe in an anthropomorphic God. He has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no hands to hold, no feet to walk. He is not created in man’s image. To the contrary, it is we who are created in His image. He is the borai ha-olam, the creator of the universe. And we, who are a part of the universe, are His creatures, the Work of His hands.

Why then does He not answer me? Is it because I noodge Him too much or that I ask for something impossible or that my one request is not deemed important enough to receive consideration?

Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, the most solemn days of our year, are certainly beneficial times to confess our sins, to ask for mercy and renewed life, and to hope for His reply to our silent and verbal prayers.

If once again, chas v’chalila, my prayer is not answered, can I stop praying? Or can I ask Elijah the Tishbite, our prophet of deliverance, to intercede for me? Will he require an extra cup of wine?

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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