Approximately one year ago, we had discussed the laws of prayer and mentioned that one may insert personal prayers into the middle of the blessings of the Amida prayer, especially within the “Shema Kolenu” blessing and after reciting the second “Yihyu Le’Ratzon” at the conclusion of the Amida. We have also mentioned that when one prays before Hashem, especially within the Amida prayer, that one not speak needlessly and certainly not inappropriate things. One should be cautious to prepare one’s self properly for prayer and be succinct and articulate as one open one’s mouth in prayer before Hashem.
Indeed, the holy Zohar teaches that one must express the requests in one’s prayers in a suitable fashion. Rabbeinu Moshe Cordovero zt”l quotes the words of the Zohar.
The Sefer Yalkut Yosef (Chapter 119) offers a source for this idea based on the verse, “And the Canaanite king of Arad who dwelled in the south heard that Israel had arrived etc. and he waged war against Israel and he took captives from among them.” Rashi explains that the “Canaanite” refers to Amalek and the reason why the Torah refers to them as Canaanites is because Amalek changed to speaking in the Canaanite language as the Jewish nation traveled near them so that the Jews would think that they were actually Canaanites and would pray to Hashem to help them defeat the Canaanites when in fact they were actually Amalekites. Since the Jewish nation did not pray for the correct matter, their prayer was not effective.
Based on the above, if one prays for the wrong thing, even if one’s intention was clear, one’s prayer will not be as effective as one who enunciated the prayer correctly and articulately.
Indeed, the Gemara (Baba Metzia 106a) states that if one leases his fields to another in order to plant wheat in them and the renter then goes and plants barley, after which the fields are ruined, the lessor may tell the renter that “I had instructed you to plant wheat. Since you decided to plant barley, you are now liable for the damage to the field. Were you to plant wheat as I had instructed, Hashem may have accepted my prayers as I had been praying for the successful growth of the wheat crop. I had never prayed for the success of the barley crop.” We see that one must take care to pray for the correct matter.
Similarly, there was once a man whose son had fallen ill as a result of a dreaded disease. The father went and requested from several sages that they pray for his son to be healed from this disease. Indeed, the son was healed from this disease but had then perished in a car accident soon thereafter. One should therefore pray for general goodness from Hashem and this father should have asked that Hashem grant this child many years of good health.
Certainly, one must not go on and on needlessly during one’s prayer, such as one who speaks freely during the Amida prayer and repeats his requests several times. Rather, one should pray in a clear and brief manner and Hashem will certainly accept these prayers willingly.
If one sees that as a result of elongating one’s prayer, one will miss answering Kaddish and Kedusha, it is appropriate for one to shorten one’s prayer in order not to miss out on answering these portions of the prayer. Indeed, on Chanukah and Purim, there are those that rule that one should omit reciting “Al Ha’Nissim” in order not to miss answering Kedusha. Although the Halacha does not follow this view, nevertheless, this only applies to such prayers established by our Sages. However, regarding one’s own personal requests and prayers, it is preferable that one omit them in favor of answering Kaddish and Kedusha properly. Later, after the second recitation of “Yihyu Le’Ratzon,” one may continue one’s personal prayer at will.