All of Our Prayers

Yael Eckstein  |  January 3, 2024

Yael Eckstein praying at Western Wall, illustrating atonement of Yom Kippur

And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow. — Genesis 48:22

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayechi, which means “and he lived,” from Genesis 47:28–50:26.

One thing I know from praying every day is that not all prayers feel the same. Do you have days when you feel closer to God, and days when you feel more distant from Him? There are certainly times when I feel so close to God when I am praying, it’s almost as though I am whispering in His ear as He lovingly leans in to hear me. These are the times when my prayers come from a place of closeness to God, and I can sense His presence right there with me.  

But there are other times when I feel distant from God. I feel vulnerable and I yearn for His presence. At those times, I pray so that I can feel closer to Him in my time of need. Sometimes we pray because we feel close to God. Sometimes we pray because we feel far away, and we want to draw close to Him.

All of Our Prayers

In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob told his son Joseph that he would receive a double portion of the promised land as both of his sons would be recognized as tribes of Israel. Jacob said that he took this extra portion of land “from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.” Jacob seemed to be saying that he won a war with the Amorites, one of the Canaanite peoples, and conquered a piece of land from them. The problem is that there is no mention of any battle between Jacob and the Amorites anywhere in the Bible. 

The Jewish sages understood Jacob to be hinting at his prayers to God which led to the inheritance of the land of Israel. The sages explained that the sword and the bow describe two different kinds of prayer.  

A sword is a weapon that is used at close range, making direct contact with the enemy. A bow, on the other hand, is meant to reach a target that is far off. According to the sages, Jacob was describing two different kinds of prayers—those he said when he felt close to God as well as his prayers in time of need when he yearned for God’s presence. Both contributed to the blessings of God and the promised land

Jacob’s message was that all of our prayers are heard by God, when we feel close and when we feel far away. 

Your Turn:

In your prayers today, close your eyes and feel the presence of God around you. If you feel that God is far from you, keep praying. He is listening!