When We Pray in the Presence of Others

Yael Eckstein  |  November 2, 2021

Two women lifting their hands up in praise as they pray.

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. — Genesis 25:21

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Toldot, which means “offspring,” from Genesis 25:19—28:9

Have you ever noticed the things that affect your prayer experiences? Like where you are, whether you are alone or with other people, and what it is that you’re praying about? Obviously, the power of our prayers has everything to do with how well we can concentrate and focus on the subject we are praying about.

But there are ways to enhance the power of our prayers. For example, Jewish tradition teaches the importance of having a set place for daily prayer as a way of minimizing distractions that come with changing location.

This week’s Torah portion teaches an important lesson about praying for other people. But to learn this lesson, we need to look at the original Hebrew of the verse.

When We Pray in the Presence of Others

The Bible tells us that Isaac “prayed on behalf of his wife because she was childless.” The Hebrew for “on behalf” is le’nochach. Amazingly, this word appears only three times in the entire Bible.

When Jacob was breeding Laban’s sheep, the Bible tells us that he placed branches “directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink” (Genesis 30:38). The Hebrew for “directly in front of” is le’nochach. And in Proverbs 4:25, we read, “Let your eyes look straight ahead.” The Hebrew for “straight ahead” is, you guessed it, le’nochach.

So what our verse is actually saying is that Isaac prayed for his wife Rebekah directly in front of her, facing her. The very next verse tells us that his prayers were answered, and Rebekah became pregnant.

What a beautiful lesson about prayer! By telling us that Isaac did this when he prayed for Rebekah, the Bible teaches us how to pray for others. The Bible teaches us our prayers for other people are most effective when we pray in their presence.

Perhaps God wants it this way because of how it makes people feel when they see others praying on their behalf. Think of how comforting that must be.

Your Turn:

Is there someone in your family, your community, or your place of work who needs prayer? Take time this week to be with them and pray for them in person.