Is it ok to pray for a non-religious friend that he should become religious? In the end, he has to make the decision for himself, so can the prayer influence somehow his free will?
The Gemara in Berachos 10a says that (at the advice of his wife Beruriah) Rebbi Meir prayed for neighbors of his to become religious, and the Gemara seems to approve of this. This is also implied by Sotah 14a, where Moshe is said to daven for the wicked to return, as well as in Taanis 23b, where Abba Chilkiyah says that his wife is more righteous because she prays that the wicked should repent. Additionally, R. Yehudah Hachasid (Sefer Chassidim no. 76) and R. Avraham ben Harambam (Hamaspik LeOvdei Hashem, ch. on bitachon) both advice praying for the wicked to repent as proper things to do (though R. Avraham may have a few caveats)
The Maharsha on Brachos asks, 'how is it possible to pray for someone to do teshuvah, isn't that a violation of their free will'? He himself doesn't give an answer, but R. Moshe Feinstein, in a letter to R. Efraim Greenblatt (Igros Moshe O.C. IV 40:13), mentions an idea from Rav Greenblatt that prayer can indeed 'turn' a person, or change his will, so to speak, and since it's coming through prayer of earthly beings that isn't a violation of הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים because it isn't 'from Heavan', it's from earth. A similar explanation is given by the Chazon Ish (in a note printed towards the end of Orach Chaim).
R. Moshe Feinstein himself, however, rejects this interpretation, insisting that nothing can override the ability for free will. Therefore, he explains the Gemara that supports praying for others to repent as a prayer for them to either not be tested or for them to hear inspiring mussar, which will likely inspire them to repent. The actual repentance and yiras shamayim, however, is all up to the individual. This online article also quotes the Shu"t Meil Tzedaka, R. Yonah Landsofer, who has a similar view to that of R. Moshe.
is it ok?!?
ITS A TREMENDOUS MITZVAH! we say every day "hashiveinu avinu lesoirasecha" 3x a day.
Sefardi siddurim within this bracha have a place to add the name of someone who needs to do tshuva and a small Bakasha.
Also, the chazon ish has a nusach for a teffilah which deals with the issue of "hakol byedei shaymayim chutz m'yiras shamayim". The Chazon Ish's nusach prays that G-d should allow the circumstances for this person to do Tshuva, thus allowing this person to make the decision to tshuva without any issues of parnassa etc. to cloud their judgment.
also see this site: http://rabbikaganoff.com/archives/1811
he discusses this issue at length
These are my personal thoughts, (though I have heard a similar idea regarding giving someone blessings):
תפילה breaks in to two words, תפי and לה. That could be read as the female imperative phrase "תאפי לה", "bake for her". Perhaps the very nature of prayer is merely asking God through his divine presence, referred to as a female, to 'bake', (read: finish preparing) something for a נשמה, a soul of a person, also feminine.
If that is true, we aren't asking God to turn somebody in to a robot and make them fulfill our prayer for them. All we really ask God to do is to provide and environment which is conducive to the prayer succeeding1. He can bake the bread, and its appearance and aroma will be one that entices a person to eat it, but the person still may choose not to eat the bread.
One could also potentially read a form of נפי, to winnow, in to the phrase, resulting in "תנפי לה", "winnow for her". This would be asking God to remove the chaff from the grain of a person's soul. Again this would not be a direct intervention. Rather it would be a prayer for God to remove the distractions and deterrents from around a person that prevent them from fulfilling our prayer. The person could still choose to fall back in to the chaff.
1. I think baking is specifically chosen as the root instead of a more general word for prepare, like הכן, because bread is baked, and it is a staple of food, which sustains a person. This is perhaps sending us a message about what is is fitting to pray for. We shouldn't pray for wants, only for needs. It is one thing to pray for sufficient income to like comfortably with one's family. It is another thing entirely to pray for extravagant wealth and luxury.
protected by Double AA♦ Jun 23 at 13:30
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