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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?

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I'm not sure how appropriate my input is, as an atheist, but I couldn't help but respond to the last part of the question. If the prayer /can/ influence his free will, then he /should/ be religious. If a prayer could influence my free will, I'd happily become religious! –  Phoshi Jun 23 '14 at 9:23
Your input is welcome @Phoshi, unless it's rhetorical. Actually, If a prayer can influence free will, then one may or may not end up religious. Also, even according to the Maharsha in Matt's answer, praying for one's self can be useful, since free will has already been asserted in the intiated prayer itself, and (Yoma 38b) "One who comes to (spiritually) purify himself, is assisted". –  gaagu Jun 23 '14 at 19:35

2 Answers 2

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.

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"Rebbi Meir prayed for neighbors of his to become religious." To provide some detail: R' Meir had wicked, belligerent neighbors who would harass him greatly. He was going to pray for their deaths, but his wife convinced him to pray that they repent from their ways instead. So he prayed for them to repent (and they did). –  Fred Jun 23 '14 at 22:43

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

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See the Maharsha Matt brings. According to the Maharsha, this that we say והחזירנו בתשובה שלימה may not completely offset the difficulty with this type of prayer negating free will, since one includes one's self in this particular request (though it's along with others). והרוצה לטהר מסייעין לו. –  gaagu Jun 23 '14 at 1:54

protected by Double AA Jun 23 '14 at 13:30

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