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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

3 Answers 3

is it ok?!?

ITS A TREMENDOUS MITZVAH! we say every day "hashiveinu avinu lesorasecha" 3x a day.

Sefardi siddurim within this bracha have a place to add the name of someone who needs to repent 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:

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

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.

The Gemara in Sotah 14a also implies that Mosheh prayed for others to repent, and Sefer Chareidim (Teshuvah Ch. 5) writes that it is a mitzvah to do so. Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Yalkut Yosef O.C. Vol 5 pg. 64) quotes a story regarding the Arizl, who told the Alshich that he should pray for his son, who had apostatized, to return to Judaism. Not only that, but he seems to have advised everyone that it would be appropriate to pray for others to become more religious.

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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
The אור החיים הקדוש writes (I think by Moshe Rabbeinu changing Yehoshua's name) that it is indeed possible for the righteous to put in desire to report although heaven won't. – HaLeiVi Nov 20 at 15:39

The Rambam in his Shmoneh Perakim in the eighth chapter explains nothing can influence ones free will. So according to the Rambam it's impossible.

Here is snippet: הגדרת המעשים הבחיריים אבל הפתגם שמצאנו לחכמים באומרם: "הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים" הרי נכון הוא ומכוון למה שזכרנו.

אולם הרבה טועים וחושבים על כמה מעשי-האדם הבחיריים, שהם הכרחיים לו, כזיווג פלונית, או היות ממון זה בידו, וזה בלתי נכון.

אדם זה שגזל ממון פלוני או גנבו, או בגד בו וכחש לו ונשבע לו על ממונו, אם אמרנו שהאלוהים גזר על זה שיגיע ממון זה לידו ושיצא מידו של הלה - הרי שגזר על העבירה?

ואין הדבר כן, אלא שבכל מעשי-האדם הבחיריים, בהם נמצאים בלא ספק הציות והמרי. כי כבר בררנו בפרק השני שה"עשין" וה"לאוין" שבתורה אינם אלא במעשים שיש לאדם בהם בחירה לעשותם או שלא לעשותם. - ובחלק זה שבנפש מקומה של "יראת שמים". ואינה בידי שמים, כי אם מסורה לבחירת האדם, כמו שבארנו.

ומה שאמרו: "הכל בידי שמים"? לא אמרו זה אלא על הדברים הטבעיים, שאין לאדם בחירה בהן, כגון שיהיה ארוך או קצר; או ירידת הגשמים או עצירתם, או קלקול האוויר או צחותו, וכיוצא בזה מכל מה שבעולם. אך לא על תנועות-האדם ומנוחותיו.

And here's link to the whole sefer:

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Can you post that rambam? – Mefaresh Mar 15 at 19:30
What exactly do you want me to post,a link the whole chapter or an idea? – sam Mar 15 at 19:32
Whole idea ...I see you did it already – Mefaresh Mar 15 at 19:36

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

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