It seems to be a common theme in the prayer service that we ask for our needs basing our requests on the mercy of G-d, and, occasionally, on the merit of our forefathers. Nonetheless, we find some examples where we seem to base our requests on the merit of our actions. For example, in the Ashkenazi Shacharith Tachanun service of the second and fifth days of the week, we have the supplications:

וְחון אם הַמְיַחֲדִים שִׁמְךָ פַּעֲמַיִם בְּכָל יום תָּמִיד בְּאַהֲבָה וְאומְרִים שְׁמַע יִשרָאֵל. ה' אֱלהֵינוּ. ה' אֶחָד:

...and show favor on the nation that unifies Your name twice daily continuously with love saying: "Hear Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is one."

as well as:

וּבְכָל זאת שִׁמְךָ לא שָׁכָחְנוּ. נָא אַל תִּשְׁכָּחֵנוּ:

...and with all this we [still] have not forgotten Your name, please don't forget us.

Other than the seemingly personal request of David in Psalms 86:2, do we have other, preferably earlier examples of models of prayer seemingly formulated as dependent on the merit of our actions?

(Related: Should I pray to God based on my own merit? )

  • do you mean "our" as in the actions of a nation (based on what starting point), or "of our ancestors" which could be fewer people but could start earlier (zchut avot).
    – rosends
    Mar 6, 2020 at 17:21
  • @rosends the former. as in: 'we unify Your name twice daily continuously with love, therefore show us favor' and 'we haven't forgotten you in spite of our suffering, therefore don't forget us'.
    – Loewian
    Mar 8, 2020 at 4:35

1 Answer 1


In the prayer Avinu Malkeinu, when we mention many requests, we also phrase a number of them as being in the merits of members of Klal Yisrael. A few of the lines reference the merit of Jews killed for G-d's sake (avoiding discussing what this means, different topic). Some mention children etc. who have never sinned.

Generally, we are not supposed to pray in our own merits. The gemara (brochos) list "iyun tefillah" as something which causes the midas hadin. as explained by rashi and other rishonim, when we feel like G-d should answer our prayers because we had so much kavana/focus and prayed so well, it arouses a charge against us in the Heavenly tribunal. The prosecuting angels decide to investigate our prayers and apply strict judgment to evaluate our prayers.

(Rabeinu Bechaye, in Kad Hakemach (I forget where) says this applies to our mitzvos. If we think that G-d should help us because we did a particular good deed, G-d will judge that act strictly to see if we really did it well.)

We are always supposed to approach prayer as asking for undeserved gifts ("matnas chinam") as the commentators explain on the verse "vaeschanan el hashem…". (Moshe Rabbeinu, at the end of his life, says that he is asking for chinina, an undeserved gift, from hashem.)

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