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I've never really liked the idea of asking for personal things when praying. I feel it's kind of selfish to ask for personal problems when there are people in the world in much worse situations. What I think while praying (besides thanking and praising G-d) is that I give Him my tefilah and he knows better where (or when) to use it.

I never saw this as a bad thing, but I once read that some rabbi said that: "a prayer that doesn't ask for a different thing each day isn't valid". And in this answer I found, it says:

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov has many specific teachings on prayer [...] one should pray for any physical thing one needs, even something as insignificant as a missing button on one's coat.

I really don't feel comfortable when asking G-d for personal things. I believe that if I'm sick, if lost something or if anything bad happened to me, it happened because I deserved it. If G-d is completely righteous and fair, how could I tell Him that I deserve more? Shouldn't I just accept what G-d gives me without asking for more?

  • Given that ill health is coming, one day, to us all, at a time we cannot predict, does asking for today's good health to continue tomorrow count as a request for a personal thing? – chrysanthemum Nov 27 '15 at 9:10
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This is acknowledging that everything that we have is based on Hashem granting it. Every one has needs and desires that must be taken care of. It is appropriate to ask Hashem to help us understand which ones are appropriate and to help us merit the fulfillment of those desires. Note that Moshe Rabbeinu asked to be allowed to go into the land. In the story of Yishmael, the meforshim teach that a sick person's prayer for health is heeded more readily than someone elses prayer for that sick person. Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin’s useful book points out the Talmud mentions eleven sages and the supplications that each customarily added to the Shemoneh Esrei (Berakhot 16b-17a). The prayer of Mar, son of Rabina, a fourth-century rabbi, became a favorite and found its way into the prayer book at the end of the Amidah. Thus, the powerful ending of our current silent devotions began as one of many personal prayers.

Rav Kook: Prayer at Sunrise points out

The Sages instituted a fixed text for prayer, so that all would be able to pray eloquently and for appropriate objectives. Yet the Sages also warned against prayer that is keva - literally 'fixed' or 'set.'

What exactly is this keva prayer that one should avoid?

The Talmud quotes a number of explanations. The simplest definition is that keva is a prayer consisting solely of the prescribed text, without any personal or individual requests. Others explain keva to mean a dry, sterile prayer, lacking heartfelt petitions.

This article discusses the matter in modern times but is too long to summarize.

I can't guarantee what will happen if you use prayer and tzedakah to ask God for help. But you just might create an unstoppable flow of healing and repair, a very different result than if you close your heart and do nothing. You just might open up a path of light where before there was darkness.

Leonard Felder, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist whose most recent book is Seven Prayers That Can Change Your Life: How to Use Jewish Spiritual Wisdom for Enhancing Your Health, Relationships, and Daily Effectiveness (Andrews-McMeel, 2001).

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I don't remember now where I learned this, but somewhere along the way I was taught to ask God for self-improvement. Yes, if something bad is happening to me it's probably a consequence of my own errors and it doesn't seem proper to ask God to undo it, but it is proper to ask for help in not doing that again -- to learn to be more attentive to others, more careful in my own actions, slower to anger, and so on.

This is consistent with several of the personal prayers (at the end of the tefilah) recorded in Brachot (around 17-18?), one of which became the text we say today (at least in nusach Ashkenaz).

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