In accessing the treasures stored for us in Heaven, tefillah is the key. Even though the treasures are there, and they are being held in store for each of us, they do not automatically flow into our lives. They remain locked in Heaven until we pray.
A person lives in unbearable poverty his entire life. He never has enough food. He can’t pay his bills. He cannot help others in need. Everyone tells him that there is a treasure buried under the floorboards of his house, but he doesn’t believe it. He gives the floor a half-hearted kick every so often, thinking maybe he’ll hear the jingle of coins, but he only hears the thunk of his heel against the wood. Then, on the last day of this man’s life, someone walks in, lifts up a plank and reveals an iron chest filled with gems and gold. All the wealth the dying man could ever have needed is in that chest. His whole lifetime of miserable struggle plays out before his dimming eyes; the stab of what could have been is the last sensation he ever feels.
That piercing remorse is the lot of one who does not believe in and utilize the power of prayer. The Nefesh HaChaim expounds this through the verse: He recounts to a person what were his deeds. This, he explains, refers to the revelation people will experience in the World to Come regarding the gifts that would have been theirs had they only believed in the power of prayer and used it.
Rav Pam explains: “These people will be shown how their prayers could have made a difference had they been said with heartfelt concentration. The sick person could have been healed; the childless couple could have been answered, the person looking for a spouse could have found one. ”
This principle is dramatically illustrated by the Jewish nation’s redemption from Egypt, as we are told: Hashem heard their moaning, and Hashem remembered His covenant with Avraham, with Yitzchak, and with Yaakov. Hashem saw the Children of Israel and Hashem knew.
The Ramban asks why the Torah mentions the numerous factors that caused Hashem to redeem the Jewish nation; after all, their exile was predestined to end after 430 years, as the Torah states: It was at the end of four hundred and thirty years, and it was on this very day that all the legions of Hashem left the land of Egypt.
Rashi cites a Mechilta that explains the phrase, it was at the end of four hundred and thirty years. It tells us that once the preordained end of the exile arrived, Hashem did not delay the Jews from leaving for even the “blink of an eye.” But the arrival of the preordained time was not enough by itself to set the redemption in motion, the Ramban explains. It was when “Hashem heard their moaning” that He remembered His covenant. “They were not … redeemed, except for the fact that their prayers were accepted with pity and mercy.”
Tefillah, along with repentance, will be the catalyst that sets in motion the Final Redemption as well. The She’arimB’Tefillah notes that even if everything is prepared and ready for the Redemption, if the Gates of Tefillah are not opened, nothing will be accomplished. This is the meaning of the verse, With weeping will they come, and with supplications will I lead them. As the Darchai Noam comments, “One must be very careful with his tefillos, certainly in the time when the arrival of Mashiach is at hand … for it is on them — those very tefillos — that the coming of Mashiach depends.” Rav Yaakov Emden writes that if the Jewish people would pray even one tefillah properly in all aspects, they would be instantly redeemed.
Prayer is the natural cause of every effect in this world; just as rain causes flowers to grow, so does prayer cause Hashem to grant us His blessings. It is the key to all worldly good fortune. Incredibly, Hashem has entrusted us with the key to His storehouse; He waits only for us to use it.