There is a prayer tip featured in the Babylonian Talmud 1, that reads as follows:

Raba said to Rabbah bar Mari: Where can we derive the lesson that our Rabbis taught us, that whoever prays (to god) for mercy on behalf of his friend, while he himself is in need of the same thing, he will be answered first? Rabbah bar Mari replied that we can derive that from the verse: 2 “And god changed the fortune of Iyov (Job) when he prayed for his friends”. Raba replied to Rabbah bar Mari, You say it is from that verse, but I say it is from this verse: 3 “And Abraham prayed to God and God healed Avimelech, his wife and his maidservants and they bore children”, and immediately after that it says:  4 “And god remembered Sarah as he had said…and Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age”.

On the surface this sounds like a simple prayer tip, find someone that is in need of the same thing you are in need of, pray for them and god will help you first. Many scholars 5pointed out that unfortunately reality has shown us otherwise, as we see many people try using this prayer tip but their prayers do not get answered.

Rabbi Eliezer Papo (author of the Pele Yoetz), writes 6 that if one wants to up the chances of his prayers being answered, he should pray for his enemy that is also in need in what you are in need of. By praying for someone that you do not particularly like you are doing something that goes against nature, and thus it will invoke god to “pass over your transgressions” 7, and answer your prayer.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes 8 that one should not worry to utilize this tip in the Talmud by saying, “if the only reason I am praying for someone else is so my prayer should get answered, how sincere is my prayer?” He points out that even if your prayer for your friend is solely based on you getting help, it is also considered a valid prayer. The Lubavitcher Rebbe concludes thou, that the ultimate way to pray on behalf of someone, is to reach the point of truly feeling the pain and suffering, even more so than your own pain and suffering. The Rebbe writes that it will be behavior like this that will lead to the coming of Moshiach.

It is worthy to note, that the Talmud clearly states: “that whoever prays (to god) for mercy on behalf of his friend, while he himself is in need of the same thing, he will be answered first”. In other words, there is no mention in the Talmud nor in the verses the Talmud uses to prove this fact that the person who prayed (Abraham, Iyov) even bothered to pray for themselves. In other words, if one goes strictly by the words of the Talmud and the underlying supporting verses, one would have to almost meditate and truly feel the pain and suffering that his friend is going through, and unconditionally pray that god help his friend, regardless of his own needs.

According to R’ Yonason Eybeschutz, 9 even if someone prays for a friend that is in need of something else, his own prayer will be answered first. He uses the verse in Iyov / Job to prove his point, that even if you pray for someone about something unrelated to your needs, god will fulfill your needs first.

Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Abraham ha-Kohen commonly known as the “Shevet Musar” warns that one should not worship this prayer method by believing that praying like this controls god’s actions. But rather one should pray on behalf of a friend sincerely without any ulterior motives. 10

The Talmud in Breachot [Breachot 32b] states:  R’ Eliazer said, from the day that the temple was destroyed, the gates of Prayer have been closed… But even thou the gates of prayer have been closed, the gates of tears have not been closed”. Many scholars asked 11, if in fact the gates of Prayer have been closed, what is the entire point of praying?

The Divrei Yoel explains 12, that surely all prayers go up to heaven, but to really have an impact they must be 100% true and sincere prayers, and those prayers will involve tears. 13

To sum things up, according to most scholars the surefire way to increase your chance of having your prayer answered is to pray for someone else that is in need of help. Because it is important that your prayer for someone else be 100% sincere, its best if the person you are praying for, is dealing with the same problem that you are having. After all, unless you yourself are in the same predicament it is very difficult to truly relate to the other persons troubles.

But even if you do not know anyone that is going through the same troubles that you are going through, try praying sincerely for anyone you know that needs help, even if it is someone you consider an enemy of yours.

Remember the actual words in the Talmud: “whoever prays for mercy on behalf of his friend, while he himself is in need of the same thing, he will be answered first”. It does NOT say: “whoever prays for mercy on behalf of his friend, AND FOR MERCY ON HIMSELF, he will be answered first”.

We should never doubt the words of our great sages. If their prayer tip is not working for you, try being more sincere when praying on behalf of someone else.




  1. BT Tractate Baba Kama 92a, Rashi mentions this Talmud as well in Beresheit / Genesis 21:1
  2. Iyov / Job 42:10
  3. Bereishit / Genesis 20:17
  4. Beresheit / Genesis 21:1-2
  5. Rabbi Simcha Oveles – Zoharei Torah – P.28, Rabbi Eliezer Papo (1785–1828) – Yaalzu Chasidim720-748 P. 89
  6. Rabbi Eliezer Papo (1785–1828) – Yaalzu Chasidim 720-748 P. 89
  7. Micha 7:18
  8. Torat Menahem Hitvaaduyot Year 5743 Part 1 Page 476 – Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson ZT’L
  9. Midrash Yonason Parshat Vayeria – He partially credits R’ Shmuel Eidels the Maharsha in Chidishei Agodot on BT Baba Kama 92a
  10. Midrash ha-Izmiri Drush 17
  11. Divrei Yoel 8, Parshat Eikev, P. 67
  12. Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum ZT’L – Divrei Yoel 8, Parshat Eikev, P. 67
  13. Also see the Arizal in Likutei H’Shas Tractate Breachot 32b