This week's perasha describes how offerings brought to the Temple in Jerusalem were a primary means of connecting with G-d. Today however, our primary connection is through the medium of prayer. (For example, the Shaharit and Minha services correspond to the morning and afternoon "Tamid" offerings.) Every Jew is his own miniature "Temple." No intermediary necessary.
And while Hashem answers all prayers, sometimes the answer is "No." We may be asking for the wrong thing without realizing it. A good parent will not lend the car keys to a teenager who is not yet responsible enough to handle it. All the begging in the world will not get a good parent to change his mind.
But prayer is our opportunity to move beyond these limitations. The Hebrew word for prayer, "li-heet-pallel," comes from the root "pallel," which means to inspect. The prefix "li-heet" is the reflexive form ― denoting an action that one does to oneself. Li-heet-pallel, therefore, is an act of personal introspection. When we pray, we look inside and ask, "What do I need to change about myself in order to get what I really want out of life?"
This process of self-transformation means that today I may no longer be the same person who G-d said "no" to yesterday.
Sometimes we only appreciate something when it's taken away. When we've had the flu and then recover, we appreciate what it means to be healthy. But we shouldn't have to get sick in order to appreciate our health!
Blessings are the Jewish version of "Stop and smell the roses." Our Rabbis teach that one way to guarantee good health is to say "Asher Yatzar" with sincerity. "Asher Yatzar" is the blessing that we say, after using the bathroom. We thank Hashem for creating our bodies with a wondrously complex system of ducts and tubes. And we acknowledge that if any one of them were improperly ruptured or blocked, we could no longer stay alive. Saying this blessing with sincerity affirms our gratitude for good health.
We want to be able to learn our lesson without the experience of having it taken away.
One purpose of prayer is to sensitize us to G-d's awesome capacity to help. We take the time to recognize and appreciate all that He does for us.
And He does so much! We know that our parents love us because of all they've given us, yet G-d has given us gifts that are infinitely more valuable. If a human being would restore your eyesight, imagine the gratitude you'd feel? Yet G-d has given us eyes, ears, intelligence ― life itself. This knowledge that the Almighty can do anything is what ultimately gives us the strength and resolve to push beyond our limits.
It's the same with a parent and child. If you give a child a new toy, and she grabs it without any appreciation, then a good parent should not give her any more toys until she appreciates what she already has! The same is true of our relationship with Hashem. Certainly He can give us whatever we need; Hashem is infinitely richer and more powerful than the biggest billionaire. But since Hashem has our best interests at heart, He wants us to grow, to earn it ― and to become great.