“Never forget the greatness of prayer,” writes Rabbeinu Bachya (Devarim 11:13). “Prayer has the power to alter the course of nature, save one from harm, and annul harsh decrees.”
Since this is true regrading honest, heartfelt prayers in times of need, it is even more so when we offer such prayers before trouble comes (Sanhedrin 44b), since such prayers have have a much greater ability to annul harsh decrees.
This principle of “praying first” applies to even the simplest act. R’ Eliezer Ziskind would offer a short prayer before beginning Birchat HaMazon, Grace after Meals, asking Hashem to save him from interruptions during his prayer.
Prayer not only annuls harsh decrees, but is also the source of all spiritual and material blessings. R’ Simcha Bunim of Pashischa said that the way to have one’s material needs met, and to merit to cling to Hashem at all times, is to ask Hashem for everything, big and small, through personal prayer. Wherever we are throughout the day, Hashem will hear and answer our prayers, and we will find ourselves constantly attached to Him.
We need to look only to Hashem, and pray to Him for all of our needs, both great and small. Nothing should be left out. We need to learn that each day, whatever we are doing, we should pray to Hashem to help us succeed and that He lead us along the straight and proper path (Ya’arot Devash, 1:1).
Before becoming a Chassidic Rebbe, R’ Mendel of Riminov was a talmid, disciple, of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, and would stay with his Rebbe for extended periods of time in order to pray and learn.
One day, R’ Mendel thought, “Since my Rebbe is seeing to all my material needs,why should I pray for food?”
Soon afterwards, R’ Mendel sat to eat a meal with Rebbe Elimelech. The servants brought them each a plate of food, but forgot to bring R’ Mendel a fork. Everyone started eating, except R’ Mendel.
“Why aren’t you eating,” asked Rebbe Elimelech.
“I don’t have a fork,” he replied.
“You see,” replied Rebbe Elimelech, “one must pray to G-d even for a fork, not to mention bigger things.”
From then on, R’ Mendel was careful to pray to Hashem for all of his needs. (Ohr Elimelech 12:4)
Based on The Tzetel Katan — Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, collected and arranged by E.S.Zisman