If you've decided to take five minutes from your day to do what you feel is necessary for a good parnassah, which do you think is a better use of your time -- reciting Parshas HaMon, or opening your heart to your Father in Heaven and asking His help in providing for your needs and your family's needs?
I have no objection to prayer -- on the contrary, I think prayer is a wonderful thing. With prayer, a person has the ability to beseech God for anything and everything. It gives you the opportunity to open your heart and become closer to HaShem. With prayer, you have the opportunity to express true emotion. Do you need a refuah from a sickness? You can pray for that. Do you need help supporting your family? You can pray for that. Do you need comfort in times of crisis and anguish? You can pray for that. Do you really need to convert the 7-10 split? You can even pray for that too. For anything from the most important to the most trivial, He is never too busy to receive your prayers. You may not always get what you ask for, but nonetheless, He is there.
But why is prayer so important? After all, God has no need our prayers. Our praying to Him doesn't change Him in any way whatsoever. So, why does He ask it of us? Why do we engage in it?
One answer that I've often seen given is that prayer is not for God's benefit, but for ours. The word "to pray," in Hebrew is l'hispallel. This word is reflexive in nature, connoting something that one does to (or for) oneself. In other words, we don't pray to God for His benefit, we pray for *our* benefit. We are meant to be moved and changed by our prayers, hopefully for the better. We are meant to come to the understanding that God is the source of all of our blessings. We are meant to better understant that He is the one who provides us with life, health, parnassah and the ability to convert the 7-10 split. So, when I pour my heart out to God for whatever it is that's important to me at the moment, I'm not just asking him for something.... I'm (hopefully) acknowledging and understand that He is the source of the good in the world. By praying to Him for parnassah, I hope to become closer to Him.
A while ago, a blogger (who has long since disappeared, but thoughtfully left his blog up) came up with the term Vending Machine Judaism to descirbe the way segulos are "sold" and done by the public today. In his words:
My main beef with the segulah explosion we're witnessing, is that it cheapens Judaism. I've used the term Vending Machine Judaism before, and I think it's the perfect description of the new religion we're creating. Basically, God is a giant vending machine. We stand in front of it, see what we want, press a button, and we expect to get it. Need a shidduch? Say Shir haShirm. Parnasah? Say Parshas Ha'mon. Can't find your keyes? Give money to R' Meir Baal Ha'Ness.
This is turning religion into nothing more than a means to an end. It's a selfish version of Judaism, as in "How can I use God to get exactly what I want"?
This is, to my understanding, the antithesis of prayer. By *expecting* that God will grant you favor because you do X (especially where there is no commandment to do X), you do the exact opposite of prayer. Instead of drawing you closer to God and making you appreciate Him, it causes you to think of Him as some cosmic vending machine. Instead of beseeching, you come to expect and demand. Instead of being forced to engage in internal contemplation and soul-searching, you simply expect to recite a paragraph by rote and receive what you deserve.
So, think about this before you invest five minutes in the recitation of Parshas HaMon today, and ask yourself this question: if you're going to invest five minutes of the day in pursuit of turning to Him for help in parnassah, how do you think He would rather you spend those five minutes -- in rote recitation of a paragraph, or in emotional prayer from the heart?