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The Reciprocity of Prayer

Shocher Tov - Seeker of Good

The Reciprocity of Prayer...

by John J. Parsons

Proverbs 11:27

Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
but evil comes to him who searches for it. (Proverbs 11:27)

THE ONE WHO SEEKS GOOD is called shocher tov (שׁחֵר טוֹב), "a seeker of good." The shocher tov has a good eye (ayin ha-tovah) that constantly sees the worth and potential in others. The one who searches out evil is doresh ra'ah, "a searcher of evil." The doresh ra'ah has an evil eye (ayin hara) that is critical and faultfinding. The principle may be stated this way: When you seek the good of others, you find God's favor (ratzon), but when you search for evil in others, the very evil you find becomes your own.

Note that the word for "seeking" (shocher) comes from the word for "dawn" or "morning" (shachar), suggesting an "early" or irrepressible seeking (as the dawn continually follows night). The parallel term "searching" (doresh), on the other hand, comes from the verb darash, from which the word midrash (interpretation) derives. The sages therefore note that it is easier to be doresh ra'ah than it is to be shocher tov. Assuming the worst in others is relatively effortless, but seeking their good requires compassion and the willingness to bear their burdens.

The "law of Messiah" (Gal. 6:2) is to bear one another's burdens (the word for burden is βαρος, "weight," from which we derive the word barometer). A friend feels your pressure and knows where you hurt... This same word is used in 2 Cor. 4:17 to refer to the "weight of glory" that we will experience in the world to come. Bearing one another's burdens reveals the glory of the One who willingly bore our sin and shame at Calvary (1 Pet. 2:24).

Bearing one another's burdens means caring enough to pray for them.  The sages remark that he who prays for another and is in need of the same thing is answered first (Talmud, Bava Kamma). For example, when the prophet Job prayed for his friends, God restored Job's own fortunes (Job 42:10). There is a shared blessing when we pray for others, as King David said in Psalm 35:13: "may what I prayed for happen to me!" (literally, tefillati al-cheki tashuv - "may it return upon my own breast"). 

"May what I prayed for happen to me..."  Some of our prayers are conscious words spoken to God, whereas others are unconscious expressions of our inner heart attitudes. When we harbor indifference, ill will, or unforgiveness toward others, we are only hurting ourselves. When we seek the good of others we find God's favor, healing and life. A midrash states that if someone speaks well of another, the angels above will then speak well of him before the Holy One. We should always, therefore, seek the welfare of others, since as Jesus said, "the measure you use will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38).


Hebrew with Transliteration

shocher tov yevakesh ratzon, ve'doresh ra'ah tevo'enu.

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