Prayer agents turn e-mails into miracles - The Globe and Mail - Feb 19, 2008
JERUSALEM -- Some want a wife. Others long for children, a miracle cure for illness or a quick fix for their finances.
Believers are seeking divine intervention for as little as $80 at WesternWallPrayers.org, a Jerusalem-based website that dispatches a squad of "agents" to pray at one of Judaism's holiest sites on behalf of those who can't get there themselves.
Batya Burd, a devout Jew who lives in Jerusalem's Old City, set up her proxy prayer business to provide spiritual succour and, she says, religious miracles for the faithful while raising funds for those who devote their lives to biblical study.
The 33-year-old mother of two, who gave up a career as a corporate lawyer in Canada to come to Israel, collects e-mailed requests from around the world, then composes personal prayers for each client and assigns them an agent.
he emissary recites the prayer at Jerusalem's Western Wall - a remnant of the ancient Jewish temple compound - every day for 40 days. Many visitors to the holy site write their prayers on slips of paper, which they press into the wall's crevices.
Ms. Burd has composed prayers for as many as 800 people and says she has several "miracles" under her belt, including a man who met his soulmate, a woman who won the lottery and two people who say their cancer disappeared after they signed up for prayer.
Skeptics will argue that believers looking for results will always find them, and that many so-called answers to prayers are simply coincidences. Some might say it's a scam.
The minimum donation is $2 a day, which will pay a member of Ms. Burd's 35-strong squad of observant Jews to pray at the Western Wall for 40 days. A total of $720 (all funds U.S.) will get you exclusive prayer at the wall and at an Old City synagogue.
A special request and at least $1,800 will pay for 10 observant men to pray together for 40 days deep in the tunnels under the Western Wall that are off-limits to public worship.
Ms. Burd splits the money between the members of the prayer squad, who live in Jerusalem and don't earn big salaries because they devote most of their time to biblical study rather than secular work.
She believes she herself was an answer to her husband's prayers, after he completed the 40-day prayer marathon to ask for a wife after a string of failed dating forays.
About the same time as her future husband was asking for a wife, Ms. Burd says, she decided it was time to settle down. Days later a friend announced she knew just the man, and five dates later the two were married.
Was it a miracle?
"It was certainly out of the ordinary for it to be so clear and to get married so fast," said Ms. Burd. "I guess I'll only really know when I die."