Picture this: a man who has decided to end his life goes up to the top of the Empire state building in NY and…jumps. While falling, he turns to the law of gravity and begs forgiveness.
"I won't ever do it again," the man promises; indeed, his repentance is earnest and wholehearted, as he promises not to repeat what he did. Every intelligent person knows that the law of gravity will continue pulling the man down to the ground, and he will never repeat the mistake.
Our early ancestors lived in this mindset, from Seth to Methuselah and Noah, Shem, and Eber.
Can we do anything in the face of the laws of nature?
Can they be changed?!
If once every 1,656 years, there's a massive flood in the world, the only way to save yourself is to build an ark, like Noah did, or build a tower that will hold up the sky so it won't collapse again, like the Generation of Disunity attempted to do (see the commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, Genesis 11:1).
A few weeks ago, a massive thousand people got killed by an earthquake in Turkey. Did anyone think of "asking the earth to shift more gently" not to hurt people?!
It's crazy to think so, and if we saw someone praying like that, we would hospitalize him…
Nature laws cannot communicate with us.
They are fixed and exact, and various scientists have been explaining them over the generations. Today, our knowledge of physics follows Newton and Einstein; in the past, it followed Aristotle and, even earlier, various astrologers.
It is healthy logic.
If God created the world with set laws, that is His will – and there is no reason to ask that these laws change. There is only one possible result every time. These are laws, and it can't be any other way! Is he jumping from the roof? The law of gravity kicks in.
When our forefather Abraham came on the scene, he recognized his Creator (Tractate Berachot 7b), the "One who spoke and the world came into being," the One who made the laws of nature and can also change them.
You can learn the meaning of the commentary of the Hebrew sages in their explanation of God's words to Abraham: "Abandon your fixedness – Abram cannot bear children, but Abraham can bear children!" (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, Genesis 15:5). Until this point, everyone in those times thought that determinism prevailed and that it was impossible to deviate from/break the laws of nature.
Therefore, Abraham approaches God and prays, asking God to favorably judge the people of Sodom. He realizes their destruction is not the result of cruel laws of nature that will devastate the place described as "like the garden of Eden." It is based on a decision that can be changed via prayer.
Later in the Bible, when Avimelech becomes ill, the verses explicitly state:
"Now, return the man's wife, for he is a prophet and he will pray for you, and you shall live" (Genesis 20:7).
The Hebrew sages explain: "You are a prophet; you are not an astrologer…" (Genesis Rabba 42:12). You, Abraham the prophet, who speaks to and knows the Creator of the world, the One who decided these laws, know that it is possible to ask and pray. Every time, at every point in history, the prophet sees two options; if he merits, things will happen one way, and if not, something will happen differently.
The Hebrew sages explain that the forefathers founded our prayers. Abraham was the first person to pray. He gave this gift to his sons and the members of his household. This includes his son, Ishmael, and the Muslims who continue Ishmael's legacy, as well as his grandson, Esau (and his descendants – Christianity). Abram, whose name initially represented the fact that he was the father of Aram, becomes Abraham – the father of many peoples.
There are differences between the prayers that the prophets and the Hebrew nation (sons of the prophets) pray and those prayed by the other nations of the world, but this is not the place to expound.