Q: It says, “The gates of tears are never locked.” Does this mean that Hashem only accepts prayers with tears?
A: Tefilla (prayer) depends on two things. One is willingness. In the olden days, up until the destruction of the First Temple, it was a time when...
Today, prayer needs more effort than in the days of old
...Hashem listened to tefilla more readily. After the destruction, He closed up to our prayers.
The other aspect is to pray from the walls of our heart. We have to pray with much more fervor today than our forefathers found it necessary. It is an important point to remember. Today, tefilla needs more effort than in the days of old.
However, everyone knows about tefilla with a minyan. We need kavana (concentration), but prayer with a minyan is also a prayer that is accepted willingly. Also during the Ten days of Repentance prayers are accepted more readily. The rule is that we need a time of acceptability when prayer is accepted more readily, and we need the great quality of praying from the walls of the heart.
Tears are a demonstration that a person is praying sincerely. Tears are not so easy to come by. Not everybody is capable of tears, and therefore, Hashem surely listens to tears.
What should we weep for... that is another question. We cannot weep for everything. We have to weep that our children should be good children. If we are not married, we have to weep that we should get a good shidduch (match) and spend a lot of tears on that. It is a good idea to weep that we should merit doing teshuvah (repentance) properly.
For these things we should spend tears. Make a few tears for the destruction of the temple. There are times when tears are fitting, but in general, the principle is that for tefilla to be accepted by Hashem, it has to be from the walls of our heart. If we want success in business and we are praying for it, we better put in a great deal of effort. The more we pray, even with tears, Hashem listens to it. — Shir Hashirim 17 (#451)