Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The Talmud expounds that the greatest gift that human beings have vis à vis their relationship with G-d – yet which is disrespected – is prayer.

Davening, or prayer, is an essential aspect of Jewish life. It is a powerful tool that we have been given to communicate with Hashem our Creator, express our gratitude, and ask for our needs. The Talmud teaches us that prayer is so important that it is compared to the daily sacrifices in the Holy Temple. Yet, despite its significance, many people tend to take prayer for granted and do not give it the attention it deserves. Instead of being fully present during prayer, people often text on their cell phones or engage in other activities that distract them from the solemnity of the moment. Some arrive late and some lack focus, which not only hinders the efficacy of prayer but also shows a lack of respect for the time set aside to connect with Hashem.


Imagine going for a very important job interview that could change your life. In the middle of the interview, you pull out your phone to text a friend or see your email messages. It would be considered rude, disrespectful, and unprofessional. Certainly the chances of securing this job would be compromised.

Now, consider the fact that when we pray, we are conversing with the Creator of the universe, the One who holds the key to life and death, the One who can grant our deepest desires. Shouldn’t we be even more focused and mindful during our prayer than during a job interview?

So how can we improve our davening?

The first step is to focus on our kavanah, or intention, during prayer and to recognize its significance. We need to understand that prayer is not just a religious obligation that we have to fulfill, but rather an opportunity to connect and converse with our Creator and express our deepest thoughts and feelings. When we approach prayer with this mindset, we will be more mindful and attentive regarding the respect and focus that is due when davening.

Another way to improve our kavanah during prayer is to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally before we begin. We need to set aside time before prayer to clear our minds, focus on our intentions, and connect with the purpose of our prayers. This can be done through meditation, reading inspirational texts, or reflecting on the blessings in our lives. In fact, the reading of the Psalms that make up the P’sukei d’Zimrah is supposed to accomplish this outcome. When we approach prayer with this calm and focused mindset, our prayers will be more sincere and powerful.

It is also essential to eliminate distractions during davening. This means turning off our phones, finding a quiet place to pray if we are praying alone, and avoiding activities that can take our attention away from prayer. By eliminating distractions, we can fully immerse ourselves in the prayer experience and connect with our Creator on a deeper level.

Finally, it is important to understand the words we are saying during prayer. We should take the time to learn the meaning of the prayers and reflect on their significance. By doing so, we will be able to connect with the words on a deeper level and infuse them with greater meaning and intention.

Parents also don’t realize that their actions impact so greatly on their children’s behavior in shul. If Dad can read or even study Torah during Chazarat HaShatz (the review of the Shemoneh Esreh by the chazan), or arrive late, or constantly talk during davening, than they can as well. Our children see everything. What a terrible example we are setting when we do not take davening seriously.

Prayer allows us to connect with Hashem and express our deepest thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it can be difficult to focus, but we must try. To truly benefit from prayer, we need to approach it with a mindset of sincerity and respect. After all, we are conversing with the Creator of our world who holds our future in His hands.


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Rabbi Mordechai Weiss has been involved in Jewish education for the past forty-six years, serving as principal of various Hebrew day schools. He has received awards for his innovative programs and was chosen to receive the coveted Outstanding Principal award from the National Association of Private Schools. He now resides in Israel and is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at [email protected] or 914-368-5149.