Rebbe Nachman of Breslov tells us a parable of a soldier going to fight a war and conquer a city. The soldier prepares himself mentally for the conquest, gathers all of his weapons and heads off towards the enemy. However, upon reaching the entrance of the city he sees a spider web wrapped around the gate. The soldier becomes so discouraged by the web that he gives up and returns home (Sichos HaRan 232).
The message of this parable is that we are fighting a war with our yetzer hara every day of our lives. The enemy is constantly renewing its energy against us and we have to find a way to overcome it. The primary weapon we possess in this war is our prayers. When Yaakov went to battle with Esav, he took his “sword and bow (Bereshis 48:22),” which Rashi explains refers to his prayers and supplications. So too, it is our individual prayers that have the ability to break down all of our negative character traits and unwanted physical desires.
However, very often when we are prepared to engage in prayer it is difficult for us to express the words with the strength and enthusiasm necessary for us to break down the barriers of our yetzer hara that separate us from Hashem. We don’t feel inspired. We’re tired. We feel sluggish. We have a million other things on our minds. Perhaps everyone else in shul is davening quietly and we feel awkward being the only one saying the words loudly. Or maybe we’re just feeling hungry and we can’t wait for davening to be over so we can eat.
What Rebbe Nachman is teaching us with this parable, however, is that all these obstacles are just like a spider web. In our mind they seem incredibly powerful but in reality, we have the ability to completely destroy them with one swipe of our hand. We must not let the fear of these obstacles cause us to retreat and give up on having a strong and powerful davening experience. With one strong burst of powerful tefillah, we can break down the cobwebs of our mind and reenergize our body and soul.
But how do we even begin when we’re feeling so out of sorts and disconnected? Rebbe Nachman tells us we can start a conversation with Hashem by telling Him how extremely difficult it is for us to speak to Him. We can also begin by simply thanking Him for all of the things we tend to take for granted. This helps to get the words flowing from our mouths and then once we’re in “prayer mode” we can go from topic to topic until we’ve poured out our hearts completely (see Likutey Moharan I, 25).