The Gift of Tfila
Rivka Olenick
"When a person merits becoming aware of the reality of the Almighty's existence, one will experience limitless joy." Chazon Ish (Emunah Ubitachon 1:9)

Awareness of the reality of God through prayer is the most essential and the most elevating realization of tefila and which we continuously strive to maintain. Each time we are involved in tefila first we must recognize that we pray to the Creator of the World, the Master of the Universe, the One Who does takes notice of our tefila. A clear understanding that one is standing before God is as important as understanding the meaning of the tefila. If we do not understand Who we are standing before then Who are we directing our tefila to? The Rambam says: "The true worship of God is only possible when correct notions of Him have previously been conceived." If we imagine any kind of image that our mind associates or believes to be God that is actually avodah zara. It is man's nature to constantly absorb itself in the physical therefore it is crucial that do not attach anything physical to God. The Third of our Thirteen Principles of Faith states: "I believe with perfect faith that God does not have a body. Physical concepts do not apply to Him. There is nothing whatsoever that resembles Him at all." When we apply this principle to prayer, it reinforces in our mind the idea that God is not physical. Our tefila also reinforces the idea that we rely completely on God, not man. Our awareness of God is absolutely essential to our tefila - meaning that our intention or the kavana of our tefila is meaningless if we are not cognizant of Who we pray to - Who is it that hears our prayers? One's kavana or one's concentration is what defines one's tefila, since this is the essence of tefila and the mitzvah of tefila requires kavana.
It is uplifting to know that one is serving God by the very act of standing before Him and with the proper intention, kavana, we ask that our tefila be heard. Knowing that each and every word that we say is heard trains us to be "truly involved" in our own tefila and brings a great sense of joy. We free our mind through our tefila and we attach our thoughts to God. After all, it is God Who created each of us, and it is God who gave us this profound commandment of prayer. We are all given the opportunity through prayer to "connect" with our mind and with our heart to God. Since God knows all our thoughts than certainly tefila is how we converse, and God hears. Even within our human limitations, the mitzvah of prayer can be extremely meaningful and brings peace of mind and tranquility. From anywhere in the world one can communicate their thoughts with the Master of the Universe since tefila is a metaphysical phenomenon.
In surrendering one's heart and mind entirely to prayer, it is important to prepare our thoughts and our feelings toward God. If you are home, designate a same, special place for tefila where there is quiet and no other distractions. Do everything so that you don't disturb yourself with your own needs, including being dressed decently. The book, Horeb by Samson Raphael Hirsch gives alot information regarding the guidelines of prayer, it is an excellent practical reference book for everyone. Tefila is serious, not sad. It can be an uplifting experience, instead of a burdensome obligation. There is no need to "rush" through each prayer, and there will no benefit to you if you do. Ask yourself: "how does tefila help me?" Since we know that God does not benefit from a person's tefila, it is obvious that tefila is for our benefit. So, doesn't it make sense to view tefila as an investment in one's perfection rather than a tiresome, boring obligation? Approach your tefila slowly and with an open mind and by concentrating on the ideas. Develop respect and devotion to God, by trying to eliminate the thoughts that you think will impede and interfere with your tefila. Take your time and think about what is bothering you before you pray. If it is possible, don't let these thought interfere and tell yourself that you will make time later to think about those things, because now is my time to stand before The Almighty! Prayer is not silly mental exercise or an invitation to be frivolous or superficial. This is your time for mental and emotional purification, a time to open your heart and your mind to tefila by thinking of God in positive and uplifting ways. Think of tefila as an opportunity to talk to the One Who understands all of your needs. Think of God as The One Who provides all of your needs and sustains you. This is the One, Who gives you access in obtaining clarity of thought and great Torah knowledge so that you can survive, and partake with enjoyment the beauty and the good of this world! Appeal to God for what you honestly need. Everyone needs the wisdom, insight and discernment that we acquire through Torah knowledge but we should make this a priority and ask for it with sincerity. God gives this all to us as gifts! As it says in the first blessing of Shemoneh Esrei: "You graciously endow man with wisdom and teach insight to a frail mortal. Endow us graciously from Yourself with wisdom, insight and discernment. Blessed are You, H-shem, gracious giver of wisdom." God gives us this as a gift. We can recite each tefila as fresh and new and so that we are more inspired to fulfill this command that is completely for our benefit. When we need to withdraw from our busy, often over-stimulating lives, we direct our inner selves to God through prayer. It is our tefila that gives us strength, keeps us calm and brings us true inner peace. Our tefila is the powerful tool that builds and strengthens our trust and our love of God- nothing else is as powerful.

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