by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Prayer has to become genuine, alive. One very small but meaningful gesture is, when saying the words, “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing,”[i] to turn your palms upward as if you are trying to receive what it is He is giving. Why are you facing your palms upward? Because you truly believe that G-d’s hand is open and He is trying to give you something. And you are opening your hand heavenward because you want to receive His gifts. This shows that you really believe the words that you are saying.
There are many religious Jews who can tell you where every prayer is written and many can even repeat them by heart, but there are very few who can tell you what they actually mean.
Often people ask what can be done to improve their concentration during prayer. They complain that their minds keep wandering off the subject onto other totally unrelated things.
Really, there is only one thing that you can do when this happens. As soon as you realize that you are off the subject, gently return. Again and again, quietly return to what you want to be concentrating on. This is like a weightlifter who continually picks up his weights, again and again. Each time you return to the subject you get a little stronger.
There is another easy thing you can do that will help make your prayers more interesting, and actually more effective. Whatever you pray for, briefly imagine it coming into being. This means that when you are davening the Amidah (the standing, silent prayers), as you are finishing one of the 19 established prayers, such as, “Blessed are You . . . Who rebuilds Jerusalem,” or “…Who heals the sick,” briefly picture what you are praying for to happen. In these two cases you could picture Jerusalem, including the Third Temple, made entirely out of brightly shining gold, floating down from Heaven settling over and filling the present-day Jerusalem. Or, when praying for the sick, picture the sick jumping out of their wheelchairs, throwing away their crutches, and dancing down the street.
“Think good and it will be good.”
[i] Ashrei morning & afternoon prayers
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא