Prayer in Focus

Question

Hi Rabbi, What do I do about this? When I recite the prayers, I am often distracted or daydreaming about all that is going on in my life. This really detracts from the quality of my prayers but I really can’t prevent myself from daydreaming, no matter how hard I try. Help!

3 months

Answers

  1. Your question reminds me of a Chassidic story. One of the Chassidim of the Kotzker Rebbe came to him to complain that his livelihood was not so good. The Kotzker told him that he should think about davening (prayer) when he works. The Chassid was a little taken aback and asked his Rebbe why that would help. The Kotzker answered him, “Look, you think about your livelihood when you daven, so maybe you should think about davening when you work!”

    What is the Kotzker saying? I have heard a few interpretations, but there one that I like the best. The message: We are as distracted as we allow ourselves to be. It is as simple as that… and it is as difficult as that. So, what is the answer?

    First, I would strongly recommend that you always daven from a Siddur prayer book. Holding a Siddur and turning the pages is a wonderful way to remain focused on the words.

    Second, buy a Siddur that has an excellent translation and that has headings for each blessing and for each section of the prayer service. In this way you should be aware of what you are saying.

    Third, set aside each day a ten minute set period of time to learn what it is that you are actually saying. There is a wonderful book by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer called “The Shemoneh Esrei,” and is published by ArtScroll. It explains each blessing of the main prayer of the prayer service. It not only explains the meanings, but also explains the reason why each blessing appears where it does. The more that we understand what we are saying, the greater our appreciation will be. And the greater our appreciation, the stronger will be our desire to want to pray with better focus.

    It is my heartfelt prayer that you will be able to overcome all the distractions and to successfully reach out to God.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team