Attitude for Prayer
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Rabbi Israel Chait questioned Maimonides’ formulation of the proper intent, or state of mind, required for prayer:
What is to be understood by concentration of the mind? The mind should be freed from all extraneous thoughts and the one who prays should realize that he is standing before the Divine Presence (Hilchos Tefila 4:16).
God’s “shechina” or presence refers to a created light [as God does not occupy space, His “presence” refers to something other than Him, which indicates His providence]. The rabbis would always cover their heads everywhere, as they [knew that they] were always before God's presence.
Standing before the “Creator” is not a state of mind conducive for prayer; more is required. When Maimonides says the one must “realize that he is standing before the Divine Presence,” it is not that presence itself that is required, but the honor of God [awe] that emerges from that realization. It is like wisdom of the universe that leads to an honor of God, “Kavod Hashem.” Maimonides said that we are always in the place of God’s presence. Standing before God’s presence means that one stands before God’s honor. The light on Mount Sinai reflected God’s honor. Maimonides means that one must have the idea of God’s honor, and without it, one’s prayer is lacking.
It is very appropriate why in the blessings of the Shema the angels recite “Holy, holy, holy, the whole world is filled with God's glory.” This is a necessary preamble for prayer. Anything that endows one with honor of heaven [is fitting], be it the universe or the temple.
This concludes Rabbi Chait’s words. It seems that Rabbi Chait teaches that to acknowledge God’s presence is insufficient. What is required is that one has Kavod Hashem, honor for God. Meaning, the intellectual comprehension of God's presence is insufficient: a person also requires an “attitude,” an “awe” prior to commencing his prayers.
I wonder why prayer alone requires this attitude. Perhaps this is because there is a danger of feeling deserving when praying for our needs. We should not become the center of the focus. God must always retain our focus, even when we ask for our personal needs. Therefore, during prayer an attitude of awe is vital as opposed to any other activity.