Rav Avigdor Miller on Improving Your Tefillah

Q: The Rav mentioned last week that we should make sure to use our heads, and not only our lips, when we daven. How can one teach himself to daven with more כוונה, better concentration?

A: Two things: First of all, you must understand what you’re saying, not merely the translation of the words. You must spend some time studying these Mishnayis of the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah. That’s really what Shemonah Esrei is. It’s Mishnayis, very ancient Mishnayis. And we have to study them. They’re very deep and you have to spend time, to think about what this word means, and what that word means. You have to spend time understanding the ideas that lie behind every word, every phrase. It’s not just the פירוש המילות, the translation of the words. It’s the concepts that you have to make a part of your mindset. And when you do that, then the next time you daven Shemonah Esrei, it will have more meaning for you.

And it’s not only Shemonah Esrei. When you say Ashrei, or other selections from Tehillim, or when you say Krias Shema, or אז ישיר , or other selections from the Chumash, it’s very important to understand what you’re saying. That’s number one. Number one is to have a deeper understanding of the words in the Siddur. If your understanding is only superficial, then your davening will be superficial.

The second is, to train yourself to concentrate. Every time you daven, choose one little area of davening, that you’ll go slow in that one area for three minutes. No matter how much those around you are rushing through davening, you make sure to spend three minutes on one little area. Let’s say, three minutes on one bracha. Let the people keep galloping, but you’re standing still, and you’re thinking in that one bracha. You’re thinking about the ideas in the ברכה, or in the פסוק, and you’re learning how to concentrate. It sounds easy, but it won’t be in the beginning. But if you get busy working on this project, you’ll be a success. After a while it will become easier and easier to keep your mind concentrated for longer periods of time.

So once more, the two methods of learning תפלה בכוונה, davening with better concentration: One is to study תפלה. You must study the davening, in order to understand more deeply what it’s saying. And secondly, you must practice concentrating for a few minutes on one idea, and after a while, you’ll learn the trick of concentrating for longer periods of time.

TAPE # 489

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