What would we not give to trade the poverty of our spiritual lives for the
richness of the company of R. Chaim Vital? Yet his depiction of the
spiritual context of his generation leaves us wondering whether he was
looking at us when he composed it. “An atmosphere of coarseness has taken
hold of our times. Through it, heresy abounds. Left to our own devices, we
routinely fail to stand up to the yetzer hora. Because the
nefesh – the lowest of the three parts of the soul  - is tightly
linked to and mired in the physical body, aveirah seems
HKBH never demands of us what is unreasonable to achieve. There must be
an exit strategy from the vise-grip of the yetzer hora!. R. Chaim
Vital finds it in davening with concentration and focus.
Bais Avraham fleshes out the thought for us. Tefillah is called avodah
she-balev, the service of the heart. Avodah, in turn, alludes
to the avodah of coaxing sustenance from the ground. Before the
earth yields anything of value, we must generally perform three
activities. We first plow and ready the soil, then we plant and sow, and
finally we water. Davening properly requires the same three processes.
First we plow through the accumulated underbrush of our minds, opening our
hearts to tefillah. Next, we plant words of prayer within our
hearts. Finally, we drench those words with the tears of our fervent
entreaties to Hashem.
Tefillah is successful because, in large measure, our yetzer hora
gains a foothold in our lusts and desires. We defeat it by elevating those
desires through turning them on Hashem Himself, making Him their object!
Bais Avraham described how we do this, employing the words of
pesukim that are familiar to us. “Hashem, my G-d, I cried out to You and
You healed me.”  Crying out to Hashem in tefillah is itself
the largest measure of the healing we seek. Through it, we replace the
deficiencies of soul and flesh with “My soul thirsts for You; my flesh
longs for You,”  reaching a point of “My heart and my flesh sing to the
living G-d.” Whereas we may feel sinful in our very bones, tefillah
changes our attitude to “All my bones will say, ‘Hashem, who is like
You?’” In place of the faintness we feel from head to toe, we are
invigorated through tefillah, until we say, “Every eye shall look toward
You; every knee shall bend to You; every erect spine shall prostrate
itself before You; all the hearts shall fear You; all innermost feelings
and thoughts shall sing praises to Your name.”
Tefillah must become an experience akin to immersion in a mikveh,
albeit a mikveh of fire! Similar to the laws of purging utensils
of non-kosher absorption, where items used through fire are purged through
fire, our fiery desires within us can be purged through the heated
intensity of our davening. This holds out our only real strategy for
survival in times of spiritual coarseness such as the time we live in.
Even Torah and good deeds will not defeat the pumped-up yetzer hora
of contemporary times. Only the elevated spiritual desire that is
expressed in tefilla is a match for this yetzer hora.
We know that the three daily tefillos correspond to the order of
the korbanos in the Beis Ha-Mikdosh.  Reduced to a
single image, the function of the regular korbanos was to renew the
closeness between a Jew and his Creator. Devekus is the all-
important central pillar of our avodah; in turn, the
blandishments of the yetzer hora are chiefly aimed at separating a Jew
from his holy source, and creating a wedge of distance where only union
should exist. Korbanos aim at restoring the closeness. (Maharal
 points out that the word korban derives from the word
karov, or close.)
Some aveiros are largely products of the evening hours. If a Jew
stumbled in one of them, the morning tamid would restore his
equilibrium. Other aveiros belong to the daytime activities; the
afternoon tamid would address them. In the evening, we are often
freed of the more elevated and focused pursuits of the day. We are left
with our higher selves dormant, and our animal natures intact. The large
limbs brought up to the altar to burn through the night dealt not with
actual aveiros, but the shortcomings that owe to the coarseness of the
part of us that is more animalistic by nature.
In all cases, it is the holy fire that burns constantly atop the altar
that lights the fire of holiness within us. That fire overpowers the evil
fire of lower desires in us, and brings us back to where we belong.
After the destruction of the Beis Ha-Mikdosh, Chazal ordained
that the daily tefillos should fulfill the role of the korbanos.
If we failed during the evening hours, we could pour our hearts out to
Hashem in the morning, and beg and entreat Him to be brought close once
again. Mincha affords us the same opportunity for our daytime failures.
Maariv, which the gemara terms non-obligatory, or reshus,
corresponds to our shortcomings in the arena of permitted (reshus)
activities in which we overindulge, becoming contemptible with the
permission (reshus) of the Torah.
We find this correspondence between davening and the restoration
of our closeness to Hashem in early sources. Rabbenu Yonah  writes:
“Korbanos and tefillah are of the same nature. A person
draws closer to his Creator through them, enabling him to cling completely
to Him, without any barrier intervening between them.” R. Yehudah Ha-Levi
in Kuzari writes: “You should look with desire to the hour of prayer
as the choicest of times of the day. At its time, a person becomes more
like the spiritual beings, and less like the animal ones. The three prayer
periods provide food for the soul like physical food feeds the body.”
A key motif of our tefillah, therefore, must be our supplication
to Hashem when we find ourselves in difficult spiritual straits, i.e. when
our hearts ache from our having moved away from Him; when we do not feel
We have it on the authority of earlier tzadikim, that no
accusatory force stands in the way of a prayer for spiritual elevation and
its Heavenly address. Such forces sometimes block the way of other
prayers – when we seek material benefits that we do not really deserve.
There can be no such objections to seeking spiritual elevation. When we
make them a key component of our davening, we are assured that
there is nothing but open highway between ourselves and the Place we want
our tefillos to reach.
 Based on Nesivos Shalom vol. 1 pgs. 180, 188-191
 Typically, the part of the soul that mediates action, and that is
therefore implicated in the active transgressions
 The other two elements that are accessible to most people are ruach
 Tehillim 30:3
 Tehillim 63:2
 Tehillim 84:3
 Berachos 26B
 Nesiv Ha-Avodah
 Sha’arei Teshuvah, Sha’arei Avodah, section 8
 Kuzari 3:5