The Shulchan Aruch (98,1) quotes the Rambam, “What is intention? A person must clear his head of all worldly thoughts, and should see himself as if he is standing before the Shechinah. Therefore one must pause momentarily before he commences prayer” (Tefillah 4,16).
The Rema (98,1) cites Rabbeinu Yonah, “Intention means that a person’s heart is completely engrossed in Divine service. In order to achieve this one must first remove from his heart any trace of worldly pleasure, for once a person purifies his heart of any vanity and focuses on Hashem’s exaltedness, his prayers will be desirable and accepted by Hashem” (Berachos 30b).
From the words of Rabbeinu Yonah we see that intention is a change of state, a paradigm shift from this world to the next. By banishing all mundane thoughts and pleasures from his mind, a person enables himself to transcend the confines of this world, attaining great intimacy with Hashem. While today’s fast-paced lifestyle makes this extremely difficult, nevertheless, someone who makes the effort can experience the great pleasure of prayer.
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org