Requests for understanding, repentance, forgiveness, redemption, health and prosperity make up the personal requests of Shemoneh Esrei. Although we acknowledge on an intellectual level that each one of these requests is critical for our well-being at any given moment, we still have trouble stopping our minds from wandering during prayer. In today’s fast-paced world, when we have so much on our minds, how can we focus on these requests day after day?
“Whoever wants to pray with concentration should work on treating his friend’s property as carefully as his own” (Kaf HaChaim 98, 3 citing Sefer HaMiddos 2,10). At first glance, this advice may seem somewhat irrelevant. What is the connection between my prayer and another person’s belongings?
Actually, this comment reveals a deep insight into the nature of prayer and the human condition. As mentioned in the previous section, one of the greatest challenges of standing before Hashem in prayer is to divert our attention from ourselves and our worldly cares and focus solely on our conversation with Hashem. As soon as we open our mouths, extraneous thoughts begin to pop into our minds and we must do constant battle to keep them at bay.
The essential characteristic of someone who is extremely careful with another’s property is that he knows how to put someone other than himself first. He has mastered the self-control to put his own thoughts and desires aside for a period. When such an individual comes to say Shemoneh Esrei, he is ready to humble himself once again, and focus purely on his conversation with Hashem.
We turn to Hashem with our personal needs in order to forge a relationship with Him. Once the connection is made, we can be sure He will take care of our needs.
Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org