All in The Name
Prayer can be frustrating and disappointing. Instead of an intimate meeting with your loving Father, you find yourself chasing after the most ridiculous thoughts. Can anything be done to keep your focus??
Recently I learned the importance of saying the name of Hashem with proper focus and concentration during prayers and blessings.
There are two meanings to have in mind when pronouncing His name. One is the meaning according to how the name is said. We do not pronounce His name as it is written with the four Hebrew letters. We pronounce it in a way that means “Master of the World.” We should pause and contemplate this deeply. Additionally, we should look at the four letters themselves and realize they signify that He is, was, and always will be, meaning that. He is eternal.
While reciting Hashem’s name in blessings or prayers, the Code of Jewish Law requires that we have in mind that Hashem is the Master of the World. When we recite the Shema, we should also contemplate that He is eternal.
Taking the time to stop and think before you say Hashem’s name will act like a circuit breaker. When other thoughts and issues are distracting your mind, this will enable you to reboot and get back on track. Additionally, this approach will enhance your ability to internalize the following foundational principles of our faith:
- Yira, fear of Heaven, will emerge by perceiving the awesome reality that you are standing in front of the King of the Universe Who sees your every thought and hears all your words.
- You will feel joy that you merit to be in the presence of the King who loves you like an only child and Who wants to hear your prayers.
- Profound gratitude will be felt from the realization that everything good in your life comes from our benevolent Father and King.
- Unshakable emuna will develop from frequently pondering that our Father in Heaven is in complete control of everything that occurs in the world.
Taking the time to contemplate the meaning of Hashem’s Name will require you to pray at a slower and more deliberate pace. At the same time to attain these benefits, it is essential that you do not feel rushed when you are engaged in prayer. Otherwise, the prayer service can feel like a stressful and burdensome speed-reading contest. Therefore, to ensure that you are able join with the congregation when they begin the Amidah, it’s advisable to come to synagogue at least five or 10 minutes early to get a head start.
Additionally, it may be necessary to make some strategic cuts in the preliminary prayers. There are certain prayers that are mandatory and others that are highly desirable but may be passed over. It’s best to come early enough so you don’t have to resort to this sub-optimal alternative. However, if this is not feasible, it’s better to do less prayers with focus and devotion than more prayers in a rushed and superficial matter.
I also find it helpful to have a primary focus each day regarding one of the above four concepts. In other words, one day you may want to focus on feeling Yira and awe that you are standing in front of the all-powerful King. He observes all your thoughts, words, and actions and holds you accountable to fulfill His will. On another day you may choose to concentrate on the feeling of gratitude that you owe all the good in your life to Hashem’s loving kindness.
This sounds easy on paper but, believe me, it takes a lot of effort to remember to think about the meaning of Hashem’s name as you pronounce it on a consistent basis. It’s best to start this gradually and focus on certain prayers in stages until you can do this consistently throughout the service and for all the many blessings you recite during the course of a day.
Take some time during your personal prayers to evaluate your efforts in this area from the prior day. Thank Hashem for the progress you’ve made. Ask Hashem to help you do this better and more consistently because you want to have a closer relationship with Him. He will certainly help.
Focusing on the true meaning of Hashem’s name will develop a spiritual sensitivity that is conducive to feeling His loving presence. This will generate momentum so that you feel His presence up close and personal not only while you are in the synagogue but afterwards throughout the entire day. Here’s hoping that we can utilize this approach regularly to add power to our prayers and enhance our closeness and connection with our Father and King.