You are awesome.
I know this, because you are reading this post. This tells me you are a human being. And if you are a human being, then you are among the minority of living creatures on this planet that are in possession of a soul, courtesy of the Holy One Blessed Be He.
Hashem planfully put you into this world, and Hashem does not make mistakes.
To me, this indicates an important principle for my daily living. One of the most frequent activities of my daily routine is praying, and I think I do a pretty poor job of it.
I mean, I try. I really do. I want to connect to Hashem. I want to talk to Him.
But often it turns out that while my lips are saying the words, my mind is thinking of the work I have to do when I get home (or the annoying thing my coworker did today, or the political situation, or...)
I’m guessing I’m not alone here. But if you have no trouble focusing on your davening, are totally into it every time, and feel totally connected every time you pray, you can probably stop reading here and go back to learning kabbala or saving orphans or whatever it is that tzaddikim do in their spare time.
I used to get down on myself for my poor supplicatory performance. But I came to realize something.
God wants my prayers.
God wants your prayers too.
He doesn’t only want the prayers of the orphan-saving tzaddikim. If He was looking for a conversation with perfect beings He would have made us perfect. (He’s already got a coterie of angels to fill that niche.) The fact of the matter is, He made you and me and all of us imperfect. He knows full well that it takes years of disciplined effort to get through davening without losing focus.
Like everything else in life, He just wants us to try.
Push yourself. Make an effort. Get to davening on time (men), make a fixed spot for davening in your home (women), set a regular weekly 10-minute seder for learning about tefillah (both). Do whatever it is you feel you need to work on to improve the quality of your davening.
That’s it! That’s all you need to do – try. Hashem loves effort. He doesn’t need results. That’s His department. Ours is just the sweat we put into it.
Hashem knows you’re imperfect and He wants to hear from you anyway. Those moments when you’re mentally there with Him in between the stock market and last night’s podcast are precious to Him. Don’t devalue those. Whatever you can give is a gift to Hashem – the gift of allowing Him to give Himself to you.
Cherish the opportunities. Don’t give up. Every tefillah is another chance to move the needle one iota in the right direction. (And if you fail to use the opportunity today, it means you’re human. Try again tomorrow.)
Hashem loves you. He’s waiting to hear from you, whether in fixed prayers or the spontaneous, need-a-hand-right-now kind.
No need to feel ashamed of falling short of perfect. Feel loved instead.
It’s real. It’s a relationship.
Postscript: I want to give you a little evidence for my claim. Perhaps it’s not airtight, but I think it supports the idea. If you look at the amidah (which I recommend you do, regularly), you will note that the fifth bracha ends in harotezeh bitshuvah. Hashem wants you to return. He wants to connect with you. He wants a relationship with you. With YOU! Not with the idealized version of you, not with who you could become in the future, but with you, right here, right now.
It is only after that bracha that we request selicha – a patch-up job on our souls. Selicha is an incredible gift that Hashem has given us, the supernatural capacity to heal the spiritual wounds we have inflicted on ourselves. Sin clouds the radiance of our souls and prevents the Divine light from shining through. Selicha cleans us up and restores us to the purity with which Hashem created us, and to which we aspire to return.
But He wants to talk to us even before we’re clean.
Even as we labor through the blemishes of our sins, even as we fall short of the ideal, even as we are as we are, Hashem calls to us to come home and talk to Him.
You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t even need to be a tzaddik. You just need to be you and to give it your best shot.