It’s a daunting task. To pray, to think about the pertinent intentions, to feel the feelings appropriate for prayer. But sometimes, G‑d helps us out.

There are times that you think about G‑d. His oneness, His greatness. And your soul is ignited and drawn to G‑d. It almost feels like you’re getting more than you bargained for. Who is pulling your soul with thick cords of love?

The words before the Amidah prayer shed some light.

A-dnai sifatai tiftach, ufi yagid tehilatecha—“G‑d, open my lips, so that my mouth can declare Your praise.”

In a Chassidic discourse, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe, explains these words, turning their meaning on its head: “When my mouth declares the praise, when I invest effort to learn about G‑d’s oneness and feel love towards Him through my own efforts, then G‑d will open my lips. I will feel a level that is not commensurate or proportional to my efforts, but so much more than that.”

I need to put in effort, to make myself into a vessel to “hear” and connect to higher levels. It’s like tipping a bucket of water, and only then does the water spill over on its own. My mouth is a catalyst, tipping the bucket, and the emotions overflow. I feel it in my soul. I don’t only create feelings for G‑d, but I draw them down and allow them to flow.

What is this higher level that my soul taps into? My soul is tapping into the source of all Jewish souls, called Knesset Yisrael (see Step Zero). This soul level is constantly in a state of desire to reunite with G‑d, like a fetus that craves the comfort of the womb. It “sings,” so to speak, about its intense desire and yearning for G‑d Himself.

While we might not consciously feel that way before the prayer process, once we put in effort, we can be granted access to that higher level. By enunciating G‑d’s praises and thinking thoughts that will lead us to feeling passionately about G‑d, we cause a trickle-down effect to our soul. We put in a little bit of effort to merit the overabundant flow of yearning for G‑d.

I do a little; G‑d does the rest. When I pray this way, I don’t only hear the song of my own soul, but the song of the source of all souls—the song of Knesset Yisroel above that shines brightly into the songs of all Jews below. That is why prayer is called “the song of songs.”

As the Talmud says: “Open a door as tiny as the eye of a needle, and I will open your gates wide enough to let carts and horse-drawn carriages drive through.”

I use my own abilities to think thoughts about G‑d’s greatness, and G‑d gifts me with the ability to feel emotions that are beyond my natural capacities.

Source: Inspired by Likutei Torah Shir Hashirim, Chapters 3-4 (as expounded in Chassidut Mevueret, Avodat HaTefillah).