Ever feel disoriented after waking up in the middle of a dream? You sometimes have to remind yourself that the disturbing, funny or distorted experience is not reality.

What’s a dream? It’s like you’re hallucinating. Conflicting patterns, erratic behaviors. Past and present collide. Electrical brain impulses pull random thoughts and imagery from our memories, or from deep within the unconscious mind. As Freud put it, latent thoughts and manifest thoughts.

Your conscious mind has no control over it. And then you wake up. Law and order, sanity itself, is once again restored.

There’s another type of dream-like distortion that we need to snap ourselves out of on a daily basis, and prayer is when it all happens.

Our sages teach us that each one of the forefathers instituted one of the three daily prayers. Abraham instituted the morning prayer, Shacharit, and this is alluded to in the verse Vayashkem Avraham baboker—“and Abraham arose early in the morning.” What did he arise early for? To pray the morning prayers.

There is a deeper meaning to the above verse. The Alter Rebbe teaches us that it has an everlasting meaning: We need to awaken our inner “Abraham” each morning. The “Abraham” within is our latent love of G‑d found perpetually within us. However, unless activated by our conscious mind, it only exists in a dream-like state.

When a person sleeps, he or she has no free choice. Imaginations can go wild, and ridiculous things can happen. He or she is sleeping and at the mercy of the subconscious mind until awakening and retaking control of the wheel. When “Abraham,” our love of G‑d, is sleeping—even though a person might know deep down that he loves G‑d—he’s not fully conscious and aware of this love. In such a state, we can have knowledge of G‑d and yet outright go against His will. It’s like we’re under a spell of sorts, and we’re not exercising our ultimate free will.

Our sages give an example of a brazen robber who prays to G‑d for success with his fraudulent ways. Wait, what? He’s literally talking to G‑d and yet going against Him? That’s a conflicting pattern, if there ever was one.

Morning prayer isn’t just about mumbling words. Our forefather, Abraham, taught us that morning prayer is about awakening our love and shattering the illusions of the dream. We access our faith and love in our rational minds so that we can consciously dictate our actions in accordance with His will. Then we can operate on a conscious level, rather than an unconscious one.

How do we do this?

By praying. And not just uttering words, but by meditating on their meaning. G‑d created us in a way that our feelings are generated as a direct result of our thoughts. The more we think about G‑d, the more we will feel our love of G‑d. It’s not enough to know Him in a general manner; we need to think and meditate about Him. The entire morning Shacharit is dedicated to this endeavor by allowing us to contemplate and focus on G‑d’s oneness and greatness.

The songs and praise of prayer are a deliberate build-up to help us feel love in a conscious manner, so that we can reach the Shema prayer and say it like we mean it: “You shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”

To sum it all up, prayer is an exercise in waking up our “Abraham” from its dreamlike state and undoing the distortions of our dreams.

Source: Inspired by Likutei Torah, Tachat Asher Lo Avadeta, Chapter 1 (as explained in Chassidut Mevueret, Avodat HaTefillah).