Imagine playing the game Candy Crush for hours only to find yourself at the end of the night on a much lower level than when you started. What would be the point? You scored so much, don’t you at least deserve the satisfaction of seeing yourself on a higher level?

Unless there was another goal in mind.

Before descending into a human body, everyPrayer is a time to stop Jewish soul basks in the light of the Shechina in the upper levels of Gan Eden, in heaven itself. And yet, after sweating away for 70 or 80 years during the lifespan of a person, the soul finds itself reaping its rewards by landing in the lower levels of Gan Eden.

What’s going on? Why would a soul work so hard and yet land up in a lower level than when it started?

Because there is another goal in mind.

Life is not lived just for the bliss of the afterlife, as so many mistakenly think. Life is lived for life itself. The purpose of life is for something so great that can only be accomplished down there. When a human being engages in Torah and mitzvot, he touches the essence of the Divine, while in heaven souls can only experience a ray of G‑d’s light.

That is why it says that one hour of teshuvah and ma’asim tovim', “repentance and good deeds” outweighs any rewards in the afterlife. Because the soul’s purpose is to refine and elevate its human host. The soul is not here for itself, but to influence the energy and life force of its co-inhabitant of the human body: the animal soul.

How does that happen? The soul can actually feel quite trapped residing inside a person. It feels like it is in exile. There is so much noise from the outside world and there is so much inner conflict that the soul feels like it is stranded in a deserted desert. The desert is barren with no spirituality or vitality in sight.

And that, too, is by design. How does the soul free itself from its desert state? By leaning into the experience of thirsting for spirituality like one thirsts for water in a desert. And when does that happen? During prayer. This desire and yearning for G‑d—like a thirsty man yearns for water—frees the soul from its corporeal existence and allows it to influence the animal soul.

Prayer is a time to pour out our heart. To feel the pain of feeling far from G‑d and desiring to have a closer connection. To arouse the love that the soul has for its true source: G‑d.

Prayer is a time to stop. To think about howWe transcend our material surroundings without G‑d giving us energy at every moment, we would cease to exist. On our own, we are as lifeless as the sand in the desert. Even the most spiritual of creations only exists due to G‑d’s energizing force.

This active awareness literally makes us thirsty for G‑d, for our life force. And to feel an intense desire to experience this in our day-to-day experience.

When we pray like that, when we transcend our material surroundings and feel a palpable desire to connect with G‑d, then we touch G‑d’s essence itself. We transform the energy of the animal soul, and that is the purpose of it all.

Source: From the Maamar in Likutei Torah “Vayidaber ... bamidbar sinai b’ohel moed,” as explained in Chassidut Mevueret, Chapters 1, 2, 3.