Close your eyes and imagine a faraway kingdom from many years ago. Now, insert into the scene the word “servant.” Which image comes to mind? Is the servant serving food to the king? A drink? Is he setting the table or carrying his belongings? Which act of service is the servant providing to his master?

Interestingly, the word “service” as used by the sages refers to prayer. For example, the Mishna teaches, “The world stands on three things: Torah, service of G‑d, and deeds of kindness.”1 Torah and deeds of kindness are obvious. What does it mean to “serve” G‑d?

It means to pray to Him.

But here is the question. What can we provide that an infinite G‑d would possibly need? Why the use of the word “servant,” which brings to mind a servant standing “at your service” to fix something for his master? Why does our Master need anything? What can we contribute to Him? As the Creator and Source of everything, what can we do for Him that He cannot do for Himself? The following verse seems more accurate, which implies that even if we are righteous, G‑d does not gain anything from us, “if you are righteous, what do you give to Him?” (Job 35:7).

To understand the use of the word “servant,” let’s first explore why G‑d created t world. What was He thinking? According to Chassidic teachings, G‑d created this world because He had a desire for a dira bitachtonim, a “home” in this lower, physical world.

The concept of “service” is to accomplish that goal.

The Home That G‑d Desires

So what type of home did G‑d desire? The creation of the world did not add anything, nor did it change His oneness. G‑d is the same “One” before He created the world and after He created it. From G‑d’s perspective, He is one, and there is no other independent reality aside from Him. Since we are dependent on Him for existence, we are truly one with Him.

But our perspective is very different. From our perspective, G‑d’s oneness is hard to experience. The Hebrew word for “world,” olam, comes from the word helem, “hidden,” because this world hides the truth of G‑d’s existence. Nature operates and looks like it runs independently, and you wouldn’t necessarily know the truth of G‑d’s unity.

So the blockage is in us, not in Him.

And here comes the whole point of creating the world: G‑d wants us mortal human beings to grasp the truth! Obviously, the truth is apparent to Him. His essential desire is for us to feel in our own experience the certainty of G‑d’s oneness. It is called “service” in the sense that it is something He so desperately desires. We are not completing Him; we are revealing the truth to ourselves for Him.

What is a home? A place where you can kick off your shoes and be the “real you.” G‑d wants to be at home in the world, where He can be “Himself,” where the “real G‑d” is revealed.

What Does ‘Lower Realms’ Mean?

And what does a home in tachtonim, the lower realms, mean? There’s no “higher” and “lower” for G‑d because He is everywhere. The “lower realms” means there is less G‑dly revelation. That is where He wanted to be revealed: where He is hidden, in the least imaginable place possible, planet earth! He wants human beings with imperfections and egos to find and acknowledge the truth. He wants each and every person to have an epiphany, an experience of really grasping the truth of G‑d. “Wow! There must be a Creator! I need Him and without Him, there would be nothing.”

This is the purpose of creation! To see through the facade of this world. This doesn’t mean we understand why G‑d had such a burning desire for this, only that this form of service is what He desired. G‑d isn’t inherently missing anything, but since this honors His desire, it is called “service”—to reveal Him in our hearts and minds, just as He is revealed to Himself.

How Prayer Is a Service

That is the true meaning of prayer, and why prayer is simply referred to as “service.” Prayer is more than just mumbling words; it is recognizing the truth and serving G‑d with mind, body and spirit. Because that is what G‑d needs from us mortals.

Soul Note: G‑d wants His “true colors” to show down here in this physical world, and I “serve” Him by acknowledging the truth during prayer.

Source: The Maamar, Lo Hibit Avon B’yakov, in Likkutei Torah, as explained in Chassidut Mevueret, Chapter 1.