On a Scale of 1 to 248, how important do you think prayer is? What number would you put it at?

Prayer plays a vital role in the life of a Jew, multiple times a day. And yet if you read the Torah from beginning to end, you will find no explicit commandment to pray. Sure, it is included in the general commandment to “serve G‑d,” but nowhere does scripture tell us to pray to G‑d on a daily basis.

To understand this, let’s take a deeper look at the function of prayer.

The The spine supports the entire body sages compare prayer to the spine, and more specifically, to the spinal cord in the human body. The spine supports the entire body, and the spinal cord is part of the central nervous system, carrying nerve signals from the brain to the body so that it can function. It’s not one of the bones, but it enables all the bones to move and feel sensations. Its role is central and life-giving to all the other limbs of the body. If a person experiences a spinal-cord injury, it often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury.

The function of prayer vis à vis the other commandments is similar to the spinal cord’s relationship with the other limbs of the body. Prayer is not counted as a commandment because its function is like the central nervous system. It is crucial, and enlivens all the commandments, but is not counted among them.

Just like a human body has 248 limbs, there are 248 positive commandments. And just like the spine supports the body, prayer supports and sustains all the other mitzvahs. The Talmud says that “mitzvot require intent” (Berachot 13a). This is not only the intention a person has while actually fulfilling the mitzvah, but a general passion and excitement for the mitzvah itself. Where does passion in fulfilling all the commandments come from? From prayer. Prayer is a time when a person becomes inspired and filled with love of G‑d and a desire to have a relationship with Him. And how does one have a relationship with G‑d? By doing a mitzvah. In this way, prayer fuels the motivation and passion to engage in more and more mitzvot. Prayer is the “soul” of the mitzvah, providing “nerve signals,” or “electricity” to enliven the mitzvahs.

“Mitzvot require intent” can actually mean “mitzvot require prayer.” Just as the spinal cord brings energy and life to the rest of the body, prayer enlivens and energizes all the mitzvot that a person does. Prayer is like a central spiritual system, and there is, therefore, such an emphasis on intention during prayer because that translates as intention and passion in doing all the other mitzvot.

The reason why prayer is not counted as one of the 248 commandments is because its role is crucial to each of the 248.

It is that important.

Soul Note: Prayer is not a commandment but is fundamental in order to fulfill the 248 commandments with inspiration.

Source: The Maamar, lo hibit avon biyakov, in Likkutei Torah, as explained in Chassidut Mevueret, Chapter 2.