It’s hard to wake up in the morning feeling spiritual. You open your eyes, and you are likely to be more aware of bodily needs (hunger, tiredness) than soul needs (like the need to pray to G‑d and draw down more G‑dly light.) And yet, we start our day with prayers filled with spiritual requests for the revelation of G‑dly light. So how can you say it like you mean it? Chances are, you don’t consciously feel such a spiritual void, which means that you don’t necessarily feel like you consciously desire the revelation of spiritual light.

We need to get ourselves in the mode. And that’s why we don’t jump out of bed into the Amidah but have a stretching experience to get us ready for the workout. All the paragraphs before the Amidah serve as preparation. The prayers that are filled with praising G‑d are not so much about praising Him so that He is more receptive to our requests, as much as they are about hearing ourselves absorb words of praise so that we can consciously feel ready for the Amidah prayer. The idea is that by the time we are praying, we really desire an increase in spiritual light. That is why consciously focusing on the words we are saying is a crucial part of the process of prayer.

So what are we saying? Before the Shema, we read a detailed description of the praises and songs the angels sing and how nullified they are before G‑d.

It gets us thinking. Imagine if your best friend was engaged and as it got closer to the wedding, a random colleague from work started arranging her bridal shower, going shopping with her and helping her plan her big day. You suddenly realize that while you were going about your regular day-to-day life, a random person was being there for your friend. That would jolt you into reaching out and offering to help …

In a similar vein, you start to think about how angels praise G‑d. Angels are called omdim,“those that stand,” since they are stationary and stand in one place. Angels cannot grow spiritually and are spiritually compared to feet. We, on the other hand, are spiritually compared to the head. The Jewish people are called Yisrael, which has the same letters as the Hebrew words li rosh, which is in effect G‑d saying “my head.” You, the Jew, are G‑d’s best friend. You suddenly realize that you (the “head”) go about your day-to-day life while angels (the “feet”) are filled with love and awe of G‑d. You’re busy with physical needs while angels are busy praising G‑d.

It’s a humbling thought. And it jolts you into desiring to have a deeper connection with G‑d and to reach out for connection. It jolts you into teshuvah, which means “return.” You want to return to the real you, your essence, and reveal more G‑dliness in this world. It prepares you to have the mindset to pray.

As the sages say, “One may not pray except with a koved rosh, which literally means “heavy head.” On a surface level, it means that one ought to pray with humility. But it also hints to the thought process that leads to feeling humble—i.e., the fact that the head, the Jew, is not serving G‑d the way he is meant to and may have descended from its mission like a heavy item that has dropped to the floor. Thinking about this leads one to have a head that is bowed, a humble and sincere desire to return to G‑d. This is called reusa di’liba, which is literally translated from Aramaic as “desire of the heart.”

The void you feel is the impetus to return to your essence and to beg G‑d to reveal Himself in this world. You want to be G‑d’s best friend not just in name but in practice. Following the prayers of the angels and then the Shema, you come to the Amidah and are able to say from a very deep place and with a true desire of the heart, Baruch atah Hashem“May I draw down light from G‑d’s essence.”

And you can say it like you mean it.

Soul Note: Being conscious of a spiritual void spurs you to beg G‑d for spiritual revelation—and mean it.

Source: The Maamar, lo hibit avon biyakov, in Likkutei Torah as explained in Chassidut Mevueret, Chapter 4.