(Inspired by this and this question.)

Do you have any practical, useful, specific tips to improve davening by getting rid of all the wordly thoughts and occupations?

Let's say I commit myself to come 5 minutes before davening starts. What should be the exact plan to empty my mind of everything that usually comes to mind during davening?

  • 1
    Your mind thinks stuff all the time. But, you get to decide what it gets to concentrate on at any given moment. Tell yourself that you are about to do something extremely important. That makes your mind go to 'attention' mode. Then think of all the good that He did to you. List them in your mind one by one. How he didnt make you a goy which would have been bad for you. How he didnt make be born in china in a sweat shop. How he gave you all the good you have. Details matter here. Yes, after all said and done, you will have foreign thoughts, no matter what. Jun 1, 2022 at 13:42

3 Answers 3


This concept is brought by the Rema in SA OC 98:1:

צריך שיהיה לו כוונה בתפלתו. ובו ה סעיפים: המתפלל צריך שיכוין בלבו פי' המלות שמוציא בשפתיו ויחשוב כאלו שכינה כנגדו ויסיר כל המחשבות הטורדות אותו עד שתשאר מחשבתו וכוונתו זכה בתפלתו ויחשוב כאלו היה מדבר לפני מלך בשר ודם היה מסדר דבריו ומכוין בהם יפה לבל יכשל ק"ו לפני ממ"ה הקב"ה שהוא חוקר כל המחשבות וכך היו עושים חסידים ואנשי מעשה שהיו מתבודדים ומכוונין בתפלתם עד שהיו מגיעים להתפשטות הגשמיות ולהתגברות כח השכלי עד שהיו מגיעים קרוב למעלת הנבואה ואם תבא לו מחשבה אחרת בתוך התפלה ישתוק עד שיתבטל המחשב' וצריך שיחשוב בדברי' המכניעים הלב ומכוונים אותו לאביו שבשמי' ולא יחשוב בדברי' שיש בהם קלות ראש: הגה ויחשוב קודם התפלה מרוממות האל יתעלה ובשפלו' האדם ויסיר כל תענוגי האדם מלבו [הר"י ריש פ' אין עומדין] ואסור לאדם לנשק בניו הקטנים בב"ה כדי לקבוע בלבו שאין אהבה כאהבת המקום ברוך הוא [בנימין זאב סימן קס"ג ואגודה פרק כיצד מברכין]:

One Needs to Have Concentration While Praying, containing 5 s'ifim: One who prays needs to concentrate on the meaning of the words which one brings forth from one's mouth. One should consider [it] as if the Divine Presence is opposite one, and remove all distracting thoughts from one, until one's thought and intention remain purely about one's prayer. And one should consider [it] as if one were speaking to before a king of flesh and blood, and one were organizing one's words beautifully and concentrating on them so as not to stumble, all the more [one should do so] before the King of kings of kings, the Holy One, who is Blessed, who examines all thoughts. And so did the pious ones and the men of action, who would seclude themselves and concentrate on their prayers until they would transcend [their] corporeality and strengthen [their] mental power, until nearly arriving at the level of prophecy. And if another thought comes to one in the midst of the prayer, one should be silent until the thought is eliminated. And one should think about things that humble the heart and concentrate it on one's Father in Heaven, and not think about things that contain levity ("light-headedness"). Gloss: Before prayer, one should think about the loftiness of God who is raised up and the lowliness of humanity, and remove all human pleasures from one's heart (Ri, beginning of chapter "Ein Om'din" [Berachot Chapter 5] ). And it is forbidden for a person to kiss one's small children in synagogue, in order to fix in one's heart that there is no love like the love of the Omnipresent Who is Blessed (Binyomin Ze'ev siman 163 and Agudah Chapter "Keitzad Mevarchin" [Berachot Chapter 6]). (Sefaria translation)


In Sefer HaMinhagim, it explains what can be done as a preparation for prayer:

To dispel whatever may hamper the acceptability of one’s prayers, charity should be given beforehand. Thus we find that before praying Rabbi Eliezer would give a pauper a coin, in the spirit of the verse, “With tzedek (‘righteousness’; cf. tzedakah — ‘charity’) shall I behold Your countenance.”3 For accusatory voices On High adjudge whether a worshiper is indeed worthy of entering the heavenly palace of the King of Kings in prayer. Yet “charity rescues...,”4 and “charity elevates a nation....”5

On a general note, the Alter Rebbe discusses in great length (Likutei Amarim, chapter 12 and 28 for example), what can be done to "push away" foreign thoughts:

The concepts explained below apply to during-prayer, but can also be applied before prayer. When a foreign thought occurs, try not to dwell on it. Try to "push" it away.

The Alter Rebbe in his Tanya (Likutei Amarim, chapter 28) explains:

Even if there occur to him lustful imaginations or other extraneous thoughts during Divine Service, in Torah or in devout prayer, he must not let his heart dwell on them but must immediately avert his mind from them.

On this concept, the Baal Shem Tov (Tzava'at Harivash, section 87) explains how this should be done:

Thus if you are not praying with hitlahavut (ardor; fervor), 2 start to pray intensely. When you pray with hitlahavut, consider the nature of the [alien] thought: 3 if it relates to evil love, such as sensuous lust, bring it to its [ultimate] source which is the love of God.

In section 64 from Tzava'at Harivash, the Baal Shem Tov explains that sometimes, a foreign though occours while praying, only because of the concept "descent for the sake of an ascent"

Such a test, e.g. a foreign thought "popping up into your head during prayer", is only because G-d wants us to be stronger and therefore tests us with this.

See also Tanya, Likutei Amarim, chapter 12:

However, the impression retained in his mind from his meditation, during prayer, on G‑d’s greatness, and the [natural] love and fear of G‑d hidden in the right part of his heart, enable him to prevail over and dominate the evil [animal soul’s] craving, preventing the evil from gaining the supremacy and dominion over the “city” (the body) and carrying out its craving from the potential to the actual by clothing itself in the organs of the body in actual speech or deed.

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    The question was about preparation before prayer, not outside thoughts during prayer
    – Chatzkel
    Jun 1, 2022 at 13:01

One idea which I found useful is to think about the list of all the things which I am about to do during the day (before Shachris). Not too deeply, because then it is going to start an ongoing thought process which is bothersome during davening. This way I feel less of an urge to think about them during davening.

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