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Shulchan Oruch O. Ch. 94 (3) says

מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְכַוֵּן הָרוּחוֹת, יְכַוֵּן לִבּוֹ לְאָבִיו שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם.

If he does not know the direction in which to pray, he should direct his heart to his Father in Heaven.

On this the Biur Halocho says

“It seems that it is good for him to turn his face to one of the other directions.”

What is the point of the comment of the Biur Halocho?

The only thought I had was that by turning away from his direction of travel he might think less about travelling and more about his prayer.

  • Your title doesn't match the body. – mevaqesh Oct 7 '16 at 1:39
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The Shulchan Shlomo reported in Biur halacha (the link is in the answer of @Jay) said this:

אבל אם יכול להסתלק מן הדרך ולהתפלל מעומד במקום שלא יפסיקוהו עוברי דרכים מוטב שיסתלק ויתפלל שם ‏(ב‏‏)‏[‏מ‏‏] ‏שיתפלל בבית הנכרי. ‏

But if he can stand aside from the road and to pray in standing position in a place where people who come and go will not interrupt him, that is better than praying in a non-Jewish home.

Mishna Berura took from this that an effort must be made to ensure a good Kavana, so for example if he faces in the direction of his journey, he may look at people, or people can ask him something if they feel that he is in front of them.

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The source that the B.H. is quoting (Shulchan Shlomo) mentions that southward and northward are also legitimate and beneficial directions for prayer. Perhaps those directions only confer their benefits if you overtly and purposefully align yourself to them, as opposed to having been facing that way anyway.

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    I think you misunderstood the Shulchan Shlomo somewhat. He introduced the concept of the body in one direction while facing another as legitimate. Therefore, he says, if you aren't sure you should head in one direction while turning your face another. This way you double your chances of getting it right. – HaLeiVi Sep 5 '16 at 21:45
  • what I don't get is that if, as the S"A says, one cannot figure out the directions, how does one know if one is facing north or south at all? – rosends Sep 5 '16 at 21:55
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    @Danno My reading of the Shulchan Shlomo avoids that question. – HaLeiVi Sep 5 '16 at 22:25
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    @Danno He explains why it makes sense to stand with your body toward one way while facing another. He is saying that if you are already heading east then turning your head, which would be north or south, is fine as mentioned earlier. And, if the direction you are going is north or south then by turning your head you might face east. He isn't saying that you know which is which. – HaLeiVi Sep 5 '16 at 22:47
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    He may be using a trail or path that is known to lead to a particular destination, so he's not relying on the cardinal directions. I do this all the time; I know a road or highway leads somewhere, but I don't know what direction I'm facing at any given time. – Jay Sep 6 '16 at 14:29

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