The mashal is an obvious one. Hashem, The most powerful ruler is calling every day. He has set times to speak to us, and we brazenly and defiantly ignore Him, and lose our opportunity to develop our relationship with Him.
Our relationship with Hashem should be the most important aspect of our lives, but unfortunately, it is tossed to the backside due to our busy lives. Tefillah is our opportunity to nurture this relationship and reconnect to Hashem. So why do we rush through davening, if we daven at all? Why do we daydream and think of everything under the sun except for the words we are saying to The King of Kings?
One of the answers lies in a story told in the Gemara of the great R’ Yochanan ben Zakai. On his deathbed, his students gathered around him and asked him for a bracha. He blessed them that their fear of heaven should be like their fear of flesh-and-blood. His students were stunned and asked if it should only be like their fear of flesh-and-blood, not more?! To which the great R’ Yochanan ben Zakai replied “If only.”
We can learn a very important lesson from this Aggadata: that we should strive to place Hashem before us, where His presence is felt just as much as the presence of a person lehavdil is felt. This is not simple, as we see from the fact that R’ Yochanan ben Zakai responds “if only” to his very illustrious students. One therefore needs to work on placing Hashem before himself constantly. “Shevisi Hashem L’neggdi Tamid.” The Baalei Mussar give a practical example to accomplish this lofty ideal, that one should imagine presenting himself before a king when he takes the three steps forward before Shmoneh Esrei.
The Chafetz Chaim would embody this idea during his Shmoneh Esrei. Eyewitnesses recalled how, he would say the words of the Shmoneh Esrei as if he was having a conversation with someone. No shuckling, hand raising, or clapping, just straightforward saying the words of Tefillah, visibly talking to his King.
So, how can we daven better and nurture our relationship with Hashem? Speak to Him! The words of Shmoneh Esrei need to be said with the understanding that we are talking to Someone. We shouldn’t just rattle out words, we need to make our Tefillah into a conversation with Hashem. This takes preparation and hard work, but to actually speak with The King of Kings, it is well worth it.