Our Gemara on Amud Beis quotes a verse in Psalms (55:15)
אֲשֶׁ֣ר יַ֭חְדָּו נַמְתִּ֣יק ס֑וֹד בְּבֵ֥ית אֱ֝לֹהִ֗ים נְהַלֵּ֥ךְ בְּרָֽגֶשׁ׃
sweet was our fellowship; we walked together in God’s house.
Based on this verse, Ben Ish Chai (בן איש חי הלכות השנה א, מקץ), instructs one to pause a moment before entering a shul. During this moment he should meditate on the holiness of the place he is about to enter, G-d’s palace. He says it is important for a person’s spiritual and moral character development.
I will share with you, dear readers, I truly disliked davening for a long time. I am not just referring to my childhood. I would say at least through my 30’s I found the prayers to be insufferably long and obsequious. It is only later in my life, through much study and personal work, did I begin to grasp the meditative aspects and opportunities in these lengthy and verbose prayers. What they do not teach you in school, is exactly this, davening CANNOT be taught. And, it takes decades of work to begin to even mine a small speck of its potential.
Why am I telling you this, and how is it related to the teachings above? I will also share why I think davening eventually won my heart over. Though I found davening and shul to often be interminable, I always strove to respect the process. I found it puerile and adolescent to talk in shul, nor did I have much taste for leaving early, folding my talis during kaddish etc. Those acts of respect or disrespect spoke to me more than the actual prayer. I could understand holy and G-dly, I just could not understand lengthy, kvetchy prayer, let alone long rabbis speeches, misheberachs and obscure piyyutim that no one could understand. In any case, the concept of Shul and holy spoke to me, and I did my best to show respect in my behaviors.
For those of you who have a hard time with davening, don’t let that ruin your respect for the holiness of the place and process. After all, as Shulkhan Arukh (OH 1:4) says, “Better few supplications with concentration than much without concentration. טוב מעט תחנונים בכוונה מהרבות בלא כוונה.”
Translations Courtesy of Sefaria