Question: My Dad drags me to synagogue and insists that I stay with him for 20 minutes. The prayers mean nothing to me, so why should I comply?
Here’s a thought, I challenge you to try this.
When it’s time for the prayers, sit with your prayer book open and start reading. For the next twenty minutes, try not to take your eyes off the book. Try to maintain focus and concentration for the entire duration of the prayers.
I don’t mean to have mystical intentions or to meditate on anything in particular. Just look at the letters on the page without lifting your eyes.
It will be excruciatingly hard. At first you might only be able to last half a minute. But over time, if you persist, you will be able to hold focus for the entire twenty minutes.
This powerful brain exercise is much needed today. We live in a time of shortened attention spans and over-stimulated screen addictions. Most people would not even be still reading as far as this paragraph without getting distracted. By looking at your prayer book daily you will get a huge head start in life. Focus, discipline and persistence are tools that every successful person must have. You will not learn these skills from your phone. You will learn them from your prayer book.
Now you might argue, if I’m going to spend twenty minutes focusing on one thing, why not focus on a game or something that interests me, rather than a prayer book that doesn’t interest me at all? Well that’s the whole point: to focus on something that is not your thing. It’s not your interest, it’s not fun, it is something out of your norm. The discipline and self-control required to do something you are not in the mood of doing is itself an achievement, and a vital life skill.
This is actually the true purpose of prayer, to transcend yourself for a few moments a day. It will make you a better person. Believe it or not.
Mendel (Menachem) Bluming from many sources including Tanya Chapter 28