The Zohar, Chapter “Shemot (Exodus),” Item 368: When Rabbi Elazar was sitting while fasting, he was praying and said, “It is revealed and known to You, the Lord my God and the God of my fathers, that I have sacrificed my fat and my blood to You, and I boiled them with the warmth of the weakness of my body.”
There is a tremendous difference in whether I read these words from a prayer book, or something happens inside of me that causes an explosion from within, an outburst toward the Creator.
The feelings form inside of me, and they build into the words and phrases. I may not even know this language. I don’t know how it happens, but it is the consequence of my effort to equalize my desires with the Light and unite with It. The reaction of the Light and the desires occurs in the soul. These words are realized in my brain, the brain transmits the orders to the organs of speech, and I utter the words without knowing where they came from.
This is what true prayer should be like, when everything comes from within. From the union of the Lights and the Kelim inside the depth of creation, gradually with the fulfillment of the desire by the Light, the whole TANTA (a full Kli – Taamim, Nekudot, Tagin, Otiot) is built, until it reaches an expression through the organs of speech.
It is clear that Rabbi Elazar did not read this prayer from a prayer book, but he uttered it while existing in this state about which he spoke to the Creator. Before the destruction of the Second Temple, the nation of Israel was connected with the Creator, in the qualities of bestowal and love, thus the feeling in Rabbi Elazar’s heart, in his desire, constituted a prayer. It is written: “What is a prayer? It is work in the heart.”
However, the sages of the Great Assembly (Anshei Kneset Agdola) were aware of the imminent descent into egoism and concealment of the Creator. Thus they gathered a collection of prayers – states that a person needs to reach. They called it “Siddur,” the order of spiritual states that we need to go through inside, in our hearts, in our desires.
But since we are incapable of doing this during the exile, without a connection to the Light or the Creator, while the Upper Force is concealed, we read the words from a prayer book mechanically. Some people try to imagine what it could mean spiritually. Yet only while studying Kabbalah will the Light provoke the feelings, thoughts, sensations, words, and phrases of our prayer inside us, as work in the heart, rather than work in the organs of speech.
From the 1st part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 4/22/10, The Zohar