What Is a Prayer?
When concealment [of spirituality, the thought about bestowal and love of others] overpowers one and he comes to a state where the work [attainment of the property of bestowal and love of others] becomes tasteless, and he cannot picture and feel any love [of the Creator, the single property of love] and fear [that he won’t be able to respond to Him with the same love that he receives from Him], and he cannot do anything in holiness [reach it by his own strength], then his only counsel [this is how it becomes revealed to him] is to cry to the Creator to take pity on him [since he can no longer further it in any way himself] and remove the screen [the shield of his egoism] from his eyes and heart.
The issue of crying is a very important one. It is as our sages write: “All the gates were locked except for the gate of tears.” The world asks about that: If the gate of tears is not locked, what is the need for all other gates at all? [Why can’t one enter the upper world right through the gate of tears?] He said that it is like a person who asks his friend for some necessary object. This object touches his heart, and he asks and begs of him in every manner of prayer and plea. Yet, his friend pays no heed to all that. And when one sees that there is no longer reason for prayers and pleas [and sees no other solution], he then raises his voice in weeping [out of hopelessness and despair, despair because he desperately wants to reach the desired and hopelessness because he became convinced that it is beyond his power].
It is said about that: “All the gates were locked except for the gate of tears.” Thus, when was the gate of tears not locked? Precisely when all the gates [that one has tried in the attempts to enter the upper world] were locked [he became personally convinced of their uselessness]. It is then [he personally sees] that there is room for the gate of tears and then one sees that it was not locked [for him and only then is he able to use them, meaning to truly plea for redemption from egoism and acquiring the property of bestowal].
However, when the gate of prayer is open, the gate of tears and weeping is irrelevant. This is the meaning of the gate of tears being locked. Thus, when is the gate of tears not locked? Precisely when all the gates are locked, the gate of tears is open. This is because one still has the counsel of prayer and plea.
This is the meaning of “My soul shall weep in secret,” meaning when one comes to a state of concealment, then “My soul shall weep” because one has no other option.
– Baal HaSulam, Shamati (I Heard), Article No. 18, “What Is My Soul Shall Weep In Secret”