Each day, each daily prayer requires a different intention - "if he is able to say something new". (Berachot 29b) Proof for this lies in the essence of prayer, which is to redeem the 288 sparks from the broken vessels. This is the meaning of "uplifting the feminine waters" to malchut, which causes the two halves to unite [referring to the essential unification of G‑d].

Elevating these sparks comes through the extraneous thoughts that enter the mind during prayer. A wise person knows how to extract the essence of these thoughts, which are the sparks of holiness within the impure shell that forms the thought itself. For instance, lustful thoughts, which come from chesed, as it is written, "If a man takes his sister...it is chesed"; (Levit. 20:17) chesed at their essential root.

[According to most Biblical commentators, chesed in Aramaic means "shameful." The Baal Shem Tov, however, follows the Hebrew meaning of the word, which is "love" or "kindness." The underlying idea is that all desire, even the most illicit, has a root in holiness. However, that emotion fell to an impure, material state. The task of man, therefore, is to uplift all thoughts and emotions to their Supernal root.]

You should realize that the pleasure in these thoughts only exists because of the single spark of holiness within it. How much greater, then, is the pleasure of clinging to its root?

On two consecutive days, can it be said that one's thoughts are ever alike? Necessarily, then, the prayers one recites based on these ever changing thoughts must also be different. But it requires profound insight and intense concentration to align one's heart, mouth and thoughts. Certainly this is not the case if you pray by rote as you did yesterday and on other previous days. Your tongue just reels off the words, and your head bows by itself at the appropriate time, but your heart is missing.

For this reason, there are ten terms for prayer, which correspond to the ten attributes in malchut. Each day, you must repair another spark of the ten aspects of malchut, until you fix the last aspect and fully repent.

This is especially relevant for the generation before Moshiach, when the entire world will be rectified down to the "heels" at which time all the sparks of the universe will ascend. Then, "death will be swallowed up forever", (Isaiah 25:8) and Moshiach will come.

In accordance with this, you should remember that your prayers are not for yourself but for the sake of the Shechinah
[i.e. Divine Presence]. As the Arizal writes, "If you think about your own needs, the Shechinah cries out over you, 'G·d has delivered me into their hands; I am unable to rise'. (Lam. 1:14) But if your intention is for the good of the Shechinah, you will be answered immediately for 'If the Shechinah is there, they [the Supernal gates] immediately open for the supplicant'. (Tikunei Zohar p. 55a)

Furthermore, your request is included in bina, which is the ‘mother of all life.’ And since all souls are included in the Shechinah, you will be answered, as well. On the other hand, if you pray for the Shechinah in order to be answered, you make a partition... a wall, for all intents and purposes. May G·d enlighten us to serve Him in truth and simplicity!"

The sign that your prayers will be answered is alluded to in the verse, "You will direct their heart, Your ear will hear". (Psalms 10:17) If G·d helps you concentrate on your prayers, then certainly "Your ear will hear." Were it not an opportune time to enter the King's chamber and receive an answer, you would be unable to concentrate. But since you have entered before the King, your request will surely be granted, for nothing can prevent G·d from fulfilling your desires and heartfelt requests for He is the ultimate love and compassion.

Yet, there are times when you come before the King, but your request goes unanswered. This can be understood with the parable of the king whose consort has sinned. The king dismisses her, and she travels to a distant land. One day, the king must go there on royal affairs. When his consort hears that he is coming, she devises a plan to see him. She comes before him and pleads with him. She tells him how bitter her life has been since she left him, and she relates to him everything that happened to her since. Then, the king forgives her and fulfills her requests.

However, if she approaches him with threats and accusations, claiming that he betrayed her, he will not listen unless she finds him in good spirits. Then her words will make an impression on him, and he will realize that her claim of abandonment was correct and that his actions were unfitting for a king. Then he will fulfill her request and answer her favorably, despite the fact that she spoke harshly. This is known as the "Shechinah quarreling with her husband."

From Toldos Yaakov Yosef p. 181a; translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.
Published in Heart of Prayer by Tzvi Meir Cohn (www.baalshemtov.com)