In Likutei Moharan and other sources Rabbi Nachman of Breslov talks about personal prayer. He also mentions that Maimonides instructs about personal prayer.
Hitbodetut. This is just talking to God. Asking for personal help in your life, advice, and just working things out, or maybe just telling jokes or laughing at yourself to ease the tension. The Divine Spark is at the root of everything and at the root of your soul, just making everything exist and go. G-d is just sitting behind your eyes waiting to enter this world through your Joy in the Divine. Tevja from Fiddler on The Roof is a good example. “Dear Lord, you made many many poor people. I realize, of course, it’s no shame to be poor, but it’s no great honour, either. So what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?” Diddy diddy dum, and suddenly he and G-d are laughing and singing through the barn. That’s the True Treasure.
Yes, you have to approach G-d with respect and fear and love and the correct attitude, but that is what the Siddur is for. Regular prayer from the Siddur is for the soul what exercise is for the body.
The Divine Spark Exists within us so that we create and recreate the world every moment through our actions. The Divine sits within us and Breaths Itself into the world through us. We surrender ourselves every morning to the Divine within us through the prayer “Modeh Ani”. We/our bodies are temples. We are the home for the Divine. Just as a person who could not approach the Holy of Holies when the temple stood, so we cannot see the Divine within us while we live, although we are given glimpses. I do not believe this is a punishment to us. I believe there must be a degree of separation between the finite and The Eternal for the finite – meaning us – to exist.
We are finite. The universe is finite. But The Eternal, The Divine, Exists within us, if only through our desire and imagination. The Universe exists within our thought and our thought makes the universe real to us, just as G-d’s Thought allows us and the Universe to Exist. We are caretakers of this world, if not the entire universe, and we are Charged by G-d to keep this world and complete Creation. This is Tikkun Olam (completing/fixing the universe). I don’t pretend to know what that means, but it has something to do with acting with compassion towards others and being environmentally conscious. Tikkun Olam and Adonai Echod seem connected to me. To complete the universe we have to understand that we are all connected by a Divine Spark. Time is an illusion. Just as we are connected to the energy of the Big Bang and matter created in distant supernovas we are connected to every human being in the world.
That is what our body is. We are G-d’s Footstool, the foundation which connects the physical to The Divine. And we must maintain our bodies just as we maintain the well-being of the world. So we should exercise our bodies through physical exercise as well as our souls through prayer. The discipline that we learn through both physical exercise and prayer connects the Divine with the physical.
But I have learned a few things and I am making progress in my exercise program, both spiritual and physical, though at the root there is no difference between spirit and body.
A regular set program is good. You follow a workout sheet with listed stretches and exercises, marking the repetitions and the weights so you can see your progress. I’ll tell you that without physical exercise I am stiff and depressed and paranoid and confused. The depression comes from the inability to move and the paranoia and confusion comes from the depression. So exercise is a way to improve my body and mind so I can live better. Exercise is preparation for daily living.
The same is true for a prayer routine. Practicing a daily routine from the Siddur strengthens our resolve, our value system, our understanding and our belief. This is practice. This is exercise so that when it comes to speaking with G-d personally we do it correctly.