Rav Kook Torah

Psalm 10: You Prepare Their Heart


תַּאֲוַת עֲנָוִים שָׁמַעְתָּ ה'; תָּכִין לִבָּם, תַּקְשִׁיב אָזְנֶךָ. (תהלים י:י"ז)

“God, You have heard the entreaty of the lowly. You prepare their hearts; may Your ear be attentive.” (Psalms 10:17)

The psalm speaks of God hearing the prayer of the downtrodden. Yet the expression תָּכִין לִבָּם — “You prepare their heart” — is puzzling. Is it not the supplicant who collects his thoughts and focuses his mind before beginning to pray? Why does the verse appear to assign the task of preparing the heart to God?

The Sages taught (Berachot 31), “One who prays should direct his heart to Heaven.” They based the requirement for directing the heart on this phrase, “You prepare their heart.” Again, it is not clear: who exactly is preparing the heart and mind?

Awareness of God’s Presence

There are two levels of kavanah (intention) in prayer. The first level is when we pay attention to the meaning of the words and the overall intention of our prayers. This is the basic level of kavanah.

A more advanced kavanah is attained when we are able to sense God’s universal presence. The Talmudic guidance to “direct our heart to Heaven” refers to this higher kavanah. We should contemplate upwards, elevating our thoughts to reflect on the sublimity of God’s Name.

This is how the Sages interpreted the verse: “You” — when we are conscious of You and Your infinite grandeur — this awareness “will prepare their hearts” — will help direct our hearts and minds in prayer.

This explanation sheds light on the conclusion of the verse. By meditating on God’s Name, we uplift the soul and fulfill the goal of prayer. A powerful prayer infused with such profound kavanah is more likely to be accepted.

Thus, “You” — when we focus on You and Your holy Name, this helps us “prepare the heart” to truly pray — and, as a result, “Your ear will be attentive” to answer our heartfelt prayers.

(Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, p. 131)