The first thoughts upon awakening—and even more so, the first words spoken—have tremendous power and exert great influence on the rest of the day. They are the seeds which grow throughout the day.
This is why this first prayer of the day—recited even before washing our hands of the impurities of the night—is so important. Modeh Ani (“Thankful I am”) arouses the ani (the essential “I”), which is that part of us that exists transcendent of any impurities. It allows us to connect with God, essence to essence, which is why the name of God is omitted, as it represents a prayer that is beyond form or manifestation. It ends with rabba emunasecha, meaning “great is Your faith,” which can also be read as, “Great is Your faith in me”—the fact that You returned my soul to body shows that You believe in me. This serves as an introduction to other prayers—it helps us pray with conviction that we can make a difference. To truly pray, we need to believe in ourselves and that our prayers can have an effect. Noach did not pray to forestall the Flood because he was a “small believer”—he did not believe in himself, and, therefore, he did not pray for his generation since he was not convinced that his prayers could have an effect.
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