“Defining deviancy down” was the title of an 1993 essay by New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in which he warned against accepting lower standards of behavior as normative.
Unfortunately we see this trend in spiritual activities in our community such as davening. We have accepted the fact that we generally don’t focus on what were saying during davening. It’s reached the point where many don’t even try for the halachically required focus during the Shema and first paragraph of Shemoneh Esrai.
Just like Senator Moynihan fought against this trend, so can we can. Focus during davening is possible and many people I know have worked hard to improve their davening. There are also minyanim that have lengthened their weekday Shacharis over the years so they can daven with a little more focus, even though most people need to get to work in the morning.
These individuals and minyanim have heeded the call for the need to increase emunah in our times. It’s become clear to them that we need to focus more on Hashem during davening, in order to increase our emunah in the remaining moments of our lives.
We can define davening up by focusing more when we daven! We can define davening up by asking our Rebbeim and Gabbaim to make the davening a little slower! And if enough of us heed this cry we can positively and practically have an amazing effect on our entire spiritual world.