Kavanah whilst Davening
In general, when performing a mitzvah one must have intent to fulfill that mitzvah (See Having Kavana for Mitzvot). Additionally, since one is reciting brachot when davening one must also ensure to have the right kavanah when reciting each brachah see Kavana During Brachot.
There are specific additional kavanot (intentions) one should have that are unique to davening:
Proper Frame of Mind for Davening
- One should not pray while one is in the state of sadness.
- One should not begin to daven while in a state of laughter and levity; rather, one should enter davening with a state of seriousness ("koved rosh").
- One should begin to pray with a sense of happiness in fulfilling the mitzva one is about to fulfill, similar to the joy one experiences when one is involved in the study and pursuit of Torah knowledge. This is why we recite Pesukei DeZimrah and Ashrei (words of Torah) before beginning Shacharit and Mincha.
Bringing the Proper "Korban"
- Chazal tell us that "regardless of whether one brings a large korban or a small one, as long as one's intentions are for heaven (one's korban is accepted)."  The same idea applies to Tefillah.
- Accordingly, if one can pray a lot with Kavanah or a little with Kavanah, clearly it is better to pray more. However if there are extenuating circumstances and it is not possible to pray a lot with Kavanah or one fears that if one prays more one will probably pray without Kavanah, one should pray less with Kavanah rather than more without Kavanah and it will be considered before Hashem as if one prayed a lot with Kavanah.
- Ben Ish Chai (Parshat Miketz, 5)
- Tosfot 31a s.v. Rabanan
- Menachot 110a
- Tur and Shulchan Aruch 1:4 write that it is preferable to pray a little with Kavanah than to pray a lot without Kavanah.
- Tur and Shulchan Aruch 1:4 write that it is preferable to pray a little with Kavanah than to pray a lot without Kavanah. Mishna Brurah 1:12 writes that clearly it is preferable to pray more with Kavanah than to pray less with Kavanah, however the Shulchan Aruch is talking about a case where such is not possible. Halacha Brurah 1:11 concurs.