The first step to every inner intention is to clearly understand the words of the prayer book.
Listening to the words one says from the prayer book, on the most basic level, is the foundation for inner listening.
Only when one hears the words, can he hear also what lies beyond the words.
The notion of "understanding the words" can be defined on many levels.
But it surely contains the simple notion of understanding the plain meaning of the words.
This is what separates one who understands a language from one who does not.
And when one does not understand the language, he cannot hope that prayer will have an effect on a higher level of intention.
In previous generations, there were people who reached high levels of religious fervor by reciting words from a prayer book that they did not comprehend.
A person would hear something, give it a meaning–right or wrong–and have from it a holy enthusiasm.
That blend of ignorance and simplicity no longer exists.
For better or worse, we have left behind that world of simple faith.
We cannot build any deep connection on words that we do not understand.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From the new edition of The Thirteen Petalled Rose (2010), p.138, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz