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Principles of Jewish Prayer

June 21, 2011
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At the center of Jewish life and worship for millennia, prayer was foundational for Yeshua [Jesus] and the Apostles, who regularly worshipped at synagogues (Luke 4:15–16) and frequently ascended to the Temple for the appointed times of prayer (Acts 3:1). Indeed, the assemblies of the first church patterned themselves after the core features of teaching and prayer that characterized Shabbat [Sabbath] synagogue services. Believers would hear the Apostles’ teaching and engage in (literally) “the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

This last reference may well be to the prevailing litany of Jewish prayers recited daily, such as the twice-daily Shema (Deut. 6:4–9; 11:13–21; Num. 15:37–41) and the thrice-daily Amidah(the Standing Prayer of eighteen benedictions). The prayer Yeshua taught His disciples is considered by many scholars to be a condensed version of the Amidah.

The great corpus of Israel’s devotional life from before, during, and after the time of Yeshua was collected in the Siddur, the Jewish Prayer Book. A thoughtful study of the Siddur(such as the Authorized Daily Prayer Bookby J.H. Hertz) will yield fruitful insights and important principles that can expand our understanding and enliven our practice of prayer.

1. Jewish prayer eschews any form of magic or incantation.

A magical worldview, unlike the biblical one, operates on the premise that the cosmos is permeated by impersonal powers and pantheistic forces that can be manipulated by esoteric knowledge or repetitive techniques, such as repeatedly invoking a mantra or the secret name of a deity. In some church settings, the name “Jesus” is repeated loudly, again and again—as if invoking His name frequently or forcefully enough will achieve the desired result. Yeshua Himself warned against this kind of “vain repetition” (Matt. 6:7, KJV), typical of the heathens or gentiles.

2. Jewish prayer is reckoned as the service of the heart.

It is an outpouring of the soul in heart-to-heart, person-to-person communication with the King of the Universe—not some force or power but a person created the cosmos, One who can be known and addressed by name. Thus praise, petition, and thanksgiving characterize Jewish prayer. The Sidduris suffused with expressions of adoration, affirmation, praise, celebration, and thanksgiving to the Lord God of Israel.

3. Jewish prayer displays a keen sense of corporate identity.

“Our Father, Our King” (Avinu, Malkeinu) is a typical form of address. Indeed, the full panoply of Jewish prayers is recited in the context of a minyan(quorum) at the synagogue, reinforcing this awareness. This same sense of community consciousness is seen in The Lord’s Prayer: “OurFather…Give usdaily bread…Forgive usour trespasses…Lead usnot into temptation…Deliver usfrom the evil one…” (Matt. 6:9–13). Personal praise and petitions surely have their place in prayer (consider David’s psalms, for instance), but in Messiah Yeshua, we have been joined to a covenant community of the faithful, even as fellow citizens of the commonwealth of Israel. Our prayers should reflect this corporate awareness and continually remind us of our collective responsibilities.

4. Jewish prayer focuses on the Kingdom of God.

The Sages were not so preoccupied with material needs as we in the West. They were consumed with a passion for Israel and indeed all the nations to submit to the Kingship of God and His redemptive reign. They earnestly petitioned for the wicked to be pulled down and for God’s righteousness to prevail, for salvation and justice to roll down like a mighty river. They longed for the day when the Lord would be one and His name one in all the earth, when the whole world would recognize the true and living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as King, and abide by His will. It is no coincidence then that this same passion burns at the heart of the prayer Yeshua taught His disciples: “Our Father…Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done”!

This article, used by permission, is part of a lengthier teaching, which can be found, along with many other wonderful resources, at www.jcstudies.com© 2010 Dwight A. Pryor and The Center for Judaic–Christian Studies.

 

By Dwight A. Pryor

Dwight Pryor went to be with the Lord on February 5, 2011.

Bridges for Peace wishes to honor Dwight’s memory through the publication of this article, one of so many he wrote in an attempt to bring others into closer communion with the Lord he loved.

Although the Yiddish word menschtechnically means human being, it has come to mean much more: the one who is trustworthy and honorable, whose word is rock solid, who embodies those traits that one would hope to find in a good friend or a trusted colleague, whose life is marked by dignity and a sense of what is right and responsible.

Such a man was Dwight Pryor, and I know that I am only one of thousands whose lives were dramatically changed by Dwight and his teachings. As founder of the Center for Judaic–Christian Studies, his dedication to the Word of God, his commitment to absolute truth, and his recognition of the responsibility he bore as a teacher of the Word were unshakable and deeply admirable. 

Dwight was one of the first to transport many of us to a new world, filled with Hebrew words and rabbinic teachings, a world where our Christianity was challenged with an ever deepening sense of what it really means to be a disciple of Yeshua, our Jewish Messiah. We celebrate his life and mourn his death. A mensch he was, and we were privileged to know him.

By Cheryl Hauer, International Development Director

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