They said to Samuel, “Do not stop cryingout to the Lordour God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” — 1 Samuel 7:8
Pray continually. —1 Thessalonians 5:17
Prayer in Judaism is defined as “the work of the heart,” which profoundly changes the nature of prayer from one of entreating God to an act that transforms who we are – not what God does. Our devotions for the next three weeks are focused on different facets of prayer and what lessons we can learn about the power of our prayers. For more inspirational teachings about prayer, download our complimentary study.
How often would you say you pray each day? Once a day? Twice? Three or more times, if you include grace before meals? How about 100 prayers or more each day? Sounds a bit over the top, doesn’t it? But for the observant Jew, that’s exactly how often we pray on a daily basis!
Let me explain. Back in biblical times, prayer was most certainly offered independently, as a spontaneous emotional outburst of thanks or a petition to God, such as Hannah’s repeated, anguished prayers for a son in 1 Samuel.
Generally, though, prayers in biblical times were offered at the Temple in conjunction with the animal and grain sacrifices. When the Temple was destroyed and sacrificial worship ceased, prayers were substituted entirely for the sacrificial offerings. Subsequently, we Jews hold three daily prayer services — morning, afternoon, and evening — which correspond to the daily Temple sacrifices that they replaced.
This does not mean that Jews only pray in the synagogue or during the three formal worship services. Ideally, personal prayer occurs throughout the day. In fact, the observant Jew usually recites at least 100 mini prayers or blessings in the course of each day. That sounds like a lot until you consider the number of things we pray about.
For example, we recite a series of blessings in the morning to give thanks for our eyesight, intelligence, and strength. We offer blessings before and after enjoying food and drink — even just a snack — and when we hear thunder or see lightning, comets, mountains, or rivers. Both good and bad news will elicit a blessing, as will wearing new clothes or purchasing a new home.
The possibilities and opportunities are endless, but these blessings sprinkled throughout our days enable us to transform virtually every moment of our lives into a prayerful experience. When you think about it, this is just like the charge from the Jewish-trained and educated apostle Paul to the Greeks in Thessalonians in chapter 5: “Pray without ceasing” (v. 17, NASB). That would have been a natural way of life for Paul!
The idea is not about getting down on our knees or closing our eyes throughout the day. But rather, it’s about cultivating a prayerful attitude throughout the day. As we share our mundane thoughts and events with God, it solidifies our relationship with Him and our day’s activities become sanctified, imbued with profound spiritual significance.
That’s a habit worth forming, isn’t it?
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