Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How is Jewish Prayer Different than Christian Prayer?

Well, I'm glad you asked.  I've written a little outline to help explain the distinctiveness of Jewish prayer:

Here's an overview of Jewish prayer:


Prayer is yearning for G-d.  Jewish prayer comes in a variety of forms, genres, modes, and liturgies.


The Siddur is the Jewish prayerbook.  Each sect has its own.  But Jews didn't always have a formulated Siddur:

"When Rabbi Gamaliel II canonized the early synagogue prayers, some of his contemporaries strongly dissented (Ber. 4:3).  They saw dangers inherent in the regulation of devotions," pgs. 26-27 Jewish Liturgy:  Prayer and Synagogue Service Through the Ages by Posner, Kaploun, and Cohen

 My opinion is that the siddur comes in handy for individual prayer when the individual is unsure what to say and it comes in handy for communal prayer so that everyone is on the same page so to speak.


Just as there are four chambers to a heart, there are four types of Jewish prayer (I'm doing a little midrash here--so don't sue me if I'm wrong!):

(1) petition;

(2) praise;

(3) study (yes, study is a form of worship);

(4) silence (it's good to be quiet on occasion)


Here's some of the important modes of Jewish prayer (in no particular order):

(1) the language should (ideally) be Hebrew (there's different views here of course);

(2) physical orientation:  one should pray toward the Temple (East).  If you don't miss the Temple now then why should you rejoice when Yeshua rebuilds it?  Plus, if the Temple is important to HaShem then it should be important to you as well;

(3) accessories:  head covering; tallit (the rectangular garment with tzitzit on it); tefillin (those little black boxes); sefer Torah, the ark (in which the sefer rests), the bimah (from which the sefer Torah is read aloud to the congregation);

(4) kavannah.  Two things:  (1) if you don't mean the prayer then why should HaShem listen to you? So mean it; (2) know before whom you are standing! [Ber. 28b]

(5) communal prayer:  the quorum for certain Jewish prayers is ten males.  This is called a minyan.  The minyan idea was invented by Gene Shlomovich.  Just kidding.  This is an old concept:

 "...minyan, from the Hebrew word for counting.  Since Scripture refers to the group of ten spies who reported back to Moses as an edah, or community, the Talmud infers that ten or more men constitute a congregation.  The Talmud also mentions the fact that Boaz 'took ten men of the elders of the city' as witnesses of his purchase of land from Naomi and of his marriage with Ruth." pg. 34 of Jewish Worship by Abraham Millgram


Judaization tends to be a naughty word not only in Christendom but also in Messianic Judaism.  I think I know why:  people think that Judaize refers to Rabbinic Judaism.  What I propose is that gentiles Judaize to the New Testament Judaism (which does overlap in certain areas with Rabbinic Judaism but is very much opposed in other areas in terms of practice and Theology).  This involves getting rid of your Gentile identity (1 Cor 12:2; Eph 4:17-24; Ephesians 2:1) and taking on your new identity as an Israelite (we don't say "Jew" since this term tends to refer to ethnic Jews and since Israelite is a covenantal term that has always included gentile converts to Judaism).  You might be a "Gentile in the flesh" but you don't have to act like one.  What's more important is your spiritual identity as a covenanted member/citizen of Israel (Eph. 2).

We need to act in such a way that people know that we are Israelites--and it takes a very specific Biblical culture to do that.  You can't do it within Christianity, which is anti-Judaic.  You must step into a pro-Judaic, inclusive religious culture:  Inclusionist Messianic Judaism.

No comments:

Post a Comment