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How To Pray Without Ceasing

Another nice blurb from Prof. Marvin Wilson, this time from his book, Our Father Abraham, Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, pg. 157-156. This time dealing with the Jewish practice of offerring blessings to God, short prayers of thanks to God for everything, rainbows, thunder, the ability to urinate. Praise God for his goodness to the children of men. Pray without ceasing, stay connected to God in everything and at all times.

Prayer is the means by which Jews-—both ancient and modem- have stayed attuned to the concept that all of life is sacred. Jewish prayers tend to be short because the entire working day of an observant Jew is punctuated with sentence prayers. More than one hundred of these berakhot, "blessings," are recited throughout the day (cf. Mishnah, Berakhot 9:1-5). They customarily begin, Barukh Attah Adonai, “Blessed are you, O LORD." As King and Creator of the universe, God’s presence is acknowledged al all times and in every sphere of activity within his world. Moses commanded the Israelites to bless the Lord for his goodness (Deut. 8:10). Building on this and other texts, the rabbis taught, "It is forbidden to a man to enjoy anything of this world without a benediction. and if anyone enjoys anything of this world without a benediction, he commits sacrilege“ (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 35a). Hence a Jew recites a prayer upon hearing bad news and good news, when smelling fragrant plants, and when eating food or drinking wine. A Jew offers a prayer in the presence of thunder, lightning. rainbows, and comets. There is a prayer on seeing strangely formed persons, such as giants or dwarfs. A Jew is even instructed to offer a prayer (several times each day) to bless God that one is able to urinate. The prayer reads: “Blessed is He who has formed man in wisdom and created in him many orifices and many cavities. lt is fully known before the throne of Thy glory that if one of them should be [improperly] opened or one of them closed it would be impossible for a man to stand before Thee" (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 60b).

It is, therefore, not pure faeetiousness when, in Fiddler on the Roofi the rabbi is asked, “ls there a blessing for the Tsar'!", and again, “ls there a blessing [i.e. To God] for a sewing machine?” These Jews, in their Russian village. are reflecting the ancient Hebraic belief that everything is theological. This is the way one stays in touch with the Almighty and keeps a divine perspective on life. lt means constantly praising God for all things, with sentence prayers, throughout the day.  Abraham Heschel poignantly describes this Jewish mind-set as follows: “Saintliness was not thought to consist in specific acts, such as excessive prayer . . . but was an attitude bound up with all aaions, concomitant with all doings, accompanying and shaping all life's activities" Indeed, today ‘s Christians will fail to grasp Paul's admonition to “Pray without ceasing," that is, “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17), unless they understand that a main feature of Jewish prayer is its pervasiveness.

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