By: William Jackson
When many of us started off in our faith journeys, being new, we sometimes mimicked others. This included our worship and prayer. This may be true, but there needs to be a point that we verify our understandings in HaShem’s word. Religions and denominations have traditions and sometimes these traditions can distract us from HaShem’s word (Amos 5:21, Isaiah 1:11-16, Jeremiah 6:20). Even if they don’t, we owe it to our relationship with YHVH to ensure that it doesn’t. In addressing the 5 Ws of prayer (who, what, where, when, and why) of prayer we know who the “who” is, that’s us, but what about the other four “Ws”. Here today we will address the “when” and “where” using HaShem‘s word, the Tanakh (Old Testament). On Wednesday (April 22, 2015) we will follow up by address the “what” and “why” in an article titled “Prayer, The Spiritual Aspect”.
- How many times a day, and what times are we to pray:
We know that the Prophet Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:11), but when? Lamentations 2:19, Daniel 9:21 and Psalm 141:2 tell us that there is an evening prayer. That accounts for one out of three, but what about the other two? Not to worry, King David gives us the answer in Psalm 55:18 “Evening and morning and at noon…”. This is mirrored by Jewish Law where they are required to pray daily; morning, noon and evening (1). If we add to this our food blessings required in Deuteronomy 8:10, it would be several times a day. King David reinforces this requirement in Psalm 119:164.
- The direction we face during prayer:
In 966 BCE King Solomon dedication the first Temple. This Temple took the place of the Tabernacle as a place to pray and worship HaShem. In Solomon’s speech, he said six times to pray towards the Temple (1 Kings 8:29, 30, 35, 38, 42, 48), a bit of an overstatement but something most people don‘t do. In his speech, he made provisions for when the Israelites would be away from the Israel. In these cases they were to pray towards the Temple. He even made provisions for non Jews to pray towards the Temple (1 Kings 8:41-43). In addition to these six times in 1 Kings 8 there are eleven more places in Tanakh (Old Testament) where we are to face the Temple in prayer (2 Chronicles 6:20-21, 24, 26, 29, 34, 38, Psalms 5:8, 28:2, 138:2, Jonah 2:5) . For us in the United States, we should pray to the east, this is where the Temple is in relation to us (2).
- Praying Stances:
a. Primary Praying Positions
1) Prostrated (Hebrew word “Sagad”)
This is the humblest and most common position mentioned in Tanakh (Old Testament). Abraham assumed this before HaShem while HaShem was giving the covenant (Genesis 17). Also, this is the position Moses threw himself into when YHVH handed him the commandments (Exodus 34:1-9). So what does it look like to prostrate yourself? Merriam-Webster tells us it is to “stretched out with face on the ground in adoration or submission; also : lying flat” This supports the Torah in Genesis 17:3, Numbers 16:4 and Numbers 22:31 which explains this position as “fell on his face”. Although, this is not a position we see many people occupy, I think it does communicate the subservience we need to show HaShem our Master.
2) Kneeling (Hebrew word “Berak“)
This position is the second most addressed in Tanakh (Old Testament) and is probably the one position most people assume when it comes to prayer. It was the one used by King Solomon in public prayer during the first Temple dedication ceremony (1 Kings 8/2 Chronicles 6), and used by Daniel in private prayer (Daniel 6:11-12) during the Babylonian captivity.
3) Bowing (Hebrew word “Qadad”).
This is usually done in conjunction with the other positions. It shows respect and submission.
4) Raising hands
It’s not surprising to find examples of “raising hands” while praying in both Lamentations and the Psalms. Both Lamentations and Psalms are a series of passionate poems praising and worshipping HaShem (3) It is easy to understand the open gestures when reciting them. As a note, in Lamentations hands are being cast towards HaShem. Contrary to this, in some of the Psalms worshippers are lifting their hands towards the Temple (Psalm 28:2, 134:2). Understandably, in both cases they are worshipping YHVH.
b. Lesser praying positions
1) Standing: Genesis 24:12-14
2) Sitting: Judges 20:26
3) Facing a wall: Isaiah 38:2
4) Head between knees: 1 Kings 18:42
Note: It appears that we may pray in many position. Doing so respectfully seems to be the qualifier.
- Praying in Private or in Public:
For those that follow the Christian Messiah their New Testament contradicts itself; 1 Timothy 2:8 says pray publicly, while Matthew 6:5–8 rebukes praying in public saying to pray privately. I only bring this up because many of us left that environment in our pursuit to become more Torah centric. Yet still, those earlier teachings resonate in our heads. The answer was in the “kneeling” portion (Paragraph 3, a, 2) ) of this lesson. King Solomon prayed in a public setting because his prayer was for the benefit of the group, whereas Daniel prayed privately. Probably because his prayers were personal between Adonai and himself. Private or public prayers are not forbidden, they are situational dependant.
When we go on an interview or even a “date night”, we should always put in the effort to do it with respect to the situation. For example, even with the highest level of ambition and purest motives, if we showed up for either in a tie dye t-shirt and cut off jeans, it outwardly expresses our commitment. I believe HaShem hears our prayers (Psalm 34:18,145:18-19, Proverbs 15:29) but we owe it to Him to do it as a righteous person instead of somebody without humility.