By: William Jackson
HaShem created a system for atoning and worshiping Him, it was first the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8). About 500 years later the Tabernacle became the Temple. Then about 370 plus years after that the Jews were taken into Exile (1). The people were not able to sacrifice in the Temple at that time, so they used prayer as a substitute for sacrifice. “The offerings of our lips instead of bulls,” as Hosea said (2). This being said, we can draw a blueprint for prayer from HaShem’s Holy Sanctuary. Following the procedures of the Temple, “how do we pray?”.
We have three prayer warriors and their notable prayers to Hashem to draw from. There is the writer of Psalms; King David, the writer of Proverbs; King Solomon and Nehemiah who was instrumental in the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the exile. These prayers are;
a. King David’s prayer of forgiveness for his affair Psalm 51:3-21
b. King Solomon’s Prayer of dedication for the Temple; 1 Kings 8:22-61
c. Nehemiah’s prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem; Nehemiah 1:4-11
Like the Temple sacrifices which atoned for sin and praised Yahweh these prayers have the same basic components; honoring HaShem, repenting and then the prayers purpose.
1. Honoring YHVH
Before performing the sacrifices the priest had to “qadash” which is Hebrew for sanctify (Exodus 29). This also means to set yourself apart. By acknowledging YHVH and praising Him as our only Elohim we are setting ourselves apart. Remember many of the Israelites that complained to HaShem in the Book of Numbers ended up being killed (3). You see, when we don’t honor HaShem and just treat Him like a “Genie in a bottle”, we are being disrespectful. Starting our prayers off by praising and thanking Him centers us. How would you like it if an employee or a child kept coming to you for stuff but never showed their appreciation. This would probably affect how you would help them in the future.
Let’s look at the introductions in these prayers:
a. King David: Psalm 51:3
c. Nehemiah: Nehemiah 1:5
As we see with each of these 3 prayers they start off by praising HaShem. We must show Him the honor He rightly deserve and also communicate our humility in this process. We also might want to physically present ourselves correctly, please refer to “Prayer, The Physical Aspect” for more information o this topic (4).
2. Repenting for Sins
After we give homage to YHVH then we need to repent. When we read about the Tabernacle/Temple sacrifices we notice that they always lead with the atonement sacrifice (Leviticus 1:4, 2:1). Some could argue that the reason Abel’s offering was acceptable and Cain’s wasn’t was because of the order. Abel offered an animal sacrifice which, by Leviticus standards is for atonement. Cain offered a grain offering which was not acceptable to HaShem (Genesis 4:3-6). Could it be that HaShem wants a repented heart before we come to Him with our requests, (Psalm 51:19, Isaiah 57:15, Joel 2:12)?
Let’s look at the repenting portion in these prayers:
a. King David; Psalm 51:5-6
b. King Solomon; 1 Kings 8:31-36,46-51
c. Nehemiah: Nehemiah 1:6-7
Sometimes we don’t think there are any prevalent sins to repent for in our lives. Remember, the Hebrew for prayer is “tefilah” and the root word for tefilah is “to judge”, (pellel). So tefilah can be seen as a time of self-evaluation or self-judgment (5). This helps us ground ourselves in humility before beginning to ask for anything from HaShem. Search your mind for anywhere that you may fall short whether anger, divisiveness, lack of charity, holding a grudge or anything else that separates us from Him. Then we are to humbly go before Him offering these transgressions.
3. Pleads or Praise
This is the portion of the prayer is sometimes called the supplication. It is the main purpose to your prayer whether, repenting, asking for help, glorifying HaShem, or any other reason we want to commune with the Maker.
Let’s look at the supplication portion in these prayers:
a. King David; Psalm 51:7-17 (repenting)
b. King Solomon; 1 Kings 8:39-53 (hearing the peoples prayers)
If your like me, when I started my journey my prayers were straight to the point, to the supplication, my wants. Slowing down and giving the Maker of the whole wide word His due, at the beginning, is a sign of respect He is owed. What also makes sense is surrendering a part of myself, an unwanted part of my being that will bring me closer to Him. And then finally I will be at a point to sincerely and honestly give praise or ask for help from the Father.