Non-Jewish Prayer

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https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

By William Jackson

Many of us who are trying to live a Tanakh based life measure everything we do against His word.  We have adhered to erroneous teachings from our past religions.  In an effort to purify our current journey, we have chosen to refine our walk with the Tanakh, burning away anything tainted (Zechariah 13:9 and Malachi 3:3). As we get rid of the New Testament, crosses, and Messianic tzitzits, we must also flush out the old tenets from our mind and adopt those precepts that are only acceptable by the Father. Prayer is one of the cornerstones of our faith, but it needs to be refined.  We will address here how non-Jews can pray while remaining loyal exclusively to Tanakh, His written word.

tefilah

Where does the word prayer come from? The English root word for prayer means to beg or plead.   Conversely, the Hebrew word for prayer is Tefilah. This is derived from the Hebrew root word Pe-Lamed-Lamed and the word l’hitpalel, meaning to judge oneself 1. Since the original language of God’s written word is Hebrew, we should gravitate back to those original meanings before they became Anglicized in thought.  Just remember, God wants our repented heart (Psalm 34:19 and Psalm 51:19), so we should first go to Him in prayer of repentance, asking Him to help make us righteous before asking for supplications.

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In reading the Tanakh, it feels like the predominance of those who prayed to God and received His blessing were Jewish.  Interestingly, there were many non-Jews that spoke to the Master.  In the millennium before the first Jewish Patriarch (Abraham) there are several recorded relationships with God and humanity: Adam (Genesis 3:10), Eve (Genesis 3:13), Cain (Genesis 4:6-15), Enoch (Genesis 5:24), and Noah (Genesis 6:9). Even after Abraham, one of the more significant prayers came from Abraham’s servant, and the prayer was for a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:12-15).   After Judaism was established through Jacob, we see strong Jewish and non-Jewish affiliation with prayer.  For example, did you know that Moses prayed for Pharaoh (Exodus 8:4-26) or that the King of Persia prayed for a Jewish Prophet (Nehemiah 2:4)? Of course, then we have Jonah, who God sent to Nineveh and told him to tell the people to pray and repent (Jonah 3:8).  Consequently, Nineveh’s prayers saved 120,000 non-Jewish souls (Genesis 3:10).  As we can see, speaking prayers in the life of non-Jews is laced throughout scripture, historically speaking.

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It wasn’t just a historical matter – non-Jews’ act of praying to Israel’s God was mandated. King David’s Psalm 65 states twice that “all people should pray to God” (Verses 3 and 6).  These Psalms were probably written before the first Temple in 966 BCE.  That being said, with the first Temple dedication comes further confirmation that the non-Jews were supposed to pray to the God of Israel. In his dedication of the Temple, King Solomon addresses that foreign nations will be welcomed to pray to God by praying at or towards the Temple (2 Chronicles 6:32-33 and 1 Kings 8:41-43).  God responded to this idea in 2 Chronicles 7:15 with: “My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.” Over 200 years later, Isaiah 56:7 serves as an affirmation, confirming the previous statement. Here God says about the Temple “…My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” This is yet again echoed about another 200 years after Isaiah in Zechariah 8:20-22.  So now we have it from four separate sources within the Tanakh that the Temple is for all God’s people, Jews and non-Jews alike. God hears everyone’s prayers as long as that person is righteous Proverbs 15:8, 15:29, 28:9, Isaiah 1:15.

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So how are we to pray?  Well, the Tanakh gives numerous examples of prayers.  We should, however, first look towards the Psalms. The word Psalm is derived from the Greek translation psalmoi, meaning “instrumental music”2. The actual Hebrew word for this is “tehillim,” which is plural. The singular is “tehillah” = “song of praise.”3. A majority of the biblical Psalms or Tehillim are devoted to expressing praise or thanksgiving to God.  There are also other prayers in Tanakh. Here are some examples:

Anxiety: Psalm 34:5, 46:2-3, 91:9-11

Guidance: Genesis 24:12-15, Jeremiah 42:3, 1 Samuel 14:41, 23:10-11

Happiness: Psalm 86:4

Mercy: Isaiah 63:15, Jeremiah 10:23-24, Daniel 9:17-19

Praying for others: Genesis 18:23-25, Numbers 21:7, Deuteronomy 9:20, 26, 1 Samuel 7:5, 12:19, Isaiah 37:4, Jeremiah 29:7, 42:2, Lamentations 2:19, Daniel 9:20, Joel 2:17

Pregnancy: Genesis 20:17, 25:21, 30:17, 30:22, 1 Samuel 1:10-20

Repentance: Psalm 41:5, 65:3-4, Daniel 9:20

Rescue: Genesis 32:12, Psalm 54:3, 61:2-5, 69:14-19, 86:1-3, 88:2-4, 91:1-16, 118:5, 25, Isaiah 37:20, Joel 2:17

Sickness: Psalm 41:4, Isaiah 38:2-8, Jonah 2:8

Strength: Judges 16:28, Isaiah 41:10–11

Thanksgiving and Praise: Genesis 32:0-11, 1 Samuel 2:1, 2 Samuel 7:18-29, Psalm 42:9, Psalm 63:1-7, Psalm 66:17, Psalm 72:15, Psalm 118:21, Jeremiah 32:17-22, Daniel 9:4, Jonah 2:10, Habakkuk 3, Jude 1:24-25

Troubles: Psalm 4:2, Psalm 5:2 Psalm 18:6, Psalm 28, Psalm 39:13, Psalm 55:2-3, Psalm 91:1-16

Trouble with people gossiping about you: Psalm 41:5-10, Psalm 69, Psalm 109:4

Understanding: Daniel 10:12

Rabbi-praying-at-the-Western-Wall.preview

A hot topic is non-Jews who will turn to Jewish prayer (Siddur) to supplement what they have lost from their previous walk.  We should first ask ourselves where these Jewish prayers come from. It happened after the establishment of the first temple during the Babylonian captivity. Jewish leaders in Babylon codified a system of prayer that substituted the Temple service. They based this on the prophetic verse, “Our lips will substitute for sacrifices” (Hosea 14:3)4.  Jewish prayers are uniquely for the Jewish people.  Rabbi Eric Kotkin, an orthodox Rabbi, sums it up nicely by saying,

“Prayer is speaking to G-d.  So when speaking to G-d, one should be speaking the truth.  If a non-Jew were to use a prayer that represents themselves as Jewish, when they are not, it will not be a communication with G-d that is based in truth5

If God explains everything through King David and other figures in the Tanakh provided prayers, do we really need to turn to other sources?

Conclusion

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There is a lot to unlearn and learn with regards to all aspects of this journey.  As you might have noticed, the theme of anything when we are to commit ourselves further to our walk with the Master is to simply listen to Him.  For more understandings of prayer through the lens of God’s word, please look at these other articles:

Components of Our Prayers

Prayer, the Spiritual Aspect

Prayer, The Physical Aspect

 

References:

  1. Tracey R Rich, Prayers and Blessings, Tefilah: Prayer, Judaism 101, n.d.

 

  1. Murphy, Roland E. “Psalms”. In Coogan, Michael D.; Metzger, Bruce. The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford University Press (Page 626), 1993

 

  1. Emil G. Hirsch, PSALMS, Jewish Encyclopedia, n.d.

 

  1. Berel Wein, Prayer, Jewish History.org, February 21, 2011

 

  1. Rabbi Eric Kotkin, Can a non-Jew pray using specifically Jewish prayers like the Shema and the Amidah if they are sincere in believing what the prayer states? Jewish Values On-Line, n.d.
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Righteousness – Straight from Tanakh

By William Jackson

https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

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I was sitting in the Doctor’s office and the results were in.  The Doctor says, “Mr. Jackson, if you don’t have this surgery immediately you will become a quadriplegic”.  “Wow!” I thought. This seems pretty extreme, especially since my only symptom was numbness in my extremities .  I kept thinking that if it weren’t for these tests (x-rays, MRIs… etc.) and specialists (Doctors, Nurses… etc.), this silent killer would have blissfully taken away my life, or at least the quality of my life.  Coming to the conclusion that I needed a laminectomy on my own would have be impossible.  Imagine me trying to self-diagnose myself without the benefits of a MRI and the medical personnel who reads the images?  There is no way that I could have done all of that on my own.  The same thing holds true when it comes to assessing our own righteousness.  Without a comprehensive understanding of the standards and proper assistance, you would end up floundering. For instance, there are many people who perceive themselves as righteous when they are not. Likewise there are those who are righteous, but don’t think that they are. How does one know where they stand?

Why?

We should first start with an elementary question: “Why pursue righteousness?”  If you are reading this, you are probably somebody who takes your relationship with God pretty seriously.  Righteousness is a very important part of that relationship.  The definition of righteousness is “an attribute that implies that a person’s actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been ‘judged’ or ‘reckoned’ as leading a life that is pleasing to God.” Therefore it is implied anyone desiring a relationship with God would also desire to be righteous.  In addition, there are other benefits, which include:

  1. Receiving the love of God: Psalm 146:8, Proverbs 15:9
  2. Being protected and rescued by God:  Psalm 5:13, 34:16, 20, Proverbs 11:8, 21, 13:6, 18:10
  3. Receiving God’s rewards: Ezekiel 18:19, Psalm 58:12, 75:11, Proverbs 3:33, 11:18, 28, 12:21, 13:21, 25, 21:21 We also have all of Proverbs 10, which talks about the curse of the wicked and blessings for the righteous.
  4. Life: Ezekiel 18:9, 17, 19, 21, 27, 28, 32, Proverbs 10:2, 11:4, 19, 30, 12:28, 14:32, 21:21

Evaluating:

Now that we know the benefits of living righteously, how is can we go about being righteous? As stated earlier we need a reference to evaluate ourselves.  The Tanakh serves as this gauge.  Each of the following verses are linked to the Hebrew word “tsaddiq,” which means righteous.  These are statutes in the Tanakh one must meet to be considered righteous:

 

  1. Honor God:

 

  1. Behaving appropriately in our community and homes:

 

  1. Do not be deceitful:

 

  1. Be Charitable:

 

  1. Behavior in our marriages:

God is referred to as righteous over 50 times throughout the Tanakh (see note). No wonder King David in Psalm 143:2 tells God that compared to Him, no one is righteous.  Nevertheless, the Tanakh does establish that there were those who are considered righteous:  Noah (Genesis 6:9, 7:1, Ezekiel 14:14,20), Abraham (Genesis 15:6), Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14,20) and Job (Ezekiel 14:14,20).  We of course know these men were less than perfect, unlike God.  We must understand being righteous is not a permanent status.  As Psalms 11:5 tells us, God will test us.  This implies we could fail the test and sometimes lose our righteousness or even be considered wicked (Ezekiel 18:24).  Many fall short – even Job communicated his frustration with measuring up to God’s righteousness (Job 4:17, 15:14, 25:4). For that reason, we need to remember that if we are righteous today, maintaining that place is a challenge.  Righteousness is a vulnerable position, and we must guard it by adhering to His word.  Just remember as King Solomon said, if we fail His test the good news is we can recover:

Proverbs 24:16 For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there isn’t a righteous person on earth who does [only] good and never sins.

Accountability:

We spent a considerable amount of time determining the elements required for an individual to be considered righteous.  In the first paragraph we spoke about tests and machines used in the medical field that can assess our health, but we have not addressed a critical component.  That, of course, is the Doctor or Nurse.  Yes, we need an external source to help us confirm where we stand.  Think about it – if we went through life determining the scores of our own report cards we would all pass with “flying colors!”  As such, we need somebody who is at the same place in our faith walk or preferably further ahead.  This person has to know us well, and he or she can’t be afraid to “tell us like it is.”  This person is often a spouse but it can be somebody that you have chosen as an accountability partner. So why do we have to bother with accountability to a third party? Okay, let’s take charity as an example (since it appears to be very significant on the list of factors that comprise righteousness).  Many people consider themselves charitable but upon closer examination, you might see they have been stingy with a tip or that they do not donate time and/or money to the less fortunate.  An accountability partner or spouse might be capable of giving constructive criticism or possibly generating dialogue that would allow you to be more objective, and in doing so, you would be able to achieve an accurate self-appraisal.  When we are held accountable, our performance improves.

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Conclusion:

The pursuit of righteousness is an ongoing struggle.  In spite of there being promises, King Solomon was all too eager to tell us in Ecclesiastes that sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people (Ecclesiastes 7:15, 8:14, 9:2).  The frustration that comes from this downside can be a way of determining the sincerity of our quest.  If we are doing it for the reward and not the relationship with our Maker, then we will be subject to resentment. Remember, when we do something without desiring something more, our sincerity has become genuine.

DANIEL-IN-PRAYER

Note: Verses where God is considered righteous; Deuteronomy 32:4, Judges 5:11, 1 Samuel 12:7, Isaiah 5:16, 24:16, 26:7, 42:21, Jeremiah 11:20, 23:6, 33:16, Zephaniah 3:5, Psalm 7:12, 18, 9:5, 11:7, 22:32, 35:28, 36:7, 11, 48:11, 50:6, 51:16, 71:15, 19, 24, 72:1, 88:13, 89:15, 17, 97:2, 6, 12, 103:17, 106:31, 111:3, 112:3, 4, 116:5, 119:7, 40, 62, 75, 106, 123, 137, 138, 142, 144, 164, 172, 129:4, 143:1, 143:11, 145:7, 17, Job 36:3, 37:23, and Daniel 9:7