Yesterday morning I was working out on my elliptical machine when I felt tiny arms hug me. Startled, I looked back and saw my cat, Little Bear, standing on his hind lets on the cover over the back wheel and hugging me. Awwww. I love my cats and dog. They are all so lovable and interesting.
At the Boy Scout Order of the Arrow meeting on Thursday evening, JJ found out that this weekend the OA members were planning to work at the nearby Camp, doing various projects/clean up. He really wanted to go, but he couldn’t get solid information about what time he was supposed to register, when it ended, and so on. So he reluctantly decided not to go. He will go instead with his Troop to clean up the trash along the roads today. Various families or groups “adopt” portions of roads in Michigan. Several times a year, they pick up the trash that has accumulated along their portion of road. It helps keep the roadsides looking nice.
EJ and I hope to work around the house today. We were going to work in the gardens, but it’s supposed to rain this weekend. I am eager to work out in the gardens, but so far it’s either been too cool, too rainy, or I have been too busy. I think that when the weather gets warm and nice, it will be easier to find time to work outside!
Eric’s brother-in-law retired from the military recently and he and his wife (EJ’s sister) are moving their family back to Michigan. BW is in Michigan this weekend to meet with a realtor about a house only 20 minutes from us!
I’m excited about our Hebrew classes tomorrow night. Chavrah and I try to always share some interesting information about the culture, history, mindset, etc., of Hebrew as we teach the language. I am going to teach about Jewish prayer this week. I would also like to teach about the Name of God, but I think I won’t have time so I’ll have to save that for the following week. Here are my notes about prayer for tomorrow’s class:
Chavrah and I want to start out each class with prayer. I thought that today I’d start with a Jewish blessing, but first I’d like to explain the Jewish blessing to you.
I Thess 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…” I’ve heard Christians over the years ask how a person can pray continually and give thanks in every circumstance? It was a mystery to them.
When the Gospels say that Jesus (or Yeshua, as he was called in Hebrew) prayed or gave a blessing, we usually think He prayed as we do—something like “Dear Lord, thank you for our food. Please bless it to our bodies. Amen.” But that is not the way that Yeshua prayed. Yeshua was born into a Jewish family, a Jewish culture, with Jewish traditions, and He would have prayed as the Jews did.
Praying continually and in every circumstance is not a mystery to the Jews. They have specific blessings that they pray when they get up in the morning, when they go to bed, and when they encounter various circumstances and experiences throughout their day. They have prayed these prayers for thousands of years. In Yeshua’s time, they would have started out the prayer as “Blessed are You.” For example, when Yeshua blessed bread, he would have prayed, “Blessed are You, Adonai, who brings forth bread from the earth.” Over the centuries, the Jews began starting out blessings with “Baruch attah Adonai, Eloheynu melech ha’olam”—or “Blessed are you, Adonai, King of the Universe…” The Hebrew4Christian website has listed many of the blessings that are prayed. http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Blessings/blessings.html
I grew up in a church tradition in which prayers were spontaneous prayers in our own words, said as if we are talking to a friend. The En-gedi Resource Center wrote that Protestants tend to disdain written prayers, preferring the intimacy of spontaneous prayer and feeling that a repeated prayer is empty and hollow. We wonder how a person could avoid just “going through the motions.” The answer is a concept that the rabbis developed known as “Kavanah.” The word means “direction,” “intention,” or “devotion,” and the idea behind praying with kavanah is that you set the direction of your thinking toward God, and toward praying the memorized prayer “with all your heart.”
A person who has kavanah focuses his entire being on prayer, and is undistracted by the chaos around him. He may have said the same prayer a thousand times, but his mind is sunk so deeply into the words that he is experiencing new insights and feelings from them today that he has never experienced before.
In synagogues, above the cabinet that holds the Torah scrolls (called an ark), there is often a plaque that says, “Know before whom you stand.” That is just what it means to have kavanah in prayer – to have a sense of standing in the presence of God, to know that you are addressing the sovereign Lord of the universe.
One of the benefits of praying as the Jews do is that it trains your heart to be thankful for every detail of your life. The Jewish blessing that I’d like to pray now is a blessing that is said before learning the Hebrew aleph-bet:
Blessed is the One who has taught my hand
to scribe the letters!