Sunday, March 5, 2017

Notes on Prayer in the Bible -and an aside on Jewish influences on islam

Session 3 -March 5

Preface: One take away from the Oscar’s. Best documentary film winner: The White Helmets, on the volunteers who try to rescue civilians from the rubbles of Syria’s horrendous civil war.
The producer read a statement by the leader of the organization, Raed Saleh, quoting the Quran: ‘to save one life is to save all of humanity.
It is a beautiful quotation—and it is an opportunity to show how Islam is directly influenced by Jewish sources:
Here is the source, in the Quran. It follows the account of Cain and Able, in the previous verses:
Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.. . ..Surat l- maidah 5:32)
Where is this command to the children of Israel   found? Not in the text of the Bible, but in the
Mishnah, compiled 400 years before the time of Mohammed, and it too starts with the account of Cain and Able:
For thus we find in regard to Cain, who killed his brother, "The bloods of your brother scream out!" (Genesis 4:10) - the verse does not say blood of your brother, but bloods of your brother, because it was his blood and also the blood of his future offspring!
 "It was for this reason that man was first created as one person  to teach you that anyone who destroys a life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world; and anyone who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world."( Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5, on the procedure of examining witnesses in a capital offense).
There is so much, in both Christian and Moslem scriptures, that is a direct reflection of Jewish interpretations of the Bible, not only the Bible itself.
Back to my theme of prayer:
I must add an aside- last week, I mentioned that our prophets don’t so much “ Pray” , if praying is meant as “asking” ( the Latin precari "to ask earnestly, beg, entreat). They argue. & then, I thought about it. Arguing is a kind of prayer. You argue when you care deeply. You argue when you believe the other side also cares!  So, Abraham, argues, Moses argues, dezekiel complains that no one argues with God 23:30
And I sought a man among them to repair the wall or to stand in the breach before Me in behalf of this land, that I might not destroy it; but I found none. (  haomed baperetz)
Chasidic lore picks up on this theme-Baal Shem Tov, Kaddish of Levi Yitshak of Berdichev
I do not know of other religions that demonstrate a Jewish thought  like” hutzpah klepi maalah”- Arrogance( Hutzpah)  against the heavens, which works! You don’t go against the gods- think of Prometheus.

So are there no prayers in the Bible?
The Prophets- the Middle section of the bible-full of prayer- but prayer is personal, individual, not communal. Hannah prays silently in the sanctuary-and the Kohen Gadol; doesn’t know what she is doing!
Again-prayer for children  ! Samuel 1:6 p 952
After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose.—The priest Eli was sitting on the seat near the doorpost of the temple of the  In her wretchedness, she prayed to the LORD, weeping all the whileֹ, ׃As she kept on praying before the LORD, Eli watched her mouth.וְNow Hannah was praying in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice could not be heard. So Eli thought she was drunk.Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Sober up!” ׃And Hannah replied, “Oh no, my lord! I am a very unhappy woman. I have drunk no wine or other strong drink, but I have been pouring out my heart to the LORDי Do not take your maidservant for a worthless woman; I have only been speaking all this time out of my great anguish and distress.”Then go in peace,” said Eli, “and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”
Another example-prayer for healing
See our 2 top topics- children and
In those days Hezekiah fell dangerously ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “Thus said the LORD: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die; you will not get well.”
The doctor said so…
Hezekiah prays on his own.
Thereupon Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD. He said,
“Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before You sincerely and wholeheartedly, and have done what is pleasing to You.” And Hezekiah wept profusely. Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him :  ( namely, the disease is in remission, )He has 15 more years ahead of him.
Note- turning to a wall- wat does that presage? ( Kotel). Also, Rabbinic practice of actually standing in front of a wall- to be undisturbed and unseen byotehrs.
So- we have prayers for children prayers for health-we also have prayer for survival-
Non-Jews pray:
Jonah-the sailors pray-first to their gods, then to God. Jonah 1:14. P 966
The people of Nineveh-the pagans pray Jonah 3:8
And he had the word cried through Nineveh: “By decree of the king and his nobles: No man or beast—of flock or herd—shall taste anything! They shall not graze, and they shall not drink water! They shall be covered with sackcloth—man and beast—and shall cry mightily to God. Let everyone turn back from his evil ways and from the injustice of which he is guilty.Who knows but that God may turn and relent? He may turn back from His wrath, so that we do not perish.”
P 970
What other kind of prayer do we have in the Bible- Personal thanksgiving- The entire book of Psalms attributed to King David.
Quite expected that the introduction to every morning service- a selection from the book of Psalms-Psukei dezimra.
Ashrei- haleluyah
So we have,in the Bible, 2 kinds of worship. The formal, communal offering- animal, plant. The Avodah of the Temple.
And we have the intense, immediate personal prayer-not formulated, impromptu.

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