As stated previously, prayer is NOT commanded in scripture. Nowhere does יהוה tell His people to pray, yet Abraham prayed in the morning, Isaac prayed in the day, and Jacob prayed at night. David, the author of many biblical prayers [T’hillim, or “Psalms”], echoed this sentiment in Psalm 55:18:
“Evening, and morning, and afternoon do I pray and cry out, and He will hear my voice”
Daniel is seen praying these three times a day in Babylon [Daniel 6:11]. Ezra created the ‘liturgy’ of prayer that would be used in Synagogues throughout the ages, and the times of the prayers coincide with the times of the offerings that were made in the Temple according to Moshe’s instruction in Torah. This liturgy has changed only slightly over time. Bat-Tzion has endeavored to go back to the original prayer liturgy of Ezra as instituted in the Synagogues very early on, consisting predominantly of blessings from the Torah and prayers from the Psalms, with the additions of prayers that we read in Brit Khadasha.
The predominant prayers in our liturgy are [but not limited to]: Find Daily Prayers Here
Blessing over the Children [Yeh’simkha]
L’Yom HaShabbat [Psalm 92]
Daily Psalms [seen on Links page]
The Disciples Prayer [or the Amidah]
There are other blessings and prayers that we pray both privately and corporately, but these are the more significant ones that warrant background explanation.
The Shema is customarily the “Greatest Command” in Judaism, and Messiah Yeshua supports that custom! Nowhere does the Torah say “The Shema is the greatest command”! BUT, Messiah Yeshua does in the Brit Khadasha, and in so doing, He supports a CUSTOM that was prevalent in Judaism in the first century, and still is today!
“Yeshua answered, “the most important commandment is this: “Shema! Yisrael! יהוה Eloheynu, יהוה Ekhad!” [HEAR, O Israel! יהוה is our G-d, יהוה is ONE”. Mark 12:29
Ezra and the prophets of his day established this, and instructed Israeli men to pray this passage, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, each day, twice a day, once in the evening and once in the morning. We do this, as it reminds us to love Elohim [G-d] with ALL of our being, spiritual and material. We also sing this prayer each Shabbat as the Torah is presented, to remind us to HEAR it! Shema means not only ‘hear’, but HEAR AND DO!
In our worship, we bless יהוה with the “Barkhu”, which simply means “we bless יהוה who is forever blessed”, [Ps 28:6, 41:12-13] and is basically a formal call to prayer for the congregation.
The Jewish concept of “prayer” comes from the word llpth [hitpalel], and has in it the concept of “self transformation”, the root of the word meaning “to judge”. Since we are commanded not to ‘judge’ others, we know it is יהוה who judges, and we are to judge ourselves in order to receive mercy from Him. We at Bat-Tzion do not view prayer as a time of seeking G-d for goodies, but a time of endeavoring to be “conformed to the image of the Son of G-d” by worshiping Him in our hearts, desiring to bring His pureness and Presence into our bodies and souls and our world, and to be transformed by HIS WORD. We do this “yakhad”, “together”, at the times of assembly, seeking transformation as a Body into the image of the Son.
After the Barkhu, we pray the V’shamru [Exodus 31:16-17], which is the command to Israel to keep the Sabbath FOREVER! It is a SIGN! We believe this is the “Sign of the Son of Man”, since Yeshua Himself was a Sabbath keeper. It is also a remembrance of the Creator, and of the Creation, two things the world has deliberately chosen to forget. [ II Peter 3:5 ] Might mankind’s deviation from Shabbat have contributed to evolutionary thought?
The Ma Tovu is “How beautiful are your tents, o Jacob, your tabernacles O Israel”, [Num 24:5, and other scriptures] which we believe alludes to the tallit we wear, and calls to mind the BLESSING that was meant by a gentile to be a CURSE. This reminds us that no matter how men try to curse us, יהוה will turn it into a BLESSING! Many are the curses of the world upon those who follow Messiah, but we overturn those curses with blessings.
The Aaronic Benediction is Numbers 6:24-26, which is done at the end of our services, since יהוה says “you shall bless Israel in this manner: you shall say to them….”. This reminds us that His NAME is upon us, so we go out in right behavior into the world. This blessing is sung with an ancient melody attributed to Aaron himself, which causes the words of the blessing to be firmly planted in the soul of the hearer, as music is well reputed to promote memory. The ‘difference’ with this blessing done by the leader is that his hands are raised, with his tallit over his head and arms. This is only a ‘picture’, demonstrating the ‘covering’ of the Ruakh HaKodesh over the congregation. But this rite is likely the most ‘unusual’ to the visitor. See the information on “tallit” for more explanation.
Yeh’simkha is “May He Make YOU”, and comes from Gen 48:20, which is how Israel instructed his twelve sons to bless all successive generations’ children as fathers. Abraham blessed Isaac, and Isaac blessed Jacob, Israel [Jacob] blessed all twelve of his sons, but instructed his sons to bless their children with this blessing: “May יהוה make you like Ephraim and like Menashe”. We believe this is for several reasons: first, Ephraim and Menashe were YOUNG when they received this blessing, while everyone else was a GROWN MAN when they received their fathers’ blessings. “In truth I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of Elohim LIKE A LITTLE CHILD shall in no wise enter therein.” [ Yeshua, Luke 18:17 ]. Further, Ephraim means “fruitful”, and Mehashe means “forget”. Yeshua said, “Here is how MY Father is glorified, the you bear MUCH FRUIT, so that you shall be my disciples”. [John 15:8] And to ‘forget’ our former ways and the offenses of those who offend us, and press on to the mark of the High Calling of Elohim, we are also instructed to forget, just as Joseph forgot how his brothers had treated him. [Phlm 3:13] And finally, Ephraim and Menashe were NOT part of the betrayal of the brothers. Ya’akov made Ephraim and Menashe HIS OWN CHILDREN. He adopted them! And as such, they were brothers with their father Joseph, who had been betrayed by the other brethren. Ephraim and Menashe, then, were the part of Israel that did not betray. All of these things are great desires we at Bat-Tzion have for our children, so we bless our children in this manner as well, also praying the Aaronic benediction at the same time. We do so at the Sabbath table in our homes, and during Shabbat as a community. On Shabbat, the dads gather around the children and the blessing is recited while it is sung. This is a ‘picture’ of Israel being gathered at the foot of the mountain entering into covenant with יהוה, [Exodus 19, Exodus 24] which we also desire for our children.
The Daily Psalms were prayed in the Temple each day. We see ourselves as the Beit HaElohim, the “House of G-d” [I Cor 3:16 ], and as priests in His House, so we pray the same prayers the Priests prayed daily in the Beit HaMikdash [Temple].
The Disciples’ Prayer is the prayer that Messiah taught to His Disciples in Mark 6:9-13. This prayer is modeled very similarly to the Eighteen Benedictions which the Pharisees were teaching to the Jews in the time of Messiah. As the Eighteen Benedictions are very long, we believe Messiah summarized what Ezra was communicating in The Disciples’ Prayer. Some of us pray the Amidah [Standing Prayer – another name for the 18 Benedictions], but some only pray the Disciples’ Prayer. Yeshua told His disciples, “when you STAND praying, forgive”. The Disciple’s Prayer is rooted in forgiveness, teaching us that whatever measure we use to forgive will be measured to us. It is important to remember to pray for our own forgiveness through Messiah Yeshua, but ALSO to remember TO FORGIVE others. This was also the sixth “benediction” of the 18 Benedictions of the Amidah. If we, as Messianic Jews, pray the Amidah, we do not recite number 12, which is actually the NINETEENTH, and is a CURSE. Our Messiah instructs us “Bless and DO NOT CURSE”, so we differ with mainstream Judaism on this prayer, which was added by Jews FOR Messianics in 150AD, who would not join mainstream Jews who believed Simon BarKokhba was the Messiah! But, we overturn this prayer as well with the Ma Tovu!
Eshet Khaiyil is a prayer that is traditionally sung by the husband in the home at the beginning of Shabbat. It means “Virtuous Woman”. It is a beautiful prayer contained in the book of Proverbs, chapter 31:10-31, and is thus “prophetic”. A proverb is a “mashal”, and is the same word used for “parable” in the Brit Khadasha, and for the first “prophecy” in scripture. This is the description of the “Bride” of Messiah, and as such, is prayed over our wives in our homes on Shabbat. The Shabbat has long been called “The Bride”. An ancient prayer, “L’kha Dodi Likrat Kallah”, or “Go out! my beloved, to meet the Bride”, speaks of the Sabbath as ‘the Bride’. L’kha Dodi is quoted in the book of Ephesus. Eshet Khaiyil speaks of a ‘woman of valor/virtue’. Every Jewish man is commanded to “make your wife happy” [Deut 24:5]. Recognizing her many accomplishments before יהוה certainly helps to do this. This prayer is therefore prayed over Jewish wives in the home on Shabbat.
Our Sabbath liturgy varies at times during the month, and on the feasts, but all of the prayers allude to Temple worship and the practices that were prevalent in the Temple and in the Synagogues, which Yeshua would have gladly participated in. It was, after all, His CUSTOM!