An Excerpt from Jewish Literature – Mishnah (Second Century CE)

“…Rabbi Eliezer says: One who makes his prayer “set” [as though it is burdensome to him], his prayer does not constitute “pleading” [for Divine mercy]. Rabbi Yehoshua says: One who is traveling in a dangerous place should offer a brief prayer [and] say: Save, G-d, Your people, the remnant of Israel; at every period of transition let their needs be before You. You are the Source of all blessing, G-d, Who heeds prayer.

If one was riding a donkey, he should dismount from it [while he prays]. And if he is unable to dismount, he should turn his face [towards Jerusalem]. And if he is unable to turn his face, he should focus his heart toward the Holy of Holies [in the Temple in Jerusalem]. If one was sitting in a boat, or in a wagon, or on a raft, [when he prays] he should focus his heart toward the Holy of Holies…

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[One] should not stand up to pray unless he is in a serious frame of mind. The original pious ones used to wait one hour and then pray, in order to direct their hearts towards the Omnipresent. [While one is reciting Shemoneh Esrei,] even if the king greets him, he should not respond to him, and even if a snake wraps around his heel, he should not interrupt… They used to say about him, about Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa: When he would pray for the sick, he would say: This one will live and this one will die. They said to him: How do you know? He replied to them: If the prayer is fluent in my mouth, I know that it has been accepted; and if not, then I know that it has been torn up…” (Mishnah, Berachot 4-5)

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much for emphasizing the importance of prayer. The importance of seeking Our Most High, Blessed be He. As we pray towards the East.

    We are Blessed to go before Hashem through our High Priest Yeshua Ha Moshia and Our Melej Ha Olam.

    Be Blessed

  2. When you think about it, if the Holy of Holies is where God took up His residence among His people and from where He spoke with Moses and the High Priest and through them to His people, we can turn to the new Holy of Holies, Jesus, since He “tabernacled among us” (John 1) and speaks as God to God’s people who will hear Him and believe Him. When we approach Him, we can get close to Him, and we don’t have to fear being destroyed by God’s holiness as non-priests were warned during Tabernacle and Temple times.

  3. It’s not clear to me why God apparently needs reminding to that individuals need help? Is it a form of self-assurance to diminish anxiety in the person who prays or does God actually need gentle chiding in order to perform?

    • I do not think God has needs period. The Bible is full of similar prayers, though. I think this is a style of prayer.

  4. Shalom! Blessings! Prof. Shir, this is interesting! I’ve read that our greatest responsibility, commission, is our own heart. Yet the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?
    It strikes me that many people TODAY, likely pray frivolously, if you will. But we are entering the presence of G-d, turning towards Jerusalem, to the Kodesh HaKodeshiim.
    The part about ‘one should not stand to pray unless he is in a serious state of mind, and how the pious ones waited an hour before praying underscores tremendous piety, concentration, seriousness about every part of prayer. Humbly drawing near YHVH, Abba.

  5. Shalom. This has taught me to be more aware of my focus on God as the Holy of Holies when I am praying. I shall try to face East as I pray to our Father in the name of His Son. I try to pray Shema morning and night but I sometimes forget. Those who have been taught since childhood will not forget.

  6. Thank you Prof. It all makes much sense. I do need to quiet my heart these days before prayers. I need Focus, feeling unable to connect w my Heavenly Father. In the Holy of Holies is the throne of G-D; the Messiah’s atonement had torn the veil between the 2 in the 2nd temple. & our prayers are only fluent when the Holy Spirit is praying w us else demons fighting against our prayers. Yeshua is worthy of it all for fulfilling it that we can be reconciled to God & approach Him petitioning / rejoicing! Loving G-D!!

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Anna Gromova
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