How Do Jews Pray?
June 6, 2007 § 35 Comments
Let me tell you a little secret… I have been waiting nearly 6 minutes to make a post like this, after looking over a popular post that I wrote a while back entitled, How Do Muslims Pray? I was going to hold onto it since I published something earlier on Muslims and health-care reform. But I thought this was an interesting topic and very different from the health-care reform issue and perhaps a bit more entertaining. So where do we start?
Well, lets start with the basics. Muslims believe that Ibrahim/Abraham (a.s.) is a prophet of Islam. The Lord of the Worlds says to the believers,
“O ye who believe! bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper.” (22:077)
He also commands,
“And strive hard in (the way of) Allah, (such) a striving a is due to Him; He has chosen you and has not laid upon you an hardship in religion; the faith of your father Abraham; He named you Muslims before and in this, that the Messenger may be a bearer of witness to you, and you may be bearers of witness to the people; therefore keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and hold fast by Allah; He is your Guardian; how excellent the Guardian and how excellent the Helper!” (22:078)
This is how Muslims find their origins in the monotheistic tradition and why Islam is one of the three Abrahamic faiths. However, we believe that Islam of todays Muslims was reestablished by the prophet Muhammad (a.s.) after a succession of warnings by prophets whom were guided by God and warned their communities against wrong-doing,
“So We have taught thee the inspired (Message), ‘Follow the ways of Abraham the True in Faith, and he joined not gods with Allah.'” (16:123)
It is in the likeness of Ibrahim/Abraham and the following prophets (a.s.) that Muhammad (a.s.) reestablished the ritual prayer for Muslims. As we are told in the Qur’an,
“Those were some of the prophets on whom Allah did bestow His Grace,- of the posterity of Adam, and of those who We carried (in the Ark) with Noah, and of the posterity of Abraham and Israel of those whom We guided and chose. Whenever the Signs of (Allah) Most Gracious were rehearsed to them, they would fall down in prostrate adoration and in tears.” (19:058)
Muslims believe that this practice of prostration was eventually lost due to vain pursuits of those generations after those earlier prophets,
“Now there hath succeeded them a later generation whom have ruined worship and have followed lusts. But they will meet deception.” (19:59)
However, perhaps among those whom have lost their original practice of prostration we can find remnants of this ancient prophetic tradition with the People of the Book (Jews and Christians). There is a book entitled, To Pray as a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin which is a guide of various Jewish ritual prayers. Which surprisingly shows a ritual prayer that is very familiar!
Unfortunately, this ritual prayer, the author explains was done by the ancient Jews and has been removed from contemporary practice. Although, the author suggests that this tradition of falling prostrate is still practiced on rare occasion,
“In most contemporary congregations very few people keep to the tradition of falling prostrate. Sometimes it is only the Prayer leader and the rabbi who does so. In more traditional congregations, however, some worshipers, men and women, will join the Prayer Leader and rabbi in the act of prostrating themselves. In Israeli synagogues, the practice is more widespread than in synagogues elsewhere. Since this is a position that we are unaccustomed to, one who has never done this before might very well demur. But once accomplished, the experience provides such a spiritual uplift that one looks forward to repeating it. Those willing to try this ancient ritual form on the rare occasions that call for it might welcome the following diagrams of the correct procedure”
In conclusion, I must say that it is interesting to read this jewish prayer guide and find that the ancient Jews like Muslims also performed an ablution/wash and also a call for the ritual Prayer. Perhaps, In a later installment of the, How Do ___ Pray? series we can find some interesting facts about the origins of Christian ritual prayers and ancient practices.
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