Part of a series on Core Beliefs of Judaism

 I have been asked questions about how Jews pray. Although spontaneous prayer is found throughout Torah, communal prayer became institutionalized during the post-Second Temple period. Jews use their prayer books, called  a siddur. It contains a set order of daily prayers. Prayer for a Jew involves a request or petition. Most prayers are those of praise to God. Some of the Psalms are individual, some communal prayers, as in Psalm 105.  The traditional prayer is the Amidah, a standing prayer containing 19 blessings, formally fixed. It has basically been unchanged since the 8th century, ascribed to the prophet Ezra and standardized after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It begins by praising God, asking three blessings: first noting the merits of Jewish ancestors and blessing the dead to be resurrected, then acknowledging God as King, and finally imitating an angelic choir which coronates God as King.

The middle section begins with petitions to know God’s will and to forgive past transgressions. They petition to seek redemption. The third portion describes what redemption will look like: pain and suffering will cease, economic prosperity will prevail, Jerusalem and the Temple will be rebuilt, Jews will be sovereign in Israel and finally the Moshiach will come. God is asked to accept the prayer, we thank Him for His miracles and ask for the blessing of peace. In some prayer books, especially those of Reform congregations, they speak of quickening the dead. No mention is made of a Moshiach because they don’t believe one will come. They speak of a messianic age that will bring peace and happiness. Reconstructionist, Conservative and Reform prayer books have been updated to make the liturgy more gender inclusive, including the word “matriarchal” when “patriarchal” is mentioned.

  • Observant Jews pray several times daily and say blessings over everyday activities, just as Mormons ask Heavenly Father for blessings over medical problems, family situations, trouble with children, taking trips, etc. 
  • A main difference is that Hebrew prayer – of ancient times that is also used today – is usually fixed in words and in nature. Here, from Judaism 101 are the main  prayers commonly said and their text:  

 

The tallit has macramaed (twined and knotted) fringes attached to the four corners of the tallit. These represent the total number of the 613 commandments that God gave the Hebrews and expected them to observe. Many of these admonitions are no longer of use – especially those relating to animal sacrifice in the temples of old. The tallit was originally worn only by rabbis and scholars on a daily basis, including also a special garment (tallit katan) worn beneath the man’s shirt. Since the Restoration of the Gospel both Levitical and Melchizedek priesthoods have been restored and the setting-apart of these Mormon priests is the modern and more correct way to acknowledge God’s bestowal of leadership and wisdom upon them.

Just as Mormons and other Christian faiths have a book of psalms to sing from, the Jewish people use a siddur. It contains a set order of daily prayers. These have been gathered over many hundreds of years and are fixed in nature. Each main division of Judaism has its own siddur. The prayers are accompanied by text that differs in scope and definition. Choosing a siddurrequires balancing several considerations. How traditional or radical a text do you want? How literal a translation? How much transliteration? Do you want a siddur that offers commentary to study, or one with devotional texts to deepen the basic prayer experience? Some of these prayers are sung, and all singing in Hebrew is a capella. Melodies are passed down and taught, one to another to retain ancient liturgical and phonological values. It is good to know, I think, that there are currently no prayers relating to animal sacrifices…

Shalom,

Marlena Tanya Muchnick
LDS author, speaker, columnist
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