“Siddur”… To Put in Order

I grew up in a non-denominational church, of full-gospel variety. We believed in salvation through the blood of Jesus, water baptism by immersion, liberty in the Holy Spirit, healing—yes—even speaking in tongues. I saw miracles as a child and learned at a tender age that God answered prayer; but most of all, I grew to love the Lord and God’s people through my education and experiences in that safe harbor of Calvary Temple Church in Denver, Colorado.

You could say our church movement is a form of Protestantism, although we don’t really think of ourselves as Protestant. Most true disciples of Jesus don’t like the typical cloakes of religion fashioned today; we resist labels and names. We major on relationship with God through His only Son and all the fullness of life that encompasses.

We do believe in being committed to a body of like-minded believers. Some attend big churches or small congregations. Some have only gatherings in their homes. There are many varieties, practices, and forms with the same foundations of salvation and similar doctrine. Our movement thrives today; there is an independence and freedom that fosters growth. This is good and bad. The good is very good, and the bad, well, it’s really rotten. The off-brand kinds of “freedom” are dangerous. They can turn dark and suck the life out. Even worse, they lead to death.

My husband and I concentrate on reaching the Jew with the Good News of salvation. God called us to this. We believe the worst form of anti-Semitism is to withhold the knowledge of salvation to God’s chosen people. I could fill pages about this, but the point I want to make here is that the Church is beginning to embrace its Jewish roots. They are receiving the elder brother, the Jew and Messianic Jewish believers. They are learning about and embracing all things Jewish.

Yes, extreme, weird doctrines have sprung from this early movement; but there is a remnant in the Church that is the real deal and flourishing. Yeshua breaks the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, and there is a true place of unity.

There are also a lot of Jewish believers in Jesus or Yeshua around the globe. It is estimated there are over 20,000 in Israel alone! Imagine that? They are hated and misunderstood — persecuted and feared. The good news is that they are maturing and increasing in number. And they are unstoppable.

As the Messianic Jewish body grows, there is much interest from the Gentile churches. Everywhere we go, people ask about how to keep the Jewish Sabbath, how to keep the Jewish holidays in their homes. Not as legalistic measures to reach or secure God’s favor or forgiveness but to enrich the experience of walking with and knowing our Redeemer. Yeshua was and is from the offspring of King David. He lived as a Jew and His teachings are rooted in Jewish thought and customs.

As Gentile Christians, our faith grows fuller and deeper and broader when we have a bit of the Jewish context. So we teach on it and encourage it in our own lives and those around us. This hunger is growing in the Church.

But there is another root that is of great value although almost despised and forgotten. It is the place of our beginnings derived from the historical Church. The foundation, from which we spring today, although we are not mainstream, has security and strength because of many victorious, brave, and stouthearted Church fathers, both Catholic and Protestant.

A Church history timeline can be divided into four sections: Early, Imperial, Medieval, and Modern. Men from each period, sometimes mystics of the faith, forged vastly important foundations of theology—prayerfully and methodically, often sacrificially.

Although some have proven to be heretical and not applicable to us, we stand on the solid rock of truth these men of old expounded upon through the ages. Sadly, many grew anti-Semitic like Martin Luther. But this does not invalidate their contributions to the broad and deep river of belief in Jesus and the power of His cross in which we flow.

Now in my sixties, I am drawn more to the depth and richness we have received from the historical Churches, more grateful and curious about these foundations. I have developed a hunger for Church liturgy, and great Church music. My walk with God now demands a different style.

Hear me. This new me does not render the Charismatic or Revival Church movements as null and void. I love high worship and the sweet movement of the Holy Spirit among worshippers. God has promised to inhabit the praises of His people. There is nothing like it. High praise and worship feed my spirit.

But I am also finding I can worship in depth and truth through already written, theologically prescribed liturgy. I love Jewish liturgy or daily and holiday prayers — found in their prayer book, the Siddur. The root of this Hebrew word is “to put in order.” I love that! Although the prayers do not come from my head, they ring in my heart. Although they have been written from another hand and come through another spirit, I found joy and strength in repeating their words, even the same ones over and over.

How about the simple prayer of thanksgiving over the Sabbath bread on Erev Shabbat meal, “Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has created bread from the ground.”

Gentiles bless the food. Jewish people bless the God who creates the food! Each word has meaning and richness, and I never tire in repeating them. The truth bores through the hardness of my heart when I am attentive and fills it up with light and strength for another day.

How about the Mourners’ Kaddish or prayer repeated by Jewish grieving around the globe for centuries taken from Ezekiel 28:23.

Magnified and sanctified be God’s great name in the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom soon, in our lifetime.

Let us say: Amen.

May His great name be praised to all eternity.

Hallowed and honored, extolled and exalted, adored and acclaimed be the name of the Holy One, though He is above all the praises, hymns, and songs of adoration which men can utter. Let us say: Amen.

May God grant abundant peace and life to us and to all Israel. Let us say: Amen.

May He who ordains harmony in the universe grant peace to us and to all Israel. Let us say: Amen.

Here Jews are mourning the dead, but this prayer honors the living God and lifts your outlook up and above the grief. I love that. It radiates hope.

I have a beautiful story about how God changed my heart toward the Catholics once while in Rome. I harbored very ill feelings about them. You will find it here. After that experience changed me, I have explored some Catholic liturgy and prayer books as well — not as a way to God but as an avenue of new expression that deepens my own prayers and communion.

Here’s one taken from the Catholic daily prayer book. This is to obtain graces necessary for salvation. Honestly, I had never thought about needing grace to receive salvation. I may not agree with every thought: but in general, I find this prayer takes me to a greater understanding in receiving the gift of salvation that I had never considered.

Eternal Father, Thy Son has promised that Thou wilt grant us all the graces which we ask Thee for in His name. In the name, therefore, and by the merits of Jesus Christ, I ask the following graces for myself and for all mankind: And first, I pray Thee to give me a lively faith in all that the church teaches me. Enlighten me also, that I may know the vanity of the goods of this world, and the immensity of the Infinite Good that Thou art; make me also see the deformity of the sins I have committed, that I may humble myself and detest them as I ought; and, on the other hand, show me how worthy Thou art, by reason of Thy goodness, that I should love Thee with all my heart. Make me know also the love Thou has borne me, that from this day forward I may try to be grateful for so much goodness. Secondly, give me a firm confidence in Thy mercy of receiving the pardon of my sins, holy perseverance, and, finally, the glory of paradise, through the merits of Jesus Christ… 

 Thirdly, give me a great love toward Thee, which shall detach me from the love of this world and of myself, so that I may love other none but Thee, and that I may neither do nor desire anything else but what is for Thy glory.

 These are things I know and feel deeply and want to pray. Things that my faith is built upon. These are meditations that have become prayers for relationship with Jesus. Without these thoughts, I don’t think my spirit would go in that direction. I tend to consider myself and my immediate world in prayer. Maybe a few other requests that cross my path.

Now please know I am not advocating prayer to Mary or any Catholic belief system that is contrary to the foundations of faith upon which I stand. But these liturgical prayers written and offered by saints of old have great merit for my communion, daily.

Otherwise I find that my prayer life tends to spiral into selfishness. You know — to the great scripture about God giving us the desires of our hearts. And I can go back there in prayer many times a day. These liturgical prayers actually help me to focus on the one true thing in life that matters: Knowing Him and making Him known. It is good to concentrate on the depth and sacrifice of His gift offered instead of my list, which may or may not be noble.

I find comfort and communion in those prescribed prayers of others, yes; the ones that maybe made the original Protestants protest and break free from from the hold of the Catholic Church. Of course, I am not mocking this. God will not stand idolatry in any fashion.

But the saints who penned the ancient, liturgical prayers and verses, both Christian and Jewish, carried a passion for God that ignites a spark in me to carry the same torch in a dark world. Liturgy brightens my lamp. It puts “in order” my speech toward God and lets my faith grow in fertile soil. It guards against the destruction of the little foxes of narcissism; and in this day of great self absorption in and outside the church, life needs to be put in order, even our prayers.


5 thoughts on ““Siddur”… To Put in Order

  1. Bonnie this makes me all the more excited as I look forward to your teaching at our equip class!
    Although teaching on Sabbath rest I do hope that this being a prayer equip class you’ll bring this depth of revelation too! Raised Catholic I to value the richness of the prayer lifes of the saints who have gone before us!

    1. Mary Jo, I am sure as an ex-Catholic and a lover of prayer you appreciate those who have gone before you and made way for you through liturgical prayer. I’ll do my best in teaching at Gateway Equip class. Looking forward to it. Thanks for asking me.

      Bonnie

  2. Excellent, excellent honesty from a seeking heart. Too often we are too quick to catagorize, judge, and dismiss what others have held dear over the years– and miss the nuggets we can draw out if we pay attention instead of assuming “old equals dead.”

  3. Tara, you are so right. It is easy to close your eyes and ears to the past and miss the gold buried there. So much richness under the dust to help us on our way.

    Bonnie

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