"Pray without Ceasing"

Recently I was reading a very good book entitled Our Father, Abraham by Marvin Wilson. He made this comment about Prayer in the life of a Jew.

"Prayer is the means by which Jews – both ancient and modern – have stayed attuned to the concept that all of life is sacred. Jewish prayers ten to be short because the entire working day of an observant Jew is punctuated with sentence prayers. More than one hundred of these bera-khot, “blessings,” are recited throughout the day (cf. Mishnah, Berakhot 9:1-5). They customarily begin, Barukh attah adonai, “Blessed are you, O LORD,” As King and Creator of the universe, God’s presence is acknowledged at all times and in every sphere of activity within his world. Moses commanded the Isrealites to bless the Lord for his goodness (Deut. 8:10). Building on this and other texts, the rabbis taught, “It is forbidden to a man to enjoy anything of this world without a benediction, he commits sacrilege” (Babylonia Talmud, Berakhot 35a). Hence a Jew recites a prayer upon hearing bad news and good news, when smelling fragrant plants, and when eating food or drinking wine. A jew offers a prayer in the presence of strangely formed persons, such as giants or dwarfs. A Jew is even instructed to offer a prayer (several times a day) to bless God that one is able to urinate. The prayer reads: “Blessed is He who has formed man in wisdom and created in him many orifices and many cavities. It is fully known before the throne of Thy glory that if one of them should be [improperly] opened or one of them closed it would be impossible for a man to stand before Thee” (Babylonia Talmud, Berakhot 60b).
It is, therefore, not pure facetiousness when, in Fiddler on the Roof, the rabbi is asked, “Is there a blessing for the Tsar?” , and again, “Is there a blessing [i.e., to God] for a sewing machine?” These Jews, in their Russian village, are reflecting the ancient Hebraic belief that everything is theological. This is the way one stays in touch with the Almighty and keeps a divine perspective on life. It means constantly praising God for all things, with sentence prayers, throughout the day. Abraham Heschel poignantly describes this Jewish mind-set as follows: “Saintliness was not thought to consist in specific acts, such as excessive prayer . . . but was an attitude bound up with all actions, concomitant with all doings, accompanying and shaping all life’s activities.” Indeed, today’s Christians will fail to grasp Paul’s admonition to “Pray without ceasing,” that is, “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17), unless they understand that a main feature of Jewish prayer is its pervasiveness. (157-8)."

Understood in this context prayer is simply not a matter of clasping the hands and bowing the knee. Prayer is a constant realization that everything come from the LORD no matter how mundane.


Bringing Together the Best of Culture

The incredible revelation of God in the face of our Lord made me think of an interesting interpretation I once heard of the 2 Corinthians 4:6 passage. It has to do with the cultural context out of which the Apostle Paul was writing. Paul was a Hebrew by birth, living in a Greek city, of Roman citizenship. The major pursuit of the Hebrew mind was the pursuit of Light as an ideal (The Lord is my light and salvation - Psalm 27:1). A major focus of Greek culture was the quest for knowledge (gnosis). This was central to Greek philosophy and learning. The sine quo non of Roman aspiration was found in the attainment of glory. All roads lead to Rome, the city that was not built in a day. Jesus Christ is the quintessence of Hebrew, Greek, and Roman culture. Paul takes the major pursuit of each and shows how in the face of Jesus each of these quests finds its perfect fulfillment. Apart from Jesus Hebrew revelation is going nowhere, Greek Philosophy is empty speculation (see Acts 17:23; Colossians 2:8), and Roman law has no foundation. In many ways the United States is a synthesis of Hebrew Revelation, Greek Philosophy, and Roman law. Ultimately we look to a person and not an idea to provide a cohesive life philosophy.


The Strong Man, The Disciplined Man

"Too often the moral downfall of men is blamed on some failure in their wives. That is a cowardly evasion of moral responsiblity. The man of disciplined character does not have to have a warm, responsive wife, who caters to his every impulse, to keep him in the path of virtue. He keeps himself, by the grace of God. If his relationship with his wife is happy. he is grateful; if it is not, he simply appropriates more grace, and demonstrates the man that he is. A weak man is a poor risk no matter how warm is his wife; a strong man will keep himself pure even if it means total abstinence the rest of his life. And it must emphatically be affirmed that this is not just a matter of being "made that way" or natural temperament; it is a matter of achieving complete subordination."

The Disciplined Life by Richard S. Taylor (pg. 28)


How God Relates Inversely

Excerpt from Provocations: Spiritual writings of Kierkegaard

"At the time when there were no churches and the Christians gathered together in catacombs as refugees and lawbreakers, God was close. Then came the churches, so many churches, such great, splendid churches and to the same degree God was distanced. For God's nearness is inversely related to externals, and this ascending scale (churches, many churches, splendid churches) is an increse in the sphere of appearance. Before Christianity became a doctrine, when it was only one or two affirmations expressed in one's life, God was closer. An with every increase and embellishment or doctrine, with every increase of "success," God was distanced. When there were no clergy and the Christians were all brothers, God was closer than when clergymen, many clergymen, a powerful ecclesiastical order, came into being. For clergymen are an increase in appearance, and God always relates inversely to outward show.

This is how Christendom has step by step by step become so distant from God. Christianity's history is one of alienation from God through the gradual strengthening of appearance. Or it might be said Christianity's history is one of the progressive removal of God - tactfully and polietly by building churches and monumental buildings, by a monstrous doctrinal system, with an incalculable host of preachers and professors. Established Christianity is about as far away from God as one can possibly get." (Page. 187,188)