On the third day in Moscow, we convered many subjects relating to Torah/Holy Instruction and Avodah/Jewish Prayer, as well as G'milut Hasadim [Deeds of Lovingkiness], and Ritual Life. These are four panels of our Cube of Messianic Jewish Spirituality, which I taught on earlier in the week, and which constituted the integrating center of our course. Here is one of the lessons I taught on this day.
Reuven Hammer teaches us the following about the origins of Jewish liturgical prayer.
The earliest reference we have to an order of prayer is found in a section of the Mishnah Tamid 5:1. It is the record not of a public service, but of a private one conducted by the priests alone.
Describing the way in which the daily morning sacrifice, the tamid, was offered, the Mishna tells us that after completing the sacrifice, the priests left the sacrificial court and went down to the Hall of Hewn Stone, a chamber in the Temple complex which was used for large gatherings, including the meeting of the Great Court (the Sanhedrin). This room was not part of the sacred area of sacrifice or the public courts in which people stood to witness the ritual.
The text continues:
The leader said to them, "Recite one blessing," and they blessed.
They recited the Ten Declarations, "Shema," "And it shall come to pass,"
"And He said..."
They blessed the people with three blessings: "True and steadfast," "The service" and the blessing of the Priests.
In other words, sometime prior to the year 70 CE, there already existed an order of prayer, a siddur, if you will, for a service that was recited daily by the priests.
Unfortunately, we do not have a similar record of an order of service for laymen, nor did laymen participate in this service. It was private, exclusively for the priests. No one else was present. Therefore we cannot say if it reflected prayers uttered by Jews elsewhere or not. Perhaps this was the service from which non-priests later copied their liturgical order, expanding it for more general needs. In any case, this service was in no way part of the sacrificial order. If anything, it interrupted the sacrifices, since it was only afterward that the priests returned to the Temple proper to offer the incense and conclude the Temple service...
This service was well-suited to the priests. Having offered the daily sacrifice, they proclaimed the blessedness of the God whom they served and in whose sanctuary they officiated. They read from the words of that God, reenacting the ceremonies of acceptance of God, His word, and the basic doctrines of Torah. They proclaimed their belief in the truth of the Torah, after which they prayed that God accept the service of the people and bless them....[Earlier] the sacrificial service had been totally devoid of the spoken word. But the force and importance of the word divorced from sacrifice as a method of communicating with God had become so important by the period of the Second Temple that the priests themselves, the very guardians of the sacrificial rites, sought to incorporate it into their own daily experience. It was as if the sacrificial ritual was insufficient if performed by officiants who did not make clear that the accepted God and His Torah or who did not petition the Lord for the good of Israel.
Although well suited to the specific needs of the priests, this service also contains the basic elements of every Jewish worship service. It begins with praise of God, continues with Torah, and concludes with petitionary prayer. Praise, Torah and petition describe all of Jewish worship. [The foregoing comments by Reuven Hammer found on the web at http://www.jhom.com/topics/firsts/siddur.html]
The connection between sacrifices and prayer is strong in Jewish life. It is so natural that we take it for granted. For example that when people are portrayed in Tanach as offering sacrifices, prayer is always part of the process. Prayer and sacrifice are inextricably intertwined. So it is that Abraham built altars and called upon the Name of the LORD [in prayer], and when Elijah built his altar on Mt Carmel, we read, "When it was time to present the meal offering [mincha], the prophet Elijah came forward and said, 'O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaasc, and Israel! Let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are G-d, for you have turned their hearts backward. Then fire from the LORD descended and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the earth and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When they saw this, all the people flung themselves on their faces and cried out, 'The LORD alone is God! The LORD alone is God!" [1 Kings 18:36-39].
Why did Elijah wait until the time of the meal offering to call upon G-d in prayer? Because it was at approximately 3:00 PM that the priests would be offering the evening offering in the Temple, and he knew that this was the most appropriate time to offer this crucial prayer. And why is it that we read in Daniel chapter six that Daniel prayed three times a day with his window open toward Jerusalem? Because, even though the Temple was no longer standing, these three times a day were the times when sacrifice would be offered in the Temple, and would be the appropriate time to pray. And by the way, it is certain that he prayed prayers similar to those the priests used to pray in the Hall of Hewn Stone in connection with their own sacrificial service.
Why do we read of the Sh'lichim Yochan and Kefa going up to the Temple "at the hour of prayer, at three o'clock in the afternoon" [Acts 3:1]? Why was it the hour or prayer? Because it was the time when the afternoon sacrifice [mincha] was being offered, and sacrifice and prayer were meant to go together. This is the same reason why Cornelius is praying at about three o'clock in the afternoon when he is visited by the angel [Acts 10:3]. Cornelius was a god-fearer, meaning that although he was not a convert to Judaism, having not been circumcised and fully accepted the yoke of the commandments, he nevertheless followed Jewish patterns of piety, attended synagogue and admired the Jewish way of life. Notice that he prayed when the sacrifices were being offered, even though he was not at the Temple, just as Daniel prayed during the time of sacrifice even when the [First] Temple lay in ruins.
And notice too that Matthew 27:46 says it was about 3:00 PM when Yeshua died. Could there be some connection here with the fact that he was our atoning sacrifice?
To this day, our people pray three times a day because of the pattern of sacrifice and prayer which prevailed when the Temple stood.
In Jewish life, there are three daily prayers, shacharit (the morning service), minchah (the afternoon service) and ma'ariv (the evening prayer). Shacharit and minchah correspond to the morning and evening daily sacrifice; the tamid. This was a type of olah (burnt offering) that was brought every day of the year, including Shabbat. No sacrifices were ever brought at night, however, Jewish tradition suggests that ma'ariv corresponds to the burning of the limbs of the korbanot that had been brought during the day. This could be completed at night if there was insufficient time for them to be burnt during the day.
Shacharit (Morning Service)
Mincha (Afternoon Service)
Arvit (Evening Service)
Here are some reasons why Israel is responsible to offer these kinds of prayers regularly, and why we Messianic Jews should do so above all:
Although they do not realize it, it is only through the ministry of Yeshua the Great High Priest, that the prayers of Israel have any efficacy. But this has long been God's call on our people: to offer prayers, praises, thanksgivings, petitions, as the people of Hashem.
In the Tanach, all sacrifices were to be seasoned with salt. Yeshua told his talmidim, "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled under foot" [Matt. 5:13]. We are the salt on the sacrifices of the prayers of Israel--that is part of our function in the world. The only question is, will we play our part?