Themes and Theology of Jewish Prayer

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Creation explains how the relationship originates: we are creatures brought into existence by God. As God’s creations, we have a loving relationship with God that allows us to turn to God on a daily basis and in times of need, and demands that God respond in our best interest. That does not mean that God always, immediately and fully grants our requests, but there is always a response.

Revelation explains how we Jews learn the laws and rules of the universe that we are expected to follow. Through prophets and teachers, beginning with Abraham and flowing through Mount Sinai, by means we often do not quite understand, God makes the knowledge we need available to us. In our liturgy, we thank God twice daily for the gift of revelation, an expression of God's love for the people Israel. On those days that portions of the Torah are read, we re-enact, as it were, the receiving of Torah at Mt. Sinai.

Redemption explains the past and the continuing involvement of God in the life of the Jewish people. The primal, historic experience of redemption was the Exodus from Egypt, and we are promised that redemption will occur in the future as it has in the past.

Thus, Jewish prayer is a compilation of affirmations, promises and demands reflecting the three themes Rosenzweig identified.

When referring to God’s activity in the world, Jewish liturgy frequently employs the continuing present tense form of the Hebrew verb--e.g. “--who lifts up those who fall…”--indicating that the action ascribed to God has been ongoing since the beginning of time and will continue indefinitely. Thus, God is understood as an active participant in the life of the universe, in the lives of humankind, and in the life of the Jewish people on a daily basis, as God has always been and always will be.

The act of praying is not only a recitation of words affirming ideas about God, but is an attempt to enter into God’s presence and engage in dialogue on a profound, intimate level.

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