Messianic Learning Feature Articles
Pleasing To Yah In Prayer
This article continues the series on the commands of our Redeemer and King, Yahushuah. The purpose of this teaching series is to expound upon the standards for moral human conduct, which Elohim has given us through our Lord (Adonai). "For you were sometimes darkness. But now you are light in Adonai. Walk as children of Light." (Ephesians 5:8)
Yahushuah transitions from teaching about almsgiving to instructing disciples (students of YAH's Word) about prayer with this verse. "When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites. For, they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that they may be seen by men. Verily, I say to you, they have their reward." (Matthew 6:5)
Strong's Concordance says the English word "synagogues" is translated from "sunagoge" (G4864), a Greek word that means "assemblage of persons; specifically a Jewish "synagogue" (the meeting or the place)." While many are familiar with Jewish ("Yahudim") synagogues, Bet Yeshurun Assembly (BYA) should note that Yahushuah speaks to all who gather in prayer as Strong's definition adds this: "by analogy a Christian church: - assembly, congregation."
Those who think Yahushuah's admonition is only for the Yahudim should consider how Thayer's Greek – English Lexicon explains the meaning of sunagoge: "A bringing together, gathering (as of fruits), a contracting; in the NT (New Testament), an assembling together of men, an assembly of men; an assembly of Jews formally gathered together to offer prayers and listen to the reading and expositions of the scriptures; assemblies of that sort were held every Sabbath and feast day, afterwards also on the second and fifth days of every week; name transferred to an assembly of Christians formally gathered together for religious purposes."
Greek-Hebrew Bible scholar, Spiros Zodiates, also says that Greek word means those who "lead together, assemble, a gathering, congregation, synagogue. [The congregation of Israel was designated by the term sunagoge or ekklesia (G1577), church. As the word was used, it did not imply the natural unity of the people, but a community established in a special way and for a special object. In the NT, where ekklesia, is translated as a name for God's Church (that is, the called out ones), sunagoge is used to designate the fellowship only in (Revelations 2:9; 3:9), where the unbelieving Jews as a body are called the "synagogue of Satan." See also (Acts 14:1; 17:1; 18:7). The synagogue of Satan is set as opposite to the church of God. (One aspect of synagogue, whereas it differed from ekklesia, is it could ambiguously refer to a building, or a people. The predominant usage in the NT is the former) A synagogue designated the Sabbath assembly of Jews (Acts 13:43) and designated the worshipping assembly of Jewish Christians (in James 2:2).
"Qahal" (H6951) is an equivalent Hebrew word to sunagoge. It also means "an assemblage, assembly, company, congregation and multitude." Reflect upon how vastly different was the humble approach to prayer of these ancient Israelite leaders. "Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel." (Numbers 14:5)
When Yahushuah identified certain people who prayed in congregations as "hypocrites," He referred to the leadership positions in YAH's assemblies known as the "scribes and Pharisees." "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You are like white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness. Thus, you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matthew 23:27-28)
Scribes, at the time of Yahushuah, were legal experts in the instructions of Elohim (Torah). These highly educated men were known for lengthy prayers, for being wise and for understanding Torah. Their scholarly training earned the accolades of people. But their arrogant nature earned them Yahushuah's disdain. "Beware of the scribes, who love to go in long clothing, love salutations in the marketplaces, the chief seats in the synagogues and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Who devour widows' houses and for pretence make long prayers. These shall receive greater damnation. (Mark 12:38-40)
Pharisees, at the time of Yahushuah, were also skilled teachers. Their instructions on religious traditions of men (e.g. Talmudic principles) often conflicted with Elohim's Will and Way of Life. They caused confusion among people about YAH's commands and instituted burdensome man-made rules that spiritually stymied those who were seeking YAH. In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trod one upon another, he began to say to his disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." (Luke 12:1) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For, you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men. For, you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them who are entering, to go in. (Matthew 23:13)
While scribes and Pharisees were entrusted with responsibilities for taking care of YAH's people, they tended more to their own self-interests rather than loving Elohim or expressing kindness to His people. "Then Yahushuah spoke to the multitude and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All therefore, whatever they bid you observe, that observe and do. But you do not according to their works. For, they say and do not. For, they bind heavy burdens, grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders. But they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men." (Matthew 23:1-5)
Such hypocrisy can creep into modern-day assemblies. So we do well to avoid praying with hearts like the scribes and Pharisees. While Yahushuah spoke of prayer posture, His message isn't about standing to pray, a common practice in His day. Scripture records that for the most part Yah's people stood, or lay prostrate, while praying. However, if the purpose for praying is to have others notice, it becomes a form of lip-service ("talking the talk, but not walking the walk"). "You, hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, 'This people draws nigh to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.'" (Matthew 15:7-8)
After teaching His disciples how not to pray, Yahushuah gives us an example of praying in a manner which pleases YAHUAH Elohim. "When you pray, enter into your closet, and when you shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you openly." (Matthew 6:6)
In both His prayer examples, Yahushuah speaks of reward for those who pray. If it's done to be seen by men, the reward comes from men. If the prayer pleases Elohim, the reward comes openly from our Heavenly Father. Perhaps it will be in the form of these words. "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things. I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Adonai." (Matthew 25:23)
To summarize, Yahushuah teaches BYA that when we gather amongst people, our prayers to Elohim aren't to be offered for the purpose of receiving recognition from others. It is far better to pray in solitude with YAH. In the next Shofar article, BYA will receive some more tips from Yahushuah about how to pray to YAHUAH Elohim.
May we truly blessed to learn how to pray humbly with love so that we are found to be pleasing in the eyes of YAHUAH, and may Yahushuah's mercy and grace be upon us when we fall short of Elohim's standards. Shalom, Elder Curt