For those starting their journey into Messianic Jewish prayer, First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer (FSIMJP), by Aaron Eby, is a great place to start. Many people coming into Messianic Judaism find Messianic Jewish prayer a foreign affair. Therefore, there is a great need of resources to educate in the area of prayer from this perspective. Eby’s work is comprised of three sections. Part one is his teaching on prayer as a whole. Part two is his commentary on specific liturgical prayers. Part three contains the text of specific prayers in Hebrew and in English.
In part one, Eby begins by examining the role of Yeshua in our prayers. He explains the difference between a mediator and an intermediary, and the way Yeshua acts as a mediator in our prayers. He also addresses the common practice of followers of Yeshua to end our prayers with the phrase, “in the name of Yeshua.” Is this a valid expression in Messianic Jewish prayer? He then develops the basics of prayer, explaining things such as kavanah and the appointed times of prayer: Shacharit, Minchah and Ma’ariv. Eby also addresses the aversion to liturgy, a problem encountered by many evangelicals. He also addresses the misunderstanding of “vain repetitions” in relationship to liturgy, and many other obstacles that worshippers may encounter when beginning their journey of prayer. From there he delves into Yeshua’s teaching on prayer and how it should affect our prayers.
In part two, Eby helps the reader understand the reasoning behind a handful of the traditional prayers, as well as a few that have recently been created to represent Messianic Judaism’s unique identity and purpose. The new prayers include the “Hareini Mekasheir” and the “Declaration of Intent for Messianic Gentiles.” The traditional prayers included in the commentary are the Shema (Shma in FSIMJP), the Amidah, and the Avinu (the “Our Father” composed by Yeshua in the Gospels). One of the more interesting notes is his deviation from the traditional translation of the Avinu in regard to the phrase, “Give us today our daily bread.” Based on historical evidence from early church fathers such as Jerome, linguistic examination, rabbinic concurrence and theological continuity with the prayer as a whole, Eby sides with a growing number of scholars that this phrase should not be translated as “our daily bread,” but “our bread for tomorrow.”
Last, Eby includes these and other prayers in their entirety in the final section. They are given in both Hebrew and English in an attractive format.
Eby has spent many hours of research to prepare such a well-crafted resource as FSIMJP. Resources such as this are on the front line of a long list of resources needed to begin filling the void in regard to Messianic faith and practice. It is very much needed and appreciated, especially for the quality of scholarship that has been invested into it.
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