The Amidah Prayer: A New Translation

The prayer Jesus taught his disciples, The Lord’s Prayer, is most likely an abbreviated version of the Amidah (“Standing,” in Hebrew) or Eighteen Benedictions. I think it is important for Christians to be familiar with this central prayer of Jewish religious life.1

The prayer is very ancient, some of the changes to it being made 200 years before the time of Jesus. The prayer is also very beautiful, full of scriptural quotations and allusions. Every Jew was obligated to pray the Eighteen Benedictions daily. However, in times of emergency, one was permitted to pray a shortened form of the Eighteen, such as the Lord’s Prayer.

Rabbi Eliezer, a younger contemporary of Jesus, taught this abbreviation of the Eighteen:

May your will be done in heaven above, grant peace of mind to those who fear you [on earth] below, and do what seems best to you. Blessed are you, O LORD, who answers prayer.

Note the phrases “your will be done” and “in heaven above…[on earth] below” are both also found in the Lord’s Prayer. The Phrase “grant peace of mind” in the prayer Eliezer taught parallels the phrase “deliver us from evil” in the prayer Jesus taught.

The characterizations of God, which always follow “Blessed are you, O Lord”), can be used to summarize each benediction. If they are
strung together, they comprise a nice description of God:

God is the shield of Abraham, the one who revives the dead, the holy God, the gracious giver of knowledge, the one who delights in repentance, the one who is merciful and always ready to forgive, the redeemer of Israel, the healer of Israel’s sick, the one who blesses the years, the one who gathers Israel’s dispersed, the King who loves righteousness and justice, the one who smashes enemies and humbles the arrogant, the support and stay of the righteous, the one who rebuilds Jerusalem, the one who causes salvation to flourish, the one who hears prayer, the one who restores the divine presence to Zion, the one whose Name is the Beneficent One and to whom it is fitting to give thanks, and the one who blesses Israel with peace.

(Note that the headings summarize each benediction or blessing are for reference only, and are not recited.)

Praying hands

THE AMIDAH

1. THE GOD OF HISTORY:

Blessed are you, O Lord our God and God of our
fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the
great, mighty and revered God, the Most High God who bestows
lovingkindnesses, the creator of all things, who remembers the good deeds
of the patriarchs and in love will bring a redeemer to their children’s
children for his name’s sake. O king, helper, savior and shield.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the shield of Abraham.


2. THE GOD OF NATURE:

You, O Lord, are mighty forever, you revive the
dead, you have the power to save. [From the end of Sukkot until the eve
of Passover, insert: You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall.]
You sustain the living with lovingkindness, you revive the dead with great
mercy, you support the falling, heal the sick, set free the bound and keep
faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like you, O doer of mighty
acts? Who resembles you, a king who puts to death and restores to life,
and causes salvation to flourish? And you are certain to revive the dead.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who revives the dead.

3. SANCTIFICATION OF GOD:

[Reader] We will sanctify your name in this world just as it is sanctified in the highest heavens, as it is written by your prophet: “And they call out to one another and say:
[Cong.] ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.'” [Isa. 6:3]
[Reader] Those facing them praise God saying:
[Cong.] “Blessed be the Presence of the LORD in his place.” [Ezek. 3:12]
[Reader] And in your Holy Words it is written, saying,
[Cong.] “The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah.” [Ps. 146:10]
[Reader] Throughout all generations we will declare your greatness, and to all eternity we will proclaim your holiness. Your praise, O our God, shall never depart from our mouth, for you are a great and holy God and King. Blessed are you, O Lord, the holy God. You are holy, and your name is holy, and holy beings praise you daily. (Selah.) Blessed are you, O Lord, the holy God.

4. PRAYER FOR UNDERSTANDING:

You favor men with knowledge, and teach mortals understanding.
O favor us with the knowledge,
the understanding and the insight that come from you.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the gracious giver of knowledge.

5. FOR REPENTANCE:

Bring us back, O our father, to your Instruction;
draw us near, O our King, to your service;
and cause us to return to you in perfect repentance.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who delights in repentance.

6. FOR FORGIVENESS:

Forgive us, O our Father, for we have sinned;
pardon us, O our King, for we have transgressed; for you pardon and forgive.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who is merciful and always ready to forgive.

7. FOR DELIVERANCE FROM AFFLICTION:

Look upon our affliction and plead our cause,
and redeem us speedily for your name’s sake,
for you are a mighty redeemer.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the redeemer of Israel.

8. FOR HEALING:

Heal us, O Lord, and we will be healed;
save us and we will be saved, for you are our praise.
O grant a perfect healing to all our ailments,
for you, almighty King, are a faithful and merciful healer.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the healer of the sick of his people Israel.

9. FOR DELIVERANCE FROM WANT:

Bless this year for us, O Lord our God,
together with all the varieties of its produce, for our welfare.
Bestow ([from the 15th of Nissan insert:] dew and rain for) a blessing upon the
face of the earth. O satisfy us with your goodness, and bless our year
like the best of years.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who blesses the years.

10. FOR GATHERING OF EXILES:

Sound the great shofar for our freedom,
raise the ensign to gather our exiles,
and gather us from the four corners of the earth.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who gathers the dispersed of his people Israel.

11. FOR THE RIGHTEOUS REIGN OF GOD:

Restore our judges as in former times,
and our counselors as at the beginning; and remove from us sorrow and
sighing. Reign over us, you alone, O Lord, with lovingkindness and
compassion, and clear us in judgment. Blessed are you, O Lord, the King
who loves righteousness and justice.

12. FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF APOSTATES AND
THE ENEMIES OF GOD:

Let there be no hope for slanderers,
and let all wickedness perish in an instant.
May all your enemies quickly be cut down,
and may you soon in our day uproot, crush, cast down
and humble the dominion of arrogance.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who smashes enemies and humbles the arrogant.

13. FOR THE RIGHTEOUS AND PROSELYTES:

May your compassion be stirred, O Lord our God,
towards the righteous, the pious, the elders of your people
the house of Israel, the remnant of their scholars, towards proselytes,
and towards us also. Grant a good reward to all who truly trust in your
name. Set our lot with them forever so that we may never be put to shame,
for we have put our trust in you.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the support and stay of the righteous.

14. FOR THE REBUILDING OF JERUSALEM:

Return in mercy to Jerusalem your city, and dwell in it as you have promised.
Rebuild it soon in our day as an eternal structure,
and quickly set up in it the throne of David.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who rebuilds Jerusalem.

15. FOR THE MESSIANIC KING:

Speedily cause the offspring of your servant David to flourish,
and let him be exalted by your saving power,
for we wait all day long for your salvation.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who causes salvation to flourish.

16. FOR THE ANSWERING OF PRAYER:

Hear our voice, O Lord our God; spare us and have pity on us.
Accept our prayer in mercy and with favor,
for you are a God who hears prayers and supplications.
O our King, do not turn us away from your presence empty-handed,
for you hear the prayers of your people Israel with compassion.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who hears prayer.

17. FOR RESTORATION OF TEMPLE SERVICE:

Be pleased, O Lord our God, with your people Israel and with their prayers.
Restore the service to the inner sanctuary of your Temple,
and receive in love and with favor both the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayers.
May the worship of your people Israel always be acceptable to you.
And let our eyes behold your return in mercy to Zion.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who restores his divine presence to Zion.

18. THANKSGIVING FOR GOD’S UNFAILING MERCIES:

We give thanks to you that you are the Lord our God
and the God of our fathers forever and ever.
Through every generation you have been the rock of our lives, the shield
of our salvation. We will give you thanks and declare your praise for our
lives that are committed into your hands, for our souls that are entrusted
to you, for your miracles that are daily with us, and for your wonders and
your benefits that are with us at all times, evening, morning and noon.
O beneficent one, your mercies never fail; O merciful one,
your lovingkindnesses never cease. We have always put our hope in you.
For all these acts may your name be blessed and exalted continually,
O our King, forever and ever. Let every living thing give thanks to you and
praise your name in truth, O God, our salvation and our help. (Selah.)
Blessed are you, O Lord, whose Name is the Beneficent One,
and to whom it is fitting to give thanks.

19. FOR PEACE:

Grant peace, welfare, blessing, grace, lovingkindness and mercy to us
and to all Israel your people. Bless us, O our Father, one and
all, with the light of your countenance; for by the light of your
countenance you have given us, O Lord our God, a Torah of life,
lovingkindness and salvation, blessing, mercy, life and peace.
May it please you to bless your people Israel at all times and in every hour with your peace.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who blesses his people Israel with peace.

~~~~

1 The prayer is known as the “Eighteen” because it originally consisted of eighteen benedictions. The twelfth benediction (against apostates) was added around 70 AD. For more on this topic, see New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus by David Bivin (En-Gedi, 2007). 

Photos: MathKnight and Zachi Evenor [CC BY 3.0], Praying Hands by jill, jellidonut… whatever [CC BY-SA 2.0]

The Richness of Jewish Prayer

by Lois Tverberg

It’s good to have a taste of Jesus’ customs and culture, but as Christians, our goal is not to become more Jewish, but rather to become more like Jesus.

There is, however, one Jewish practice that all of us would benefit from, and that is adopting a type of Jewish prayer which can transform a person’s spiritual life. These have been used for thousands of years, even back to New Testament times.

What was this wonderful style of prayer? It is the habit of “blessing” the Lord. It is an attitude of continual thankfulness toward God that expresses itself through brief prayers that acknowledge him as the source of every good thing. It ultimately comes from the Scriptures, when Moses admonished the Israelites not to forget the Lord:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God…(Deut. 8:10-11)

It was easy for the Israelites to cling to God in the desert, but very easy to forget God when times got better and they prospered in the Promised Land. The cure, according to the rabbis, was to continually remind themselves of God’s care by uttering a short prayer of thanks, to “bless the Lord.”

This pervasive act of prayer kept God’s presence and love continually on their minds. Jesus and Paul both would have practiced it, and Paul may have had it in mind when he told Christians to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes. 5:16-18).

A Practice from Before Jesus’ Time

Before the time of Christ, the Jews developed a number of short blessings to be said whenever the occasion arises, in addition to saying longer prayers in the morning and evening. Some of them are now prayed in the daily synagogue service. Modern custom begins all of them by saying, “Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe.”

The idea is not to bless objects and people, in our usual Christian sense of the word, but to bless the Lord, with the understanding that we are focusing on him as the source of all blessing. The word for bless, barak also means “to kneel,” suggesting that when we bless God, we mentally bow on our knees to worship him.

In Jesus’ day the first line was probably just “Blessed is he,” but the rabbis felt it was important to be reminded that God is King over us in order to “receive on ourselves the Kingdom of God,” so they added the rest of the line later. So in these prayers we mentally kneel toward God, remind ourselves of his goodness, and that he is our King.

In the gospels it says that Jesus “took the bread and blessed.” (The NIV says “gave thanks” but more literal translations use the word “blessed.”) Some translations incorrectly add the word “it,” to sound as if Jesus “blessed it.” But the idea of blessing the Lord is to thank him for providing, not to confer holiness on the food. Some of our table prayers even reflect this misunderstanding.

We know what words he said – most likely, “Blessed is he who brings forth bread from the earth.”

When Jesus did miracles, the people “glorified God,” perhaps exclaiming, “Blessed is he who has performed a miracle in this place!” It was customary to pray this blessing at a site where a miracle occurred. So when Jesus healed ten lepers and only one, a Samaritan, came back and loudly blessed God, Jesus wondered why the other nine hadn’t returned to do the same thing (Lk 17:12 -19).

For Everything a Blessing

In Psalm 24:1 it says that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” and the rabbis of Jesus’ day and earlier decided that everything that we enjoy in life should cause us to bless God. In the Mishnah, the record of rabbinic thought from before Jesus’ time until about 200 AD, the first book is devoted entirely to blessings.

In the most ordinary things they found ways of praising God, and these blessings have God at their center. They contain no personal pronouns — focusing utterly on him, and not on the person praying. They are simply statements that praise God for his goodness.

A person was supposed to devote his first thoughts upon waking to praising God once again for each part of his body that was functioning. The very first thing that would have woken them up was probably a rooster’s crow. So in the first century they would have said, “Blessed is he who has given to the cock understanding to distinguish between day and night!

When they opened their eyes they said, “Blessed is he who opens the eyes of the blind!” When they dressed they said, “Blessed is he who clothes the naked!” They also said this when they put on a new piece of clothing.

In their experience of nature they also blessed God. When the first flowers were seen on the trees in the spring, they said, “Blessed is he who did not omit anything from the world, and created within it good creations and good trees for people to enjoy!” After a long, cold winter, who isn’t happy to see these little signs of new life?

When they heard thunder or an earthquake that inspired fear, they also blessed God by saying, “Blessed is he whose strength and power fill the world!” Next time there is a windstorm, step outside and remind yourself of God’s amazing power.

When it rained, they said, “Blessed is he who is good, and gives good things!“I thought this was very odd at first, since rainy days are bad days to us. But in Israel where water is greatly needed, rain is source of joy. When you think about it, our abundant food here also is dependent on the rain that we always complain about.

I have since realized that every time I complain about the weather, it’s a way of convincing myself that yet another day has come when God wasn’t faithful and that he decided not to care about me. It’s a minor habit to change, but my outlook on life improved when I stopped finding something to grumble at God for every time I stepped outside.

Blessings for Life’s Seasons

They had blessings for the highs and lows in life as well. When they went through a long, difficult time and finally had relief, or celebrated some happy event for which they waited, they said, “Blessed is he who has allowed us to live, and sustained us and enabled us to reach this day.” When a son returned home from war, or when a baby was born, or some other wonderful thing, they uttered this prayer to praise God for bringing them to that point in their lives.

Even in times of grief, when someone died or they heard tragic news, they blessed God. They said, “Blessed is he who is the true judge.” It was a reminder that God was still good, even when they heard about tragic events, and that he will ultimately bring justice even where justice can’t seem to be found.

Remembering God’s Kindness

It’s easy to start worrying that God is not in control, and not remember his continual faithfulness that sustains every minute of the day. In Psalm 103, David shares the secret for how to keep God’s loving care on your mind:

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.
(Psalm 103:1-5, RSV)

~~~~~

For more about this rich practice of prayer, see the chapter “For Everything a Blessing” in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus.

This same article can be found at Lois Tverberg’s website, ourrabbijesus.com

(Images courtesy of kolyalovestruck and martin labar at flickr.com.)

Amen and Amen!

by Lois Tverberg

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting. And let all the people say, “Amen.” Psalms 106:48

It is interesting to note that the most widely known word on all the earth, across the most languages, is the word “Amen,” a Hebrew word. Jews, Christians and Muslims all use this word in prayer, and it generally moves unchanged from language to language. Even in the Greek of the New Testament, the word was written literally as “amen” rather than a Greek translation being used.

The word “amen” is related to the Hebrew words “emunah” (faith, belief, trust) and “emet” (truth). It means something like, “This I affirm,” or “Let it be so.” It was used throughout the Old Testament as a response, as when blessings or curses were read as part of a covenant, and all the people said “Amen.” When psalms were sung, the people would respond, “Amen.” The leader didn’t say it – it was a way of the people to proclaim their agreement with the liturgy they heard. (See today’s verse.) In Jewish prayer today, this is still done. After the leader recites the prayer, the audience follows with “Amen,” in effect saying, “I affirm this prayer also, let it be so for me too.”

Some scholars believe that there has been confusion in our understanding of Jesus’ use of “amen.” He often began speaking with an “amen,” which has been thought to be a way to emphasize his own words. In the King James, it is translated “verily” and modern translations remove it altogether, and substitute “I tell you the truth.”

Robert Lindsay, a scholar of the first century Jewish context of Jesus, believes that Jesus actually used “amen” as it was used by the rest of h is society – as a response of affirmation of something else that precedes his words. For instance, when the centurion tells him that by just saying the word, Jesus can heal from afar, Jesus says, “Amen! I tell you, I have not seen such great faith in Israel.” (Matthew 8:10) The beginning “amen” is an exclamation of enthusiasm in reaction to hearing the man’s statement of faith. Jesus responded to the people and situations around him with a loud “amen” sometimes, and didn’t just underline his own teachings with that word.

“Amen” isn’t just the natural end of a prayer, it is a way of saying “I most certainly agree!” Whether we say it at the end of our own prayers, or use it to agree with the prayer of another, may all our prayers reflect this wholehearted agreement with the words we have prayed, and our response of faith to God’s answers.

The Mystery of Prayer

by Lois Tverberg & Bruce Okkema

Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die. Genesis 20:7

The story above occurs while Abraham was living in Gerar, the land of King Abimelech. When the king’s eyes fell upon Sarah, he desired her and took her to be one of his wives. But before they had become intimate, God spoke to Abimelech in a dream and said that he was in great danger of Gods’ judgment because he had taken another man’s wife. Abimelech protested, claiming his innocence in that he had not known that she was a married woman. God told him because this was true, he was warning the king so he wouldn’t suffer for his offense.

One fascinating aspect of the story is that God told Abimelech that when Abraham would pray for the king, he would live. The implication is that God would wait to spare Abimelech until after Abraham had interceded. It seems like very odd logic that God himself would not release the king until Abraham prayed! We have a similar story at the end of book of Job. God was angry with Job’s counselors and said to them,

“I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has… My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. (Job 42:7-8)

Does it strike you as strange that God would bind himself to waiting on a person’s prayers? He even tells us to pray for someone else so that he can take action. The sins in these situations have been committed against both God and man, yet could it be that God desires forgiveness between his people so much, that he asks for evidence of their forgiveness before he shows his own?

It is a mystery to us that God in some way constrains himself to working in response to prayer. Why the creator would wait for mankind to ask, when he knows the outcome and certainly does not need our advice, is beyond our understanding. Yet, he wants us to pray, and we can conclude that he is waiting for us to pray in order to accomplish his purposes.

Let us continue to pray faithfully, and let us never cease to wonder at his mystery.

Praying with Intention

by Lois Tverberg

“Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart. ” Psalm 24:3

The prayers that Jesus and Paul prayed were a combination of spontaneous petitions and traditional prayers that were prayed at certain times of day. One of them that is still prayed today is called the “Amidah” or “Eighteen Benedictions.” (1) It is quite lengthy, and consists of prayers for all the various concerns of the Jewish people. For thousands years since Jesus lived, these petitions have stayed nearly the same.

In contemporary Protestant culture, we tend to disdain rote prayer, preferring the intimacy of spontaneous prayer and feeling that a repeated prayer is empty and hollow. We wonder how a person could avoid just “going through the motions.” The answer is a concept that the rabbis developed known as “Kavanah.” The word means “direction,” “intention,” or “devotion,” and the idea behind praying with kavanah is that you set the direction of your thinking toward God, and toward praying the memorized prayer “with all your heart.”

A person who has kavanah focuses his entire being on prayer, and is undistracted by the chaos around him. He may have said the same prayer a thousand times, but his mind is sunk so deeply into the words that he is experiencing new insights and feelings from them today that he has never experienced before.

In synagogues, above the ark that holds the Torah scrolls, there is often a plaque that says, “Know before whom you stand.” That is just what it means to have kavanah in prayer – to have a sense of standing in the presence of God, to know that you are addressing the sovereign Lord of the universe.

When I used to pray after crawling in bed, I would often fall asleep before finishing my prayer. After thinking about the lack of reverence this has for God, I now make myself kneel or stay awake in some way, or pray at a time of day when I’m more awake. He deserves our best, not our least efforts in prayer.

Kavanah can go beyond prayer as well – our lives should also show it too. We should live each hour and day with devotion and intention, being aware of God’s presence all around us. When we do this, our lives will truly be the reflection of Christ, whose every desire was to please and honor God in every way.


1The Amidah: A New Translation, by David Bivin, is available here.

Giving of His Wisdom

by Lois Tverberg

For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

The week I became aunt to a new niece, our family was praising God for her, but her birth was not routine. It was still about a month before my sister-in-law’s due date when she woke up bleeding. She was rushed by ambulance to the hospital for an emergency C-section, which saved the baby’s life and perhaps her own.

As we discussed it, we realized that if our family had lived 100 years ago, my brother would have lost his daughter and maybe his wife that day. Thinking back, we realized that many in our family would have died of serious illnesses for which only recently has there been medical care.

This reminded me of a traditional prayer that Jewish people use to praise God when they hear of a great advance in knowledge in medicine or other areas:

Blessed art Thou, Oh Lord our God, King of the Universe,
who gives of His wisdom to flesh and blood.

They also have a prayer to praise God when they hear particularly inspired preaching of the scriptures. Then they say,

Blessed art Thou, Oh Lord our God, King of the Universe,
who gives of His wisdom to those who revere Your Name.

There is a lot of wisdom in these prayers. Christians have an easier time understanding the second, that it is God who inspires us about the scriptures. But the other prayer shows another even more surprising truth – that God is also sovereign over “secular” knowledge too.

We can sometimes be tempted to believe that God is threatened by human knowledge, and that scientific advances are a challenge to his power. For instance, some feel it is unspiritual to seek medical help, and that only prayer for healing is God’s will. If man healed us, then God was not involved. In Judaism, however, a prayer is said before taking medicine which praises God for this gift and asks Him to use it to heal them. They see God’s presence in what we would say was our own accomplishment.

There is great wisdom in realizing that even the greatest human discoveries are gifts from God, and that God is sovereign over what mankind achieves too. No matter where exploration and discovery lead us, God, in his infinite wisdom, is far beyond even that.

Clothing the Naked

by Lois Tverberg

“`For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ ” Matthhew 25:35-36

Since Jesus’ time, Jews have been encouraged to fill their days with short prayers to constantly remind themselves that God is the source of every blessing in their lives. A number of these are said traditionally in the morning while a person gets ready for the day, and the one that is said while dressing is the following:

Blessed art Thou, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, who clothes the naked.

This prayer is also said on another occasion – when putting on a new garment from the first time. One Jewish school teacher starts each day by asking students if anyone is wearing anything new that day, and if so, the whole class recites this prayer.

This prayer and its practice I found very rich, and pointing toward some things for which I needed to be reminded. First, clothes are such a small part of my budget, and readily available, that I never thought to give thanks to God for them. I’ve been overwhelmed by blessings, and hardly think about the amazing abundance even in my own closet. Truthfully, until hearing about this blessing, I didn’t think of God as having input on small needs, or that He may even have an opinion on how I spend money on things like this.

It reminded me of the real use of clothes as they were intended, to protect and cover our bodies, to warm us and give us modesty. Do we really think of that when we spend great amounts of money and time on being fashionable? Or when we evaluate others as people by how well they have observed the current modes of fashion? Our shallowness is unmasked when we see clothing through God’s eyes rather than through the eyes of a materialistic, vain culture.

Last, it reminded me that just as I have been clothed, Jesus points out that I need to have concern about clothing the naked too. In Uganda, I saw many children in dirty, ripped clothes, knowing that those were all they had. I need to live so that I can help in supplying the most basic of needs to them as well.

The Other Lord’s Prayer

by Bruce Okkema

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

One of the most moving experiences of my devotional life centered around this prayer of Jesus. We were involved in a small group Bible study working through the book of John. On the particular week that we were to study John 17, the leader asked if we could do something a bit out of the ordinary to begin our lesson, and to this day, if you asked anyone who was there, I’m sure they will remember it.

The leader said, “I would like to play the role of Jesus, and I would like you to imagine that you are His friends who are there with Him in the final hours before He went to the cross. At the same time you are listening as if you were there, also think about how Jesus was looking far into the future and including all of us in His conversation with His Father.” Then the leader turned down the lights and prayed Jesus’ prayer for us.

I am asking you now to hear this prayer in that same spirit as you read it through. Be listening to how much Jesus loves you, and how He selflessly pleads for you before His Father. Then please carry these wonderful thoughts throughout the rest of your life, sharing them with others who need to know along the way.

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.
But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” – John 17:1-26

Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire

by Laura Tverberg

“Lord, teach us how to pray.” Luke 11:1

This was one of my favorite hymns as I was growing up, and still is today. It is a wonderful description of prayer in all its forms. I haven’t heard it in churches in years, but I wish this meaningful hymn would be sung again.
— Mrs. Laura Tverberg (Lois’ mother)

Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire
Unuttered or expressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of the eye
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath
The Christian’s native air;
His watchword at the gates of death;
He enters heaven with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice
Returning from his ways
While angels in their songs rejoice,
And cry, “Behold he prays!”

Oh Thou, by whom we come to God,
The life, the truth, the way!
The path of prayer Thyself has trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray.

James Montgomery, 1818


This text comes from the 1912 Lutheran Hymnal. It is from a copy given to my mother, Gertrude Ritland on April 29, 1929.

Have Faith in God

by Lois Tverberg

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:22-24

This statement is a real struggle for many of us. Some people tell those who are in crisis that it is only when they have enough belief that a miracle will happen that God will perform it for them. So many hurting hearts have been crushed by a statement that their faith is too weak for God to answer their prayers. How can it be that by sheer force of our imagination that we can force God’s hand in one direction?

I had an answer a few years ago in a relatively minor crisis. A little cat of mine who was very shy got loose one day when I was out of town. When I returned home, Raisin had been lost for several days, starving, unable to come back because of her skittishness around people. I remember begging the Lord to bring her home.

As I was praying for her, I started wondering if I was supposed to have perfect faith in the idea that I’d get my cat back in order for God to answer my prayer. Then it hit me that the faith that we are supposed to have is not in the outcome, but in God himself. God wants us to be absolutely convinced of his love for us and in his power and desire to take care of us.

So my prayer changed. I said, “Lord, I know that you are good and that you have heard my prayer, and I can trust your answer to my prayer, whether or not you bring Raisin back.” The emphasis shifted from the cat to the fact that God was good, and that I could always trust that.

It was a true surprise when Raisin was rescued a few days later in a seemingly miraculous way, when my neighbor found her curled up in the engine compartment of her car, dirty, gaunt, and with a paralyzed paw. I know that my prayers did not “earn” her return, and that it was out of sheer grace that God answered in this way.

I’m almost embarrassed to share this story when others struggle with greater needs. But it did teach me that God didn’t really need me to fervently imagine a certain outcome before he would answer a prayer. He is good, powerful and loving, and whatever answer he gave, I could still be assured of this most important fact of all.