|Interior with Woman Teaching a Child to Pray
by Frere (Wikimedia Commons)
The first prayer that Jesus would have learnt from his mother, like all other Jewish children, was called the ‘Shema Israel, part act of faith, part prayer. Its first words proclaimed belief in the One God who should be loved ‘with the whole heart and mind and with one’s whole strength’. This embodied the essence of Jewish wisdom that Jesus had come to bring to perfection.
The ‘Shema’ was the first prayer to be said on the Sabbath in the synagogue where it was also said three times a day to coincide with the sacrifices made in the Temple. For those who were unable to go to the Synagogue, it was said at work, in the fields, or at home, so that the whole day would be dedicated to the love of God.
Although this was the linchpin of daily prayer for the Jews it was surrounded with other prayers, like the prayers said on rising in the morning and before going to bed at night, before, during, and after eating, making the whole day into one long and enduring prayer to God, that sanctified everything that was said and done.
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