Chapter 34 Preview: Should Yehovah’s (God’s) people pray in front of groups of other people, or was prayer primarily meant to be from your lips to His ears? I really don’t see a shred of Biblical evidence supporting the practice, but there is a prohibition about doing it outside of a storage closet! This chapter examines the verses that should support public prayer Biblically—if any actually did—but no real support is found! There is a distinction between a prayer and a blessing that needs to be looked at. In the Torah, outside of the Book of Psalms, the overwhelming number of references to the word “bless” have to do with Yehovah blessing Israel, not the other way around. Does that mean that He is praying to us? The few references in the Testimony of Yeshua (“NT”) are about evenly split between Him blessing us and us doing the blessing.
Is there often a reason why some normally outspoken men are quite reluctant to pray in public? Is there a reason why others savor the “opportunity”? Consider the following explanation.
Recently [written in 2001] I asked not to be called on to “perform” a prayer in front of a local living room Sabbath Assembly. Here are some of the verses that I considered concerning why I can’t in good conscience perform formal public prayers any longer.
In Luke 11, Yeshua (Jesus) was asked by one of His Disciples to teach them to pray. This was after He had already sent out “the seventy” to represent Him (Luke 10:1,17)! It was a genuine prayer that the disciple had interrupted, and it is certain that even at this late time in His ministry they were totally unfamiliar with the specifics of prayer! You have to wonder why they didn’t know what they should pray about. Hadn’t they heard Yeshua praying in public?
Actually, there is no verse encouraging one person to “lead” others in prayer in the Bible! The records indicate that prayer is strictly a personal relationship with Elohim (God). The Bible demonstrates prayers private nature; it being done in a person’s own home, or among other kadishea (saints). When several people are praying together they are ALL praying simultaneously, whether at home or in synagogues or other places, each person not being particularly mindful of the prayers being made by others.
Could praying in public cost you your eternal life? It certainly is symptomatic of an extremely dangerous attitude. In the following commentary about praying in public it is this pretender’s only compensation! The same exact context covers doing any good thing in public:
Matthew 6:1-5 Be careful not to practice your righteous works in public, just so that they can see you, or you’ll have no compensation from your Heavenly Father. 2 Don’t announce your presence with a trumpet like the pretenders do in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised. Most surely, they’ve already gotten their compensation. 3 When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your donation is done in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will compensate you openly.
Matthew 6:5 When you pray, don’t be like the pretenders who love standing up in the synagogues and on street corners, praying just so they’ll be seen by other people. That’s most certainly their compensation. —The Gabriel Version
Notice that even these “pretenders” were not necessarily praying to be heard by men, they were praying because they wanted to be “seen by men”!
Here is a specific condemnation of the Pharisees performing public prayers to put on a show of self righteousness. I had always been assured that it was the length of the “prayer”, or perhaps the well rehearsed oratory that Yeshua objected to. However the context concerns being “seen by men” because “they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners”. Calling attention to themselves was the primary offense, and that is absolutely unavoidable when someone “leads in prayer”. There is a specific instruction in the very next verse for prayer to be done it in a “storage closet”, tho a few people could be in a “closet”.
Could a person “leading in prayer” in church be violating the Biblical admonition against being “seen by men”, and doing it in the very presence of Yehovah? The reason that I stopped participating in these “prayers” was because I could not do it in faith, so by definition I was sinning. This has concerned me for many years.
“Storage closet” does not of course mean that you have to be at home or in some special place to pray. The reference to a “storage closet” simply emphasizes the intimate nature of our sincere thoughts that you only share with Yehovah. This is something that even the hypocrite did correctly—he was praying quietly “to himself”!
Luke 18:10-11 “Two men went up into the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other was a tax extractor. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, ‘Yehovah, I thank You that I’m not like everyone else—thieves, dishonest, adulterers, or like this tax extractor.
Why is formal public prayer considered a necessity when there is no Biblical provision made for it? The way that I was tutored to pray in public seemed to be a “vain repetition”. No, it wasn’t a chant, but it was the same topic every week for decades: Ask Yehovah to “bless the speaker and the ears that hear the words—Amen.” Then ask Yehovah retroactively to “bless the speaker and the ears that heard the words—Amen.” In the past when I tried to vary this routine a bit I was ridiculed.
Matthew 6:7 When you pray, don’t use meaningless repetition like the pagans who think they’ll be heard if they keep on talking.
John 17, the entire chapter, is a real prayer; not WITH His disciples but entirely FOR them. This was not a formal prayer, it was a “hey, I’m being framed and about to be murdered, please spare my friends” type of prayer! He was seemingly oblivious to those around Him. Consider Yeshua’s use of the words “they” and “them” that He used 36 times in that prayer. Public prayers use the word “we” as often as Yeshua used “they” and “them”. The lack of “we”, “our” and “us” demonstrates that He was praying about them—not with them!
Does the following verse indicate that public prayer was a part of Sabbath Assembly protocol of the Early “Church”)?
1 Corinthians 14:16-17 Otherwise, if you praise in the spirit, how could someone ‘from an outsider’s viewpoint’ say say “Aw-main” to your giving of thanks, because they don’t understand what you said? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but the other people aren’t benefiting.
This verse is buried in a chapter that deals extensively with speaking in tongues during a Sabbath assembly. Yet, there are great truths to be gleaned, concerning the original Sabbath Assembly format, from these neglected passages. This is a bit lengthy, but it is our best insight into Apostolic Sabbath protocol—and it still doesn’t demonstrate the validity of public prayer!
1 Corinthians 14:1-2,9-17 Earnestly endeavor to acquire love, and be zealous in the pursuit of the gifts of the spirit, particularly prophecy [empowered teaching]. 2 Anyone who speaks in a foreign language isn’t talking to people, but to Yehovah, because no one understands what is said, yet in the spirit they speak mysteries. ... 9 In a similar way, if you speak in a foreign language without interpretation, how will anyone know what you said? You’ll just be blowing into the air. 10 Of course there are many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them are insignificant. 11 Yet if I don’t understand the language, I’ll seem like a barbarian to the speaker, and the speaker will seem like a barbarian to me. 12 Similarly, since you’re zealous for the spiritual gifts to build the assembly, strive to excel in them. 13 The person who speaks in a foreign language should pray for the ability to translate. 14 If I were to pray in a foreign language, my spirit would pray but my mind wouldn’t benefit. 15 So what should I do? I’ll pray with my spirit, but I’ll also pray with my understanding, and I’ll sing with my spirit, but I’ll also sing psalms with my understanding. 16 Otherwise, if you praise in the spirit, how could someone ‘from an outsider’s viewpoint’ say say “Aw-main” to your giving of thanks, because they don’t understand what you said? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but the other people aren’t benefiting.
Here is the clue that indicates that the subject matter has not switched from speaking in tongues to public prayer. This kind of “giving of thanks” does not edify “the other”! We have already established that speaking in tongues is not for the edifying of “the Assembly”, but should we assume that prayer is also not for our Friends? Absolutely not! Prayer edifies!
What about the word “Aw-main’”? (actually pronounced, ah-mein.) Doesn’t the use of the word Aw-main’ indicate that a public prayer had ended? I’ll come back to that. The context continues to concern tongues and Sabbath Assembly protocol:
1 Corinthians 14:18-33 If I were to pray in a foreign language, my spirit would pray but my mind wouldn’t benefit. 15 So what should I do? I’ll pray with my spirit, but I’ll also pray with my understanding, and I’ll sing with my spirit, but I’ll also sing psalms with my understanding. 16 Otherwise, if you praise in the spirit, how could someone ‘from an outsider’s viewpoint’ say say “Aw-main” to your giving of thanks, because they don’t understand what you said? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but the other people aren’t benefiting. 18 I thank Yehovah that I speak in foreign languages more than any of you. 19 But in an assembly, I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a foreign language. 20 Friends, don’t be childish in your thoughts, but when it comes to evil, be like children, and in your thoughts be mature. 21 In the Torah it says, “Foreign oppressors will speak to this nation in another language and they still won’t listen to Me, says Yehovah [Isaiah 28:11-12].” 22 So instantaneously learning a language is a miracle, not for the believer, but for the unbeliever. But prophecy isn’t for the unbeliever, but for the believer. 23 So if the whole assembly gathers, and they are all speaking with foreign languages and “new” people come in or those who don’t believe, won’t they say, “These people are crazy?” 24 But if you are all prophesying and “new” people or unbelievers come among you, they’ll be convicted after examining everything that happens. 25 What had been hidden from their minds is no longer hidden from them, then they’ll fall face down and worship Yehovah and say, “Yehovah is truly among you.” 26 So I tell you Friends, that when you assemble, whoever has a psalm should speak, as well as anyone who has a doctrine, and whoever has a revelation, and whoever has a foreign language, and whoever can interpret. Every type of thing should be done to build us up. 27 If anyone speaks in a foreign language, two should speak or at most three, and they should speak in succession and have someone to interpret. 28 If there is no one to interpret the language, they should remain silent in the assembly and speak in privacy to Yehovah. 29 As for prophets [i.e. inspired speakers], two to three [never just one] should speak, and afterward the others should evaluate [or critique]! 30 If someone else sitting there can disclose a point that was previously unknown, then the one speaking should be kept in silence for a time. 31 You can all take your turn prophesying, so that everyone can learn by practice. Everyone can give and receive consolation and encouragement. 32 You see, the rational spirit of the prophets cooperates with other prophets. 33 Yehovah isn’t the author of confusion, but of peace, as in every assembly of the kadishea [saints].
Where is the part that says that certain people should not be allowed to speak of the things that they are passionate about? Are we afraid that someone will say something that was wrong or even heretical? Should we, rather, let them pick off the weak of the flock in privacy, rather than let them speak openly to the Assembly, having “the others critique?” If this were the procedure followed today, a new person would be suspicious of someone who tried to introduce “a new truth” to them without the safety of input of others! Of course some would surely be more informed and would be encouraged to speak more often.
Continuing in the only Biblical Sabbath protocol:
1 Corinthians 14:34-40 “Your women should remain silent in public gatherings. They aren’t allowed to speak out, they must be submissive, as the Roman law says. 35 If women want to be informed about any subject, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is unbecoming for women to speak in a gathering” . 36 What! Did the Word of Aloha originate with you? Are you Corinthians the only people it has reached? 37 If any of you think that you are a prophet or that you are spiritual, then you should acknowledge that the things that I write to you are the Commandments of Yehovah. 38 If anyone is ignorant of this, disregard him. 39 So Friends, desire the ability to prophesy, and don’t forbid anyone from speaking in foreign languages. 40 But everything should be done with decency and in regular succession.
 In verses 34 and 35, Paul is sarcasticly quoting what he heard from a Corinthian “brother”, just before blasting the idea in verses 36 and 37. The Torah (Law) has no gag orders! If ancient languages had quotation marks, the controversy surrounding vs 34-35 would not exist. “The Cultural Background: The writings of Greek philosophers provide external documentation informing us of the mindset that permeated the ancient city of Corinth. In Greek society, women were clearly held in low regard. For example, Plato (424-347 BC) ascribed to the inferior status of women by stating: “It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls.” Aristotle (384-322 BC) added, “women are defective by nature” because “a woman is as it were an infertile male,” and males command superior intelligence. Under existing Roman family law, the father had complete household authority. A husband could punish his wife in any way including killing her, and he could make love to other women with impunity.” Compare to 1 Corinthians 11:4.
Is the use of the word “Aw-main’” used above, or anywhere else in the Bible associated with prayer? Perhaps we should rather ask who associated it with prayer. In Luke 11:2-4, the “model prayer”, Yeshua never said anything about Aw-main’, and He didn’t He mention it in His real prayer that occupies the entire 17th chapter of John. Actually, the first thirteen uses of Aw-main’ in the Bible are associated with cursing the wicked! The next reference in the Bible mentions Benaiah saying Aw-main’ to David. The next reference concludes David’s Song of Thanksgiving (1 Chronicles 16:36). The next reference concerns an oath that was confirmed by the use of an Aw-main’. (Nehemiah 5:13) When Yeshua stated the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20, was He praying to the disciples when He said “Aw-main”? Mark concluded his “gospel” account with Aw-main’ as did Luke and John. Paul used it to conclude his epistles. Revelation 3:14 uses as a personal name for Elohim! The four “living creatures” said it in Revelation 5:14, do they need to pray or can they just talk to Yehovah (God)? The Bible itself is concluded with two Aw-main’s. There are numerous other examples having nothing to do with prayer. Now it could be acceptable to mention the word “Aw-main’” in conjunction with a prayer because the Matthew 6:10-13 version of the model prayer uses the word Aw-main’, or was that Matthew’s own personal “may it be so”, added decades later, concerning “Thy kingdom come”? To me, the code word Aw-main’ always being associated with prayer is a Constantinian Christian fabrication. Saying Aw-main’ after your own prayer is like saying to Yehovah, following a prayer: “I agree with me” or “I am not kidding You”!
Does the account of the feeding of the five thousand, in Matthew 14, really constitute an example of Yeshua “leading in prayer”? Actually this account shows Yeshua passing up the perfect opportunity to “lead in prayer”! Did Yeshua ask anyone to bow their heads or look off toward heaven or even have a “moment of silence”? No!
Matthew 14:19 He told the people to SIT ON THE GROUND. He took the five loaves of bread and two fish and He looked toward Heaven and blessed them, and after breaking the food in pieces He gave it to His disciples, and the disciples set it before the people.
Why had Yeshua “told the people to SIT ON THE GROUND” just prior to this incredible miracle? That particular “body language” would demonstrate to those present that they were not participants in the prayer! Why was He “looking up to heaven”? Certainly vast multitudes could not hear one man speak a few brief words, and His words were not recorded, but thousands could see the unmistakable “body language” of Yeshua looking up to heaven! Yeshua did not want this mighty miracle to be credited to Himself “in the midst of Israel”. He gave Yehovah the credit in a very deliberate way. Not to have done this would have been like Moses striking the rock, the event that preceded the miracle that provided another multitude with much wanted water! Moses died:
Deuteronomy 32:51 because you were unfaithful to Me among the Israelites at the oasis of Meribah Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you didn’t uphold My kadoshness among the Israelites.
Never take credit for a miracle of Yehovah!
Should you ever pray to another person? Does Yehovah ever pray to people? Hopefully you would answer these questions, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” Yet most instances of the word bless has to do with Yehovah blessing us or one person blessing another, but people are not praying to each other!
1. God blesses his people when he bestows on them some gift temporal or spiritual #Ge 1:22 24:35 Job 42:12 #Ps 45:2 104:24,35
2. We bless God when we thank him for his mercies #Ps 103:1,2 145:1,2
3. A man blesses himself when he invokes God’s blessing #Isa 65:16 or rejoices in God’s goodness to him #De 29:19 Ps 49:18
4. One blesses another when he expresses good wishes or offers prayer to God for his welfare #Ge 24:60 31:55 1Sa 2:20 Sometimes blessings were uttered under divine inspiration, as in the case of Noah, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses #Ge 9:26,27 27:28,29,40 #Ge 48:15-20 49:1-28 De 33:1ff. The priests were divinely authorized to bless the people #De 10:8 Nu 6:22-27 We have many examples of apostolic benediction #2Co 13:14 Eph 6:23,24 #2Th 3:16,18 Heb 13:20,21 1Pe 5:10,11
5. Among the Jews in their thank-offerings the master of the feast took a cup of wine in his hand, and after having blessed God for it and for other mercies then enjoyed, handed it to his guests, who all partook of it. #Ps 116:13 refers to this custom. It is also alluded to in #1Co 10:16 where the apostle speaks of the “cup of blessing.”—Eastons Revised Bible Dictionary
Does the fact that Yeshua “blessed” the loaves and the fish really mean that Yeshua prayed for the quality or safety of the meal? Should we use this miracle as a precedent for praying aloud before meals, thanking Yehovah for the food? Yeshua was demonstrating His thankfulness for the miraculous method that the food was provided to the multitude, because it was a proof that he was the Messiah! The fact that the people ate the food was of no particular consequence! By that rationale why not ceremonially pray, thanking Yehovah, before having sexual relations as well? Why not insist on praying each time you step into a bath tub, giving thanks for the warm water and asking that you not drown?
Yeshua “blessed” little children. This was something that was done for the children, not for Yehovah!
Mark 10:16 Then He took them in His arms and laid His hands on them and blessed them.
Surely there are some examples of Yeshua leading in a prayer, right? Well not exactly. The famous “Lord’s Prayer” is actually a model of a prayer that Yeshua used. He indicated to them some things that we should be praying about—AFTER He had “finished praying” (v.1)!
Luke 11:1-2 He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples asked Him, “Master teach us to pray like John taught His disciples.” 2 Yeshua told them, “When you pray say, ‘Father in Heaven, may Your name be kept kadosh, may Your Kingdom come. May Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Could this next example of a “Prayer” represent a prayer of disappointment and defeat as He was dying on the cross?
This wasn’t a prayer at all, rather, He was quoting from Psalms 22. To see that this was not a prayer of discouragement, but rather an amazing statement of encouragement spoken to His nearby followers, check out this inspiring outside link: Did God Really Forsake Jesus Christ on the Cross?
Now here is an actual prayer uttered from the cross:
Luke 23:34 Yeshua said, “Father forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing .” Then they divided His garments, casting lots for them.”
 People ask why this literally reads “Father forgive them NOT” in Aramaic and Greek. So I asked about this on Paul Younan’s forum: peshitta.org (he wrote the Peshitta Aramaic/English Interlinear NT) and he assured me that the English rendering is truly “Father forgive them, for they know not...” .
Prayer overheard? Yes. However, this could scarcely be used as an example of leading in prayer!
It’s not wrong to be overheard talking to Yehovah any more than it is to be overheard talking to a friend. In fact, you can defiantly pray aloud at any time and under any circumstances as Daniel did!
Daniel 6:10-11 When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed, he entered his home, where the windows in his upper room opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his Yehovah, as he had been doing previously. 11 Then these these men came as a group and found Daniel praying and asking for Elohim’s help.
Similarly, when Jacob was about to die he spoke to his sons and blessed them (i.e. not praying):
After addressing each son the account continues:
Genesis 49:28 These are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father told them when he blessed each of them with a blessing most suited for them.
There are, of course, prayers that were meant to be heard and recorded in the Bible, but they were given under anything but routine circumstances. When Stephen was being murdered, Yehovah obviously wanted these extraordinary sentiments toward his heavenly Father to be preserved, but it wasn’t to edify the mob! Also when Elijah asked Yehovah to kill a bunch of pagan priests, he let Israel know exactly the purpose of this incredible display of Yehovah’s power. Elijah very simply gave Yehovah the credit for destroying those pagan priests who had been “ceremonially praying” all day long! His very short prayer that resulted in the deaths of scores of pagan priests, while they were themselves “praying in public”, may be an object lesson! Again, had Elijah not specifically given Yehovah the credit for killing those prayerful pagans, it would have been like Moses claiming partial credit for the miracle that happened when he struck the rock. That mistake kept him out of the Promised Land!
Is public prayer an “art” or is it for all the kadishea? I know that whenever I was called on to pray, being the self conscious person that I am, that even tho I tried to concentrate on speaking to Yehovah, it was only the people in the room that I could really focus on. I said what was expected of me, abiding by the strict formal protocol. In short, we have the ritualistic and routine “artistic” prayers of the Pharisees on one hand, and prayers in a closet on the other hand.
I know that my “public prayers” never got past the ceiling, I could almost hear the thud of them falling to the floor as I finished! Part of the reason that my “prayers” never sounded polished is because I would never premeditate a “prayer” any more than I would for one in my “private room”. If it is premeditated then it is a speech! I feel that the most successful “prayers” in the churches were offered—well thought out in advance. Only the details were varied to prevent them from being recognized as vain repetitions. The fact that there is often a list of “approved prayer givers” demonstrates that eloquence in the human listeners ears is the only criteria necessary to fulfill the ritual. The “lowly” laborer who is perhaps somewhat more sincere and humble, seldom if ever has the “privilege” to “pray in public—decade in and decade out. In 1 Kings 8:14-21 there is a speech given by Solomon that is correctly subtitled in my Bible as “Solomon’s Speech at Completion of the Work”. Verse 14 calls this speech a “blessing”, and that is quite different than a prayer. Verses 22-53 records the actual prayer that Solomon spoke:
1 Kings 8:22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of Yehovah in the presence of the entire assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven,
The common assumption is that from this point on he began “leading” them in a lengthy public prayer. There are however some comments included in the wording that do not support this view. I believe that after Solomon’s speech, and before he again addressed the audience “with a loud voice”, that he did stop and offer a prayer to Yehovah. He did indicate to the people, by raising his hands, that he has going to pray at this time, but I see no evidence that he engaged in any “leading”, rather, he got down on his knees and faced the altar, with his back to the audience, something no one would ever do in a “public prayer”, especially if we wanted to be heard by many in a great assembly with no PA system! The public was not vicariously participating in this prayer. In fact Solomon encouraged the Israelites toi do their own praying:
1 Kings 8:30 Listen to the request of Your servant and Your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear us from heaven where You live, and when You hear, forgive.
This historic occasion is evidence that we too should be doing our own praying as well! In a “public prayer” the speaker continuously says “WE ask such and such”, YET Solomon said “And now I pray” (v.26). Solomon sincerely hoped that “all Your people Israel” would repent of their sins, BUT HE EMPHASIZED IN HIS OWN PRAYER THE NECESSITY FOR ONE ON ONE PRAYER TO YEHOVAH!
1 Kings 8:38-39 whenever a prayer or request for help is made by any man or by all of Your people Israel, as they acknowledge their pain and stretch out their hands toward this Temple, 39 then listen in heaven where You live, and forgive, and take action with everyone commensurate with each ones behavior, whose ‘motives’ You know, (because You alone know the ‘motives’ of every human).
Solomon’s prayer liberally uses the words “they” and “them” as did Yeshua’s recorded prayer. Extensive inclusive wording such as “we” and “us” would have been expected if he were truly performing a “collective prayer”. Solomon set a proper example in being seen praying in this new temple. Because he was a writer, he may very well have even been inspired to record the thoughts of his prayer in the third person as an example of sincere praying—for posterity, but more likely someone within his “storage closet” space overheard him.
1 Kings 8:54-55 Once Solomon had COMPLETELY FINISHED PRAYING THIS ENTIRE PRAYER AND PETITION to Yehovah, he got up from before Yehovah’s altar, WHERE HE HAD BEEN KNEELING with his hands stretched out toward heaven, 55 and he stood and IN A LOUD VOICE blessed [not a prayer] the entire assembly of Israel:
After “Solomon was completely finished praying”, that wasn’t done in a “loud voice”, he then addressed the audience—the entirety of Israel “with a loud voice” and told them that he wanted Yehovah to bless them. This loud audible message was directed toward the people rather than to Yehovah and the altar. It is interesting to note that the word “petition/s” (or supplication) was used twelve times in association with Solomon’s words. The term is derived from the act of bending to a superior to petition for something. “May these words of mine, [not ours] “that I” [not we] have made petition before Yehovah.... v.59.
The reforms made by Hezekiah were another historically significant event, so much so that it was even compared to the time of Solomon.
2 Chronicles 30:26-27 There was great joy in Jerusalem, because there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel. 27 Then the priests and the Levites, GOT UP and “blessed” the people. Their voices were heard as their [many] prayers arrived in His kadosh home  in heaven.
 The root word of “kadosh home” is “from an unused root apparently meaning to dwell together” and “cohabitation”; very strange if Yehovah were not a plurality!
What does “blessed” mean? The way that blessed is used in these examples simply means they were stating their desires for good things to happen to Yehovah’s people. Look up the many references to blessing in a concordance; it is no more associated with prayer than Aw-main (amen) is. The Hebrew word can be translated as “cause to kneel”, if the Hiphil verb stem of the word is used, but it’s the Piel verb stem in this instance. The priests stood and the collective “voices” (also translated “noise”, “sound” or “thunder”) of thousands of people rejoicing at the same (v.25) time reached Yehovah’s throne in heavens Yes they did pray that day in the temple, but there is no record of one individual saying, “Listen up everyone, I am going to pray now and I want you all to listen.” The phrase “their prayer”, in most versions, might appear to be a reference to a collective prayer “led” by an individual, but the Moffatt translation captures the profound vision much more accurately by stating: “... so loudly that their VOICES resounded to heaven, [Yehovah’s kadosh] dwelling”. —v.27, Moffatt
Here are the various verb stems associated with blessed:
Psalm 80 is a recorded prayer of Asaph that was set to music to the tune of “The Lilies”. This prayer/psalm was recorded for educational and inspirational purposes. However it was obviously not used as an example of someone “leading” in a public prayer.
Isaiah 26:16-18 Yehovah, they came to You in their distress. They could only whisper a prayer when Your chastening was on them. 17 Like a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we before You, Yehovah. 18 We have been pregnant. We writhed in pain. We gave birth, it seems, only to wind. We haven’t brought any delivery to the earth; no births of people into the world.
There is nothing loud and formal or otherwise implying a collective prayer.
Nehemiah 4:8-9 They all conspired to come and fight against Jerusalem, and to create confusion there. 9 But we prayed to our Elohim, and stationed guards to protect against them day and night.
Certainly Yehovah’s people pray, no doubt about it!
Acts 1:14 They all unitedly persevered in prayer, with one mind, along with the women, including Mary, Yeshua’s mother, and with His brothers.
The emphasis here is that these people were of “one mind”. Yet people of like mine each have separate voices!
James 5:13-15 If any of you are suffering you should pray. Anyone who is cheerful should sing psalms. 14 If anyone is sick, they should call for the elders of the assembly, and they should pray for them, anointing them with oil in the name of our Master. 15 The prayer of faith will restore the sick to health, and Yehovah will raise them up from their death bed, and if they’ve committed any sins, the sins will be disregarded.
I believe this was done in privacy, in a “private room”. When several elders are praying over you simultaneously, none would likely be seeking to steal any limelight. There is certainly no indication of this being done as a public spectacle.
Here is another example of when the Assembly needed to pray. Notice that the emphasis shifts from “Peter” to “they”!
Acts 1:15-20, 23-26 One particular day Simon Cephas stood up among the disciples (the people assembled there numbered about one hundred and twenty) and said, 16 “Men and Friends, the Scripture had to be fulfilled that the kadosh spirit foretold by the statements of David, about Judas, who led the way for those who arrested Yeshua. 17 He was one of our number, and shared in this ministry. 18 He acquired a field with the reward for his injustice, where he fell face down to the ground and burst in the middle, and all his intestines gushed out. 19 This was so well known by everyone who lived in Jerusalem, that the field was called in the dialect of the area, Hakel-damo, which means ‘Field of Blood’. 20 It is written in the book of Psalms [69:25], ‘May his encampment will be desolate, and no one live in it’, and ‘May someone else take over his duties’ [109:8]. ... 23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they all prayed, “Yehovah, You know the minds of everyone, show us which of these two you have chosen, 25 so that he can participate in the ministry that Judas abandoned to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they drew lots, and Matthias’ ‘lot’ came up, came up, and he was added to the eleven envoys.
Again, “they had prayed” not “Peter had prayed”. The reference would understandably be the essence of what they prayed about.
Does including Yehovah in conversation always constitute a prayer? What about in the book of Job, the conversation between Yehovah and Satan. Was Satan praying? What about when some fool stands and curses Yehovah “in a loud voice”—is that a prayer? These are of course extreme examples. What about Nehemiah chapter 9, that immediately follows the account of the re-institution of the Feast of Tabernacles? Some people believe that most of this chapter constitutes a public prayer. My Bible has a one half page insert that describes the text as “The Levites Psalm”:
Nehemiah 9:4 Then Yeshua, Bani [#1], Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani [#2], and Chenani stood up on the Levites’ platform and cried out loud to Yehovah their Elohim.
Notice that this is not an example of one person performing a “public prayer”, rather it is a document being recited by eight to twelve named individuals in unison, so it was previously written out. Also rather than sounding like a petition to Yehovah, verses 5 thru 35 are primarily a summary of the history of Yehovah’s chosen people! The text then transitions from the people’s thoughts to their present day situation:
v.36 Look at us now. We’re slaves in the very land You gave our ancestors to eat its fruit and to enjoy its bounty. But now we’re slaves!
Here is what was really going on in verses 5 thru 38: These words are the introductory portion of a “sure covenant” or contract that the people were entering into with Yehovah!
v.38 Because of all this we are making a binding agreement in writing, and our princes, our Levites, and our priests put their seals on it.
Following this, the entirety of the first 27 verses of chapter 10 records the names of those people who had official seals to “sign” this contract:
Nehemiah 10:29 They joined their relatives, the nobles, swearing a curse on themselves if they fail to obey Elohim’s Torah, that was given by Moses the servant of Elohim, and to follow all the Commandments of Yehovah our Sovereign, and His ordinances and His statutes.
When was the last time someone signed a document attesting to the terms of a prayer, or following a prayer “entered into a curse and an oath”? I have never seen that happen anywhere I have fellowshipped!
Here is the kind of situation that it will take for prayer to be taken seriously. Solomon’s wishes are pretty close to what is about to happen, except that two more temples will have been built before the diaspora is over:
1 Kings 8:33-36 “When Your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they’ve sinned against You, and they return to You and ‘confess’ [or praise] Your name, and pray and plead with You for mercy in this Temple, 34 then hear from heaven, and forgive the sins of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land that You gave to their ancestors. 35 When the sky is shut up, and there is no rain, because they’ve sinned against You, if they pray toward this place [the Temple], and confess Your name, and turn from their sin when You punish them, 36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of Your servants and of Your people Israel. Teach them the righy way to ‘live’, and send rain on Your land that You gave Your people for an inheritance.
And then it gets even better:
1 Kings 8:41-43 “Even foreigners who don’t belong to Your people Israel, will come from distant countries because of Your name [reputation]. 42 Once they hear about Your great name and Your strong hand, and Your outstretched arm, they’ll come and pray toward this Temple. 43 Then listen from Your heavenly home, and grant what the foreigners ask You for, so that all the people of the earth can know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they can know that this Temple that I’ve built is called by Your name.
PS: Last Sabbath (January 9, 2019) I had to turn down an ‘opportunity’ to either pray in front of a group or ask someone else to, so I summorized some of this. Inevitably someone said, “Well someone had to overhear it for it to be in the Bible.” I say yes, and each of those instances bears witness that the prayer was neither formal or performed for an audince in a normal worship service!
One final thought. Last week I also heard, “Yes, but everything should be done decently and in order.” The thought was obviously: one speaker, one audience. When I was a teenager at Sunday services, people would gather around the “altar” and most of them were praying very much aloud. It seemed to me at the time to be inspiring—sort of like the Jews gathering around the wailing wall. They certainly don’t seem to be waiting their turn, one at a time. I suspect that it resembles what had been done when he Temple actually stood in Jerusalem. Everyone, I’m sure wanted to pray and I don’t think there was a line for everyone to have their turn at a pulpit! But while on that subject, didn’t Yeshua say about the Temple, “not one stone will be left staning upon another?” Either His prophecy was false or that wall is actually part of Fortress Antonia. If the Jews are actually worshiping at a remnant of the army fortress that facilitated the destruction of Jerusalem, they’ll have a lot more wailing to do.
Chapter 35 is Is Exclusivity “An Unpardonable Sin”?