Sunday, April 07, 2013

Let Us Pray תנו לנו להתפלל


Asher led us in prayer this morning but that really does not tell the story. In all my years of church services and worshiping, it was unlike any prayer in my remembrance. You see, Asher prayed in his native Hebrew language this Sunday in leading our congregation. Born and raised in Israel and a Christian for only two years, it was his first time in front of the church but not in front of our Father God. It was also the first time I've witnessed a prayer being introduced by the minister. David Yasko, our preacher for the English speaking part of our congregation, explained that he and Asher met for several hours on Thursday in preparation for his prayer. As English is his second language and he wanted his words to be perfectly accurate, they decided Asher would pray in Hebrew and the English translation would be on the screen behind him. David reminded us that Jesus admonished us to watch and pray so it would be acceptable to keep our eyes open as Asher spoke to Jehovah for all of us. And when Asher voiced his AMEN, I fought the overwhelming urge to applaud. Not because of the beauty of the words or the elegance of Asher, both of which were present, but because of a joy I felt in hearing God addressed in a language that our Savior Jesus Christ understood.

This may all seem silly to you but the fact that Hebrew is a Biblical language and I heard Asher pray using that tongue to me is simply amazing. I've had little direct contact with Jewish culture so there was a sense of awe for me. Compounding my reaction might have been that less than two weeks ago, I was part of a re-enactment of a Passover Seder hosted at our school by the family of one of our Jewish students. But I am also so touched by the careful nature in which Asher approached his obligation to all of us as he talked with our God. (And in reference to his English abilities, I would not have guessed Asher is not a native speaker.) The majority of my public prayers/lessons which are not at school are translated into Chinese during eleven months of the year and into Vietnamese during July. Sadly, I'm not nearly as cautious with what I say or how I say it as Asher was this morning. My classes have recently studied Jesus' parable of The Two Men At Prayer. We discussed how the Pharisee basically prayed about himself while never asking for anything or confessing anything, both components of what we refer to as The Lord's Prayer. On the other hand, the despised tax collector simply prayed, God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Jesus concludes with the shocking statement that the tax collector was right before the Lord, not the noted religious leader. The words we use, and the heart from which they flow, matter according to Jesus. And as Asher returned to his pew, my mind drifted to the middle verse of one of my favorite hymns:

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer
The joy I feel, the bliss I share
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
And gladly take my station there,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

It was a sweet hour of prayer for me this morning ..... and singing and listening and communing and fellow-shipping. Asher set the tone for me, for us. For the first time in my life, I wished that I could speak Hebrew and understand without relying on a screen and projected words. I would guess the Lord will settle for improvement in my prayer life in the one language I already know. One step at a time.

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