Jewish tradition holds that God’s presence, which rested over the Holy of Holies, never completely left the Western Wall. Jews believe the Western Wall is literally the closest they can get to the presence of God.
At any time of day or night, men and women stand or sit at the wall and pray, often with deep emotions and tears. They ask for the rebuilding of the temple. They recite Scripture and traditional prayers. And they write personal prayers, fold them up, and tuck them into the cracks in the wall’s ancient stones.
Despite the depth of their eager prayers, Jews finish their prayers unsure if they were effectual. One Messianic believer in Israel remembers observing Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as a child. Her family prepared for weeks, fasting and asking people for forgiveness. When Yom Kippur finally arrived, she went to the synagogue with her father. After the prayers and activities ended and they left for home, she remembers her father saying sadly, “Maybe this time God heard us.”
How to Engage With Jews about Prayer
It is easy for Christians to feel an affinity with the Jewish community because of our shared biblical history. Yet the reality is that without faith in Christ, Jewish men and women are separated from God. The tears, yearnings, and prayers offered at the Western Wall bring them no closer to his presence.
Here are a few encouragements for engaging with Jewish friends regarding how Jews pray.
Understand the Old Testament
Read and study the Old Testament, especially to fully capture the ways the sacrificial system, Old Testament stories, and prophets point to Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew. Learn how Yeshua fulfills the Law. He is the unblemished Lamb of God and the final sacrifice for sin. Only Yeshua has made a way for Jews and Gentiles to enter the presence of God.
Jews sometimes quote Isaiah who said the temple is “a house of prayer for all nations” (Is. 56:7). Yet the presence of God is no longer tied to a building. It is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself quoted this verse from Isaiah after he entered the temple before his crucifixion (Mark 11:17). The very presence of God walked into the temple yet those in the temple were blind to the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.
Faith in Jesus’s sacrificial work brings atonement for sin and a relationship with God. Indeed, in Christ all nations can approach God in prayer but not as those hoping to please God with prayers and good deeds—rather as forgiven children of God bringing their love and praise to the One who redeemed them. Talk about Jesus and show them how he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 9:15).
Pray with and for Jews
Ultimately, no one will believe unless the Spirit of God gives understanding. Pray God will give the Jewish people eyes of faith to see Jesus the Messiah. Pray those who seek God’s favor with prayers and good deeds will understand the power of the gospel.
And take every opportunity to pray with your Jewish friends in Jesus’s name. Show them through your own prayer life what a relationship with God looks like. In Christ alone, God is satisfied, atonement is accomplished, and prayer is accepted.
This article about how Jews pray originally appeared here.