Earliest Recorded Corporate Jewish Prayer

Rabbi Adam Mintz, and it was amazing to hear him work to piece together multiple rabbinic texts such as the Mishnah, Talmud, and even Ben Sira in an attempt to build a case that corporate Jewish prayer (particularly liturgical prayer) existed prior to the Middle Ages when the first siddurim were made available. He does an excellent job sifting through the various texts and building his case to show that communal prayer goes back to at least the middle to late Second Temple period, but as he rightly states, there is no absolute proof of this from Jewish sources." data-share-imageurl="">

I was recently listening to a lecture on "The Origins of Jewish Prayer" by Rabbi Adam Mintz, and it was amazing to hear him work to piece together multiple rabbinic texts such as the Mishnah, Talmud, and even Ben Sira in an attempt to build a case that corporate Jewish prayer (particularly liturgical prayer) existed prior to the Middle Ages when the first siddurim were made available. He does an excellent job sifting through the various texts and building his case to show that communal prayer goes back to at least the middle to late Second Temple period, but as he rightly states, there is no absolute proof of this from Jewish sources. All we can do is infer from these sources that things functioned similarly to how they do today. However, if we include the Apostolic Scriptures (the New Testament) in the corpus of early Jewish literature, then we have de facto evidence that at least by the first century C.E., corporate Jewish prayer existed and had considerable participation. In the Gospel of Luke we learn of the events that transpired when Zachariah, the father of John the Immerser, was performing his duties of burning incense in the Holy Temple. We read:

And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. (Luke 1:10)

In this one verse, we have concrete evidence that communal prayer was connected with the Temple service. And if we include a secondary text from Luke found in the Acts of the Apostles, then we also see that liturgy was also a component of communal prayer:

 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

Many translations of this passage simply say that the disciples devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, and to prayer. However, the more accurate translation is not simply "prayer," but "the prayers." This precise terminology argues for specific prayers, those of the liturgy now found in the siddur, the Jewish prayer book. Here, within the Apostolic testimony, we find probably the earliest and most definitive record of liturgical, communal prayer within ancient Judaism.

The disciples were engaged in liturgical Jewish prayer as part of their daily worship and valued it. Messianic Judaism is an attempt to be an extension and continuation of that path, engaging in the daily liturgy and praying daily for the Kingdom of Heaven to be established among us. Let's follow the example of our forefathers and commit to this ancient practice of communal worship in a manner congruent with our spiritual ancestors. Let us be a people occupied with prayer, study, and good deeds. We have an opportunity to make a difference in this world—to alter reality, so to speak—by what we do. May our Heavenly Father be pleased with the devotions of His people.

Rabbi Adam Mintz, and it was amazing to hear him work to piece together multiple rabbinic texts such as the Mishnah, Talmud, and even Ben Sira in an attempt to build a case that corporate Jewish prayer (particularly liturgical prayer) existed prior to the Middle Ages when the first siddurim were made available. He does an excellent job sifting through the various texts and building his case to show that communal prayer goes back to at least the middle to late Second Temple period, but as he rightly states, there is no absolute proof of this from Jewish sources." data-share-imageurl="">

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