Isaac and the Midday Prayer

Isaac and the Midday Prayer

Isaac and the Midday Prayer.

The Jewish sages based each of the their weekday prayers on the character and actions of the patriarchs. Thus, the recommended daily prayers of Jewish believers were inspired by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham represents the morning prayer, since he often “rose early in the morning to the place where he had stood before God” (Gen. 19:27, 22:3). Isaac inspired the midday prayer, since he “went out to converse with God (or, to meditate) in the field toward evening” (Gen. 24:63). And Jacob represented the night prayer, since his powerful encounters with God were in the night, including his visions and dreams and his momentous wrestling with the mysterious angel (Gen. 28:11, 32:22).

Isaac’s life symbolized the midday prayer. He, like the afternoon, was a gradual transition from one reality to the next. “Isaac’s is the quiet heroism of continuity, a link in the chain of the covenant, joining one generation to the next.” Isaac was not the initiator or the prime mover like his father or his son. His role was to continue the transitional virtues of steadfastness, loyalty, and the will to persevere. Isaac’s afternoon prayer was described in rabbinic tradition as a dialogue, a conversation between God and himself. Isaac went off by himself into a field and talked with God and reflected about the faith in the middle of the day. He continued the faith of his father Abraham, and he did so responsibly and dependably. Isaac captured the spirit of the  midday prayer and lived it out.

Abraham  represents and inspires the morning prayer. He initiated the new dawn of the quest for God. He is the originator of a new faith. It only seems appropriate that he found himself so often seeking God first thing in the morning. “He is the father of all who set out on a new journey each day to follow the Lord to an unknown destination, armed only with the trust that those who seek, find.” Each morning Abraham faithfully started on a fresh  journey with God, and so do we.

Jacob’s unusual life inspired the night time prayer, the evening encounter with God that takes one’s own life into account at the end of the day. Jacob trusted in God and wouldn’t let go of Him, and his encounters with God left him transformed. “That is how Jacob found God – not by his own efforts, like Abraham; not through continuous dialogue like Isaac; but in the midst of fear and isolation. If Abraham is originality, and Isaac continuity, then Jacob represents tenacity.” In our night time prayers, we would do well to remember the spirit of Jacob’s encounters with the Lord during his midnight travels. God was at his side for fresh encouragement and vision, with inspiration and courage, and ultimately peace.

(All the above content and quotes are attributable to Rabbi Jonathon Sacks and his commentary, Covenant and Conversation: Genesis, the Book of Beginnings. There isn’t anything particularly original to this writer in the above content).

If we based our afternoon prayers on Isaac’s prayer life at midday, we would lean towards having a conversation with God that would involve meditation and reflection on the faith. We would seek God’s help in maintaining the faith that we started the day with and will end the day with. Our afternoon prayers will continue the continuity between our morning and our evening with God, between the faith handed to us and the faith we want to hand down to our children. Afternoon prayers seek God’s sufficiency in remaining steadfast, faithful, and consistent in fleshing out the character and life of Jesus. Our midday prayers should encourage us to maintain ourselves in connection to our faithful past and our faithful future. We ask God to enable us to demonstrate the fruits of the Holy Spirit, to shine  our light, to be the salt of the earth. We ask God to keep us from laziness, listlessness or weakness, and to inspire the energy to work and live productively and responsibly. Midday prayers are the meaningful link between our morning life and our evening life. These prayers should propel us to keep the faith alive, to continue through the day and close it, not somehow, but triumphantly.