The Shema Explained:
One of the most well-loved works from the nineteenth-century English preacher Charles Spurgeon in his devotional, Morning and Evening. For centuries, Anglicans have observed the morning and evening “office” (prayer service). These daily prayer rhythms didn’t emerge a hundred or even a thousand years ago; their roots go back to the Shema, the foundational Jewish prayer. This prayer is the first one Jewish children learn and is the last words on the lips of Jews before they die. It is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (TLV).
The Hebrew word Shema means “to hear,” as in, “Hear O Israel.” If you think about it, this makes so much sense. While fear is central to this world’s culture, faith is a catalyst in the Kingdom’s culture, and faith comes by…hearing (see Rom 10:17). What a blessing it is to bookend our days with this gracious command to “hear.” Not only does hearing cultivate faith, but hearing is also crucial to humility. The decision to genuinely listen to others before we speak for ourselves is a beautiful expression of humility, and God “gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). How would your spiritual and social life be impacted by a fresh influx of faith and humility?
When we pray the Shema, we are declaring that God alone is King, that He alone is worthy of our worship. It’s like a pledge of allegiance to the Lord, who is “one.” And when we pray the Shema, we take our prayer to another level.
Grounded in Psalm 122, many believers rightly pray for Israel and the “peace of Jerusalem.” But we can add another dimension to that: don’t just pray for Israel, pray with Israel. When you pray the Shema, you not only join with millions of Jews around the world but also participate in the chorus whose history goes back to Moses. You’re praying the prayer that our Messiah Yeshua prayed every day.
I invite you to join me in praying the Shema in the “morning and evening.” Incorporating this into your spirituality will transform you and bring you into a closer fellowship with Yeshua!
Of Course, There is More:
As written by the scribes, the last letter of the word Shema (“Hear”) and the last letter of the word Echad (“One”) are larger than all the other letters in Deuteronomy 6:4—“Hear O Israel the Lord our God is One.” Why are these two letters written larger than the others? These two larger letters spell the word Eid, “witness” in Hebrew. When we say the Shema, we are bearing witness that the Lord alone is the Creator and Redeemer, who alone is to be worshiped.
But there is more. The enlarged Ayin literally means “eye,” and the letter Dalet has the value of “4,” representing the four corners of the earth. So, these enlarged letters are a prayer and declaration that our eyes would see the Lord reign over all four corners of the compass: North, South, East, and West! May that day come soon! And may we keep this in mind when we say these words morning and evening.