The Shemah Prayer
Every morning and evening, for thousands of years, Jewish people, young and old, have prayed these words; “Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all of your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) It is often called the “Shemah Prayer.” The word “Shemah” means to hear, or to listen. The passage goes on to tell the Israelites that they were to teach that command to their children and grandchildren, to live it daily and put it on their doorposts. Even today you will find that prayer, the words in Deuteronomy, on the walls and doors of Jewish homes.
Consciously loving God with our whole being should be front and centre for each one of us. Passing it on to the next generations is a vital part of that. Jesus, when being interrogated by the religious leaders who were trying to trap him, was asked what the most important commandment was. In reply, Jesus quoted the Shemah prayer above, and then added a second commandment equally important. ”Love your neighbour as yourself.” He went on to say that the entire law was wrapped up in these two commandments.
I’ve pondered that second commandment a lot. Especially in relationship to the first. It seems to me that Jesus was saying that loving God was the basis for loving my neighbour. Loving my neighbour flows out of my love for God. When I grow in my love for God, I will love my neighbour more. Who is my neighbour? Anyone who lives near me, walks by me, comes across my path or is in need of my help. That’s my neighbour. That’s who I am to love. Perhaps I need to put that first law, the Shemah prayer, on my door. I definitely need to live it daily. I invite you to consider how God is calling you to respond to the Shemah Prayer too.
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