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Did Jesus Pray in the Synagogue?

You may be thinking, what a strange question to ask!

These are the types of questions I will pose to you as we dive into scripture and I know you'll be surprised by some of the answers!

Welcome to Student of the Bible...

Your posture of prayer and where you pray can vary depending on your faith practice and your culture

During our recent trip to Israel we saw many different postures of prayer and reverance in Jerusalem. For example, above are women who are praying at the Western Wall , also called the Wailing Wall. This is the only part of the wall that remains from the temple during the time of Jesus. Men and women are separated at the wall, with men on the left and women on the right. Most women who pray at this wall have their heads and shoulders covered in reverance. Men must wear yarmulkes on their heads.

Men and women can be seen praying by taking many different postures. Some are seated in chairs, others hold the Bible, or as seen above they placing their hands on the wall or sometimes kissing the wall. Scattered throughout the wall are pieces of paper slipped into the cracks. These are written prayers or perhaps names of people that requested prayer. Think of them like tiny letters written to God. Every few weeks the prayers are collected by Jewish rabbis.

The prayers from the Western Wall are buried on the Mount of Olives

The prayers are never thrown away. Once removed from the wall, they are buried on the Mount of Olives that overlooks Jerusalem. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives frequently to pray. It is a quiet place of olive trees and beautiful flowers and a fitting place to cry out to our heavenly Father.

Orthodox men and women often dress differently in reverance to God

In Jerusalem, Orthodox men are recognizable by their long curly tendrils of hair, their tall black hats and their long prayer shawls and when they pray in public they are often rocking back and forth. Orthodox women will often cover their hair while in public.

In the Orthodox synagogues men and women pray from different sides of the room often separated by a wall of plants.

Non Orthodox Jewish men will often be seen wearing a yarmulke covering the top of their heads and may also cover their shoulder with the tallit which is a fringed prayer shawl.

What other faiths are there that worship in Jerusalem?

Christian men and women gather in Jerusalem in Catholic churches, Greek Orthodox churches and many other denominations. Some women wear veils depending on their faith tradition.

There are many practicing Muslims in Jerusalem. A minaret which is a tall slender tower with a balcony, calls Muslims to prayer 5 times a day, dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening. We were there during Ramadan and Muslims fasted during the day. Prayer and fasting are central to a Muslim's belief.

How often and where did Jesus pray?

To the right is the church Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives. It is believed to be near the place where Jesus looked down from the mount and wept over Jerusalem (you can see Jerusalem through the stained glass window)

The Bible mentions at least 6 times that Jesus went off in solitude to pray. Why did He need to do this?

  • Jesus chose a quiet place to pray when He was preparing for a major task (Luke 4:1-2, 14-15).

  • He would choose to withdraw from the crowds to be with His Father in prayer when He needed to recharge after a day's hard work as in (Mark 6:30-32)

  • He chose solitude with God when He was working through grief (Matthew 14:1-13).

  • Jesus withdrew in prayer when He needed to make an important decision (Luke 6:12-13)

  • When He needed to focus on a particular task, He would retire to a quiet place to pray. (Luke 5:16).

  • In times of distress He often sought privacy at the Mount of Olives. Hours before His arrest, Jesus went to the base of the Mount to an area called the Garden of Gethsemane and withdrew to a quiet place away from His disciples to pray. (Luke 22:39-44)

MARK 6:30-32 "Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest."

Prayer is a gift. It is an opportunity we have to commune with our Heavenly Father. We can speak to God directly. Jesus gave us the Lord's Prayer as the perfect guide when we honestly don't know what to say or how to say it. The Lord knows what is on our heart, but we still need to speak it out loud; so that we know who it is that answers our prayers and that we are not in charge, God is.

Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, in prayer and petition...present your requests to God."

So did Jesus pray in the Synagogue?

The answer may surprise you...The answer is no! The synagogue was a place for reading the Torah and for teaching. It was not a place of prayer. The temple in Jerusalem was the sacred place of prayer because this was where the presence of God was in the Holy of Holies.

Today, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can pray anytime, anywhere and take any posture of prayer and Jesus will hear our prayers! Amen!


About Me

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I'm extremely interested in the cultural and geographical aspect of the Bible. Having been to Israel twice, I am moved by the juxtaposition of the Bible's ancient history and discerning how to live in the truth of the Bible today. My blogs tackle some of these issues.


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