The Prayer in the AfternoonOctober 28, 2021 - 12:00 am
“Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he raised his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming.”— Genesis 24:63 (NASB)
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Chayei Sarah, which means “the life of Sarah,” from Genesis 23:1—25:18.
Let’s talk about our prayer lives. If you are reading this, you probably pray on a regular basis. However, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Centre, only 49% of Americans pray on a daily basis. Two-thirds of those who pray daily reported that they pray more than once a day.
In other words, only 31% of Americans say that they pray to God more than once every day. Is this significant? Isn’t the important thing that I spend time each day talking to God? If I spent quality time with God, does it matter if I pray to Him more than once?
I’m bringing this up because when I read the Pew study, I could not help but think about the Jewish practice of praying three times each day — morning, afternoon, and evening. What is the difference between praying once a day and praying multiple times? What do the multiple prayers add to our relationship to God?
The Prayer in the Afternoon
The truth is that our lives really are different at different times of day. At the start of the day, we pray that our day will be successful. A prayer at the end of the day is usually one of thanks for what the day brought, reflecting on what happened as we retreat from the outside world. But what about the prayer in the afternoon?
Jewish tradition teaches that the afternoon prayer is based on Isaac’s prayer in this week’s Torah portion. The Bible tells us that Isaac went out to meditate in the field lifnot erev — “toward evening,” meaning in the late afternoon. The “field” is the place of farming, of work, of commerce. Isaac did not come in from the field to pray, his day was not over. He prayed in the field.
The prayer in the field is the prayer in the afternoon. Unlike the morning and night-time prayers, this prayer interrupts our workday. In Hebrew, the afternoon prayer is called Mincha, which literally means “offering.”
By taking time out for God while our work is ongoing, we offer Him a portion of our time. Mincha is the prayer of stopping our work and saying to God, “I am yours. My time is yours. My success is yours.”
Your turn: Try adding an afternoon prayer, time to connect with God in the middle of a busy day, to your prayer life.