United in Prayer

Deuteronomy 6:4

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

(Hebrew) Shema, Yisrael: Adonai (YHWH) eloheinu, Adonai (YHWH) echad.

Jesus would have said this often as it is at the very heart of the Israelite identity and prayer life. As Christians, this declaration connects us to the Old Testament foundation of our lives as God’s people. The beauty of this simple prayer is that in Hebrew it is only six words. Easy to remember but containing a richness of meaning that unites all who follow God.

Shema - Hear, listen, attend to, pay attention, follow. This is the posture of every follower of Jesus. We listen to his words. We attend to his character and attitudes and we emulate him. Shema is at the heart of Christian spirituality.

Yisrael - God contends, God persists. This is the name given to Jacob when he wrestles with God. When he finally realizes the futility of resisting God he still clings to Him, begging for a blessing. How beautiful it is that those who wrestle with God are invited to the stillness of shema. We confess that this is our own story.

YHWH - The covenant name of God which is read aloud as “Adonai” (Lord) in Hebrew tradition. Twice this prayer makes it clear that our prayer is directed towards YHWH. It does not use the generic term “god” but his specific covenant name. Jesus is Adonai.

Eloheinu - Our God. This makes it personal. This is not someone else’s god. He is my God and the God of every Christian believer. Jesus is not just the saviour. He is our saviour.

Echad - One, only. Two meanings are contained here. Adonai is our one and only God.  We acknowledge no other. In addition, as Christians we engage the deep mystery of God himself. The triune God is one. Try as we might, the full comprehension of God is elusive. All we can say is that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is one God. Christians are united in marveling at this mystery. We are one in Christ.

Action: Memorize this prayer in English or Hebrew. When you pray and meditate on it, be reminded that it unites you to all those who are devoted to God.

Prayer: Lift up your hands and repeat three times in either language.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 

Shema Yisrael: Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad.

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About the author

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Ted Ng holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature (B.A. (Hons.), University of Waterloo) along with a Master’s degree (M.Div., Regent College) and a Doctorate in Christian Spirituality (D. Min., Fuller Theological Seminary). In 1993, he interned as a pastor at Christ Church of China. Then, beginning in 1995, he served on the pastoral team at Lord’s Grace Church for 12 years. He was ordained in 2000. In 2007, God invited Ted to plant F3C with him in response to the needs in Vancouver’s Christian community. Ted has been committed to the spiritual formation and training of pastors for over 20 years through apprenticeship, mentoring, and teaching. He has served as an adjunct professor at Carey Theological College. His interests are in Spiritual Theology, Pastoral Formation, Intercultural Engagement, Next Generation Chinese Ministry and Missional Church Ministry.

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