Bring Us Back, Father

The Fellowship  |  August 19, 2019

Valery Krasilschik, IFCJ recipient looking up while having his hands in prayer.
elderly man, blue green striped shirt, no fingers, lost fingers to frostbite, hands folded, crying, sad

Why should you be beaten anymore?
    Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
    your whole heart afflicted. — Isaiah 1:5

Prayer in Judaism is defined as “the work of the heart,” which profoundly changes the nature of prayer from one of entreating God to an act that transforms who we are – not what God does. Our devotions are focused on different facets of prayer and what lessons we can learn about the power of our prayers. For more inspirational teachings about prayer, download our complimentary study.

We’ve all heard the expression when it rains, it pours, describing the phenomenon when unfortunate events seemingly happen in clusters. A person might lose his or her job, experience marital problems, and discover an illness — all in the span of a few weeks.

As people of faith who believe that the Master of the Universe is in control of all things, the question then becomes, why? Why would an all-loving, all-powerful God give us so many painful experiences at one time? Couldn’t He at least space them out?

From a Jewish perspective, there are three possible answers. One possibility is that it’s a test. God will give you double for your trouble, so just be faithful and press on. The second answer is simply that we don’t know. As finite beings, we can’t possibly understand the ways of our infinite God. He is not limited by our human understanding. The third possibility – and I would venture to say the most common reason – is that God is trying to get our attention.

In our daily prayers, one of the blessings that we recite is: “Bring us back, our Father, to Your Torah, and bring us near, our King, to your service, and influence us to return in perfect repentance before You. Blessed are You, God, who desires repentance.”

The Jewish sages explain the wordy language in this prayer. First, we ask that God gently steer us back to Him with soft reminders. However, if we don’t get the message, we ask that God more forcibly bring us near to Him with even stronger messages. If we still can’t hear Him, we pray that He exert His influence – even if it means hitting us over the head – so that we hear Him and return to Him.

Very often, when it feels like God is stopping us in our tracks, it’s because He is steering us in another direction. One that leads back to Him.

In this verse from the book of Isaiah, the prophet was scolding the children of Israel who had strayed greatly from God. God said to the Israelites: “Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.” God had tried so many times to get their attention, but it was useless. It was only after the children of Israel were brutally exiled from their homeland that they finally got the message.

Friends, let’s listen closely for God’s messages and heed His Word. Don’t wait for the hard stuff to hit. Listen for the gentle whisper and follow it.

Discover more about the Jewish perspective of prayer in our complimentary Bible study, Prayer: The Work of the Heart.