Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prayer TIME

"One day Peter & John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon..."
(Acts 3:1)

Aiea UMC has Sunday worship at 8am and 9:30am.  Other congregations worship a bit later in the morning.  Some even worship on Friday nights, Saturday nights, Sunday nights & Wednesday nights.  There's no uniform worship/prayer time in Christendom (unlike our Muslim brothers & sisters).

So it has always intrigued me whenever I read Acts 3, as Peter & John head to the temple "at the hour of prayer, at 3 o'clock."  Was that just the time of services that day or every day?

My Oxford Study Bible notes two scripture passages: Exodus 29:39 and Leviticus 6:20... saying it was the time of day sacrifices were offered with prayer (it also lists Jewish historian, Josephus, as confirming this practice).  I look up the passages and they both talk about 2 times of sacrifice each day: once in the morning & once in the evening.  So 3pm must have been the "evening" service.

But then I was drawn to another passage... Matthew 27:46 - "And about 3 o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?'"  That quote of Psalm 22 was uttered by Jesus while on the cross... just moments before he died.  Is it a coincidence that the "Lamb of God" gave up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity precisely during the afternoon "hour of prayer/sacrifice" in the Jewish community?  I don't think so.

Did this become a "teaching point" for the early church?  I'm not sure  But it's another reminder to me of God's completeness.  God used the Jewish worship service time table to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Jesus' words, " didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it" gain even greater meaning.


(Guess what I'll be doing at 3pm today?  Offering up a prayer of Thanksgiving.  It is the hour of prayer, you know!)

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