In Deuteronomy 5, Moses reviewed the Ten Commandments; in the 6th chapter, Moses catches up what all the Law means with the “Shema”. The word shema is the Hebrew word for “hear” or “listen”. It is the first word in the passage, Deuteronomy 6:4 – 5, and it became the title for this passage. This passage is the central affirmation of faith of the Hebrew people. When Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees as to which was the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:35-40), Jesus quoted this passage from Deuteronomy. [He then added a second commandment to it, quoting Leviticus 19:18.]
The Shema captured the essence of what it meant to be a follower of God. It was so central that the people were given concrete ways of being reminded of its primary place in their lives (6:8-9). They were told to bind it to their arms and wear it as an emblem on their heads, which they did literally with a phylactery (cording for the arm and a small box for their foreheads that contained a small scroll with Deut. 6:4-5) . They were also told to write the words on their doorposts, which they did literally with a mezuzah (a rectangular box in which a small scroll with Deut. 6:4-5 was inserted).
Moses told them that faithfully living out the “Shema” would be the way to a life in which things went well with them and this life style would enable them to go in and occupy the good land that God had given to them. (6:18).
In class today, we talked about what that kind of life would look like. We talked about how challenging it would be to do that consistently. Having concrete reminders, like a phylactery and a mezuzah, would certainly be constant guides to help to stay on track.
The last third of our class time was spent creating our own concrete reminders. We made Prayer Beads. Varieties of craft beads and plastic string were used. Different colors and shaped bead were strung to symbolize those things for which we wanted to be in prayer or symbolized reminders for how God had called us to live. They will be kept in pockets or in our place(s) of prayer, each bead will be fingered and prompt us to prayer and action.
Beyond our personal prayers and reminders, the following process for using prayer beads was distributed. It comes from 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times, Teresa A. Blythe:
- Select or create a string of smooth, round beads of any length to hold as you pray. Keep a Bible close if you need to read the words of some of these prayers. Spend a few moments in silence at the end of each prayer, pondering the mystery of faith.
- Touch the first bead and recite the opening of the Gospel of John, 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
- Touch the next bead and repeat the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13)
- Touch the next bead and recite the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-31)
- Touch the next bead and say the Jesus Prayer, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”
- Touch the next bead and recite the Doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise God all creatures here below; Praise God above ye heavenly hosts; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
- You may repeat the five prayers in the same order or repeat one of them over and over until you have fingered all your beads.
- Close with the Doxology.