Prayer is a universal way of expressing requests and giving thanks. Jewish prayer also includes several uniquely Jewish characteristics, including specific prayer formulas and different wordings for prayers of praise, request and thanks.
We are all familiar with prayer as a religious ritual, but its origins go much deeper than that. People prayed long before prayer became something fixed and organized; it is human nature to want to share feelings of gratitude and praise, or ask for help in times of distress. In this unit, we will learn about prayer as a universal phenomenon; we will also look at different ways to pray and get to know different types of prayers.
- How does prayer present us with questions about God and the Divine?
- How can I experience moments of connection to God?
- How is prayer a vehicle to help us access connections to God?
- How do Jewish rituals and practices enrich the way I experience my life and the world?
- Why/how might Jewish practices be meaningful for me even if I don’t define myself as “religious”?
- Students will become familiar with different concepts surrounding the meaning of prayer and how it is expressed.
- Students will recognize the three different types of prayer: bakasha (prayers of request), hodaya (prayers of thanks) and shevach (prayers of praise).
- Students will be able to identify certain feelings and varied forms of expression as acts of prayer.
- Students will be able to distinguish between different types of prayers based on keywords.
What evidence will students provide to demonstrate that they:
Know the knowledge; Can do the skills; Can respond thoughtfully to the EQs and BIs
The teacher will determine a means for assessment before beginning to teach the curriculum module.
Possible Unit Plan
Possible Unit Opener:
Begin with a general discussion on the question: “What is prayer?” This can be done using the various openers suggested in the “What is Prayer?” resource, including a presentation about different sayings about prayer and pictures and sentences that express prayer.
- Open with a discussion about the universal aspects of prayer, as presented in the “What is Prayer?” resource, and talk about the different sources brought there. For older students, it is recommended that you delve deeper into the prayer of the individual which stems from their need/desire and not from social and religious norms or expectations . Such discussions can include, among other things, non-religious characteristics of prayer and even some different addresses for prayer, i.e. to whom those who do not believe in God might pray. This resource is intended for upper classes and can be adapted for older students in lower classes.
- To familiarize the students with various expressions of prayer, use the Types of Prayer resource, which discusses the differences between prayers of bakasha (request), hodaya (thanks) and shevach (praise). Illustrate the differences using specific prayers from the siddur (prayer book).
- You can choose whether to continue focusing on different prayer formulas in Jewish prayer, and use the Mordechai Bar-On passage to raise a discussion about the importance of fixed prayer formulas.
- Return to the essential questions raised in the unit and have the students respond to them in light of what they learned in class.