Hit-bo-what? The Master and Rebbe Nachman

We can be sure that the Master would have participated in the daily appointed times of prayer, which involved some type of liturgy, but we also read about his own unique practice concerning prayer in the Gospels.

Jerusalem forest scenery from the Revida area (Image: PikiWiki Israel)

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I was once at an Orthodox Jewish Torah study when a rabbi began explaining a prayer practice called Hitbodedut. Hitbodedut, as he told us, is a Hebrew word that means “prayer that takes place in seclusion” and it was taught extensively by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. As he began explaining this practice I immediately began thinking of our Master. Let me explain.

We can be sure that the Master would have participated in the daily appointed times of prayer which involved some type of liturgy, but we also read about his own unique practice concerning prayer in the Gospels:

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. (Matthew 14:23)

We find this to be his practice time and time again. (See Mark 1:35, 6:46-47; Luke 6:12; John 6:15-16). So often in fact, that we are told, “. . . but Yeshua would often withdraw to the wilderness and pray” (Luke 5:16). It appears that a custom of his was to go off alone and pray to his Father in heaven. Often times this was done when things were getting hectic and it seems that he needed to strengthen himself in order to carry on. He taught his disciples:

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

There are almost no records of this practice of prayer being carried out by any of his contemporaries.

Fast forward 1800 years and we come to Rebbe Nachman. He instructed regarding hitbodedut that it should be done alone, preferably at night, and out in nature, but if one could not be in nature then it should be done alone in a room. These are our Master’s teachings! You can imagine how stunned I was listening to this rabbi’s explanation. Perhaps if we had been doing a better job at discipleship Yeshua would have gotten the credit.

Praying alone with our Father and talking to him from our hearts can do nothing but strengthen our walk with HaShem. In the daily hustle and bustle of life we need time alone with the Creator. Deuteronomy 10:20 commands us to “cling to him.” This is expressed in the Hebrew concept of devekut, “attachment.” What better method of attaching ourselves to God is there than the one that Yeshua has shown us in his life of prayer?

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About the Author: Toby Janicki is a teacher, writer, and project manager for First Fruits of Zion and Vine of David. He contributes regularly to Messiah Journal and has written several books including God-Fearers: Gentiles and the God of Israel. More articles by Toby Janicki

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