The Shema refers to a couple lines from the book of Deuteronomy (6:4-5), that became a daily prayer in Ancient Israelite tradition. It’s the equivalent of the Lord’s prayer (“Our Father in heaven…”) in Christian tradition. The Shema gets its name from the first Hebrew word of the prayer in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Listen, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” The English word “listen” renders the Hebrew word “shema.” In traditional Jewish prayer practice, these lines from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 were combined with other passages from the Torah (Deut. 11:13-21 and Num. 15:37-41), and were prayed in the morning and the evening. This prayer has been one of the most influential traditions in Jewish history, and functioned both as the Jewish pledge of allegiance and a hymn of praise.
The Shema for Christians
The Shema is a beautiful prayer. There’s a reason why God’s people have been praying these words for millennia. They are simple words with the capacity to reshape the course of an entire life. The Shema can keep God’s love and loyalty in the forefront of your mind and drive you towards obedience, not out of obligation or duty, but out of love. The words of Jesus in the Gospel of John are obviously derived from the Shema:
“The one who has my commands and keeps them, that’s the one who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and I will reveal myself to him.” -John 14:21
And remember whose love started this whole chain reaction of love leading to obedience. “We love, because he first loved us.” -1 John 4:19
At the end of the day, following Jesus is about love. Love that came to us when we weren’t looking for it. And as we receive this love, it generates gratefulness, humility, and a commitment to honor and love in return. Love gives birth to more love, which, in turn, results in faithfulness and obedience. These are truths than can transform us from the inside out. Can you imagine a better way to never forget, than memorizing and praying the Shema twice a day? Maybe you should start today.