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Minister’s Message: A prayer pulled from the ashes

“In that beleaguered and beautiful land, the prayer endures.”

By Rick Cupp

For the Peninsula Clarion

I would like to offer up a prayer for you in 2022. I didn’t write it, though I fervently mean it. The prayer is multiple thousands of years old and many Jewish parents still pray it every Friday night for their children. It is also, interestingly enough, a prayer snatched from the jaws of hell. Let me explain.

Before I tell you the prayer, I need to give some background. We don’t have any of the original manuscripts of the Bible, just like we don’t of most ancient books. But the Bible and other writings survived as faithful people made copies of them down through the centuries. So as we trace back, for example, Plato’s Republic, we have, last time I looked, about 10 very old copies and by comparing them we believe the copy we read today is the “original.” The Bible is attested with hundreds of thousands of copies and so we are even more convinced we are reading the original.

The absolute oldest copy of a scripture we have today is in the Israeli Museum. No, it’s not one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, though those are very old. This scripture was found digging through centuries of ashes left in Gehenna.

Now Gehenna is a valley just outside Jerusalem that was a continual trash heap, set on fire and burning constantly as people would throw their garbage there down through the centuries. Earlier, two of the most evil kings Israel ever had, Manasseh and Ahaz, burned their sons alive in that valley as they worshipped idols and the scriptures indicate that other parents followed their example. And so you can see why that valley’s name was used as the name for hell when Jesus walked the earth.

Now, on to the prayer. In 1979 archaeologists were sifting through Gehenna’s ashes and discovered two small pieces of silver, two rolled up amulets. When later unfurled with extreme care, they discovered scripture on them.

Writing in the New York Times on May 28, 2021, Rabbi David Wolpe says this about the amulets: “This is the priestly blessing, one parents recite for their children each Friday night, a fervent prayer for the future. In other words, the oldest bit of scripture that exists in the world is a blessing of peace that was snatched from hell. In that beleaguered and beautiful land, the prayer endures.”

And so I share it with you. Most Jews and many Christians have this prayer already memorized. I can think of no better prayer to offer for you and your future and for mine.

This is the prayer:

May God bless you and keep you.

May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

May God turn His face toward you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

Now you know and can share the blessing of peace snatched from the fires of hell. I would simply add, Amen.

Rick Cupp ministers at Kenai Fellowship. Sunday worship at 11 a.m., posted live on Facebook.

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