Praying by the Holy Spirit in Hodayot

By Pinchas Shir -February 22, 2021 1474 The Hebrew word Hodayot refers to “thanks” or “thanksgiving”. Other names include Thanksgiving Hymns, Thanksgiving Psalms, Hymns Scroll and Scroll of Hymns. The main scroll found in 1947 is designated 1QH a. Other fragments of this text have been found in Caves 1 and 4 (1Q35, 4Q427-432).

The text quoted below is known as the Hodayot — “prayers and songs of thanksgiving” discovered in the Qumran region in 1947. These passages are a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, and though some portions of the text are missing, scholars were able to reconstruct many of these ancient texts. These passages are in Hebrew and date to the first century BCE. Their language is remarkably personal and deeply spiritual. The songs speak of grace (favor), salvation, forgiveness, purity, love, and the Holy Spirit. Though the texts are not always complete, the writer clearly invokes the Holy Spirit in prayer. Passages from the Hebrew Bible, such as Psalm 51 and Isaiah 63, make mention of the Holy Spirit, but the Hodayot take it to a new level. As you read this brief excerpt, consider the spirituality of Jews who composed these words a century before the life of Yeshua.

10 by [your] ho[ly] spirit […] … […] and 11 [your] ho[ly] spirit is unable to […] the fullness of he[av]en and earth […] your [gl]ory. The fullness […] 12 I know that in [your] kind[ness] towards man you have multiplied […] your truth in all […] 13 and the service of justice […] which you have imposed on him lest[…] to stumble in all […] 14 Since I know all this I want to find a reply of the tongue to prostrate myself and to ask [forgiveness … fo]r my offense, to look for the spirit […] 15 to be strengthened by [your] ho[ly] spirit, to adhere to the truth of your covenant, to serve you in truth, with a perfect heart, to love [your will.] 16 Be blessed, Lord, great [in pla]ns and mi[ghty] in acts, everything is your work. You have resolved, in fact, to take pity [on your servant,] 17 to show me favor by the spirit of your compassion and by the […] of your glory. To you belongs the justice because you have done al[l this.]

18 And since I know that you have recorded the spirit of the just man, I have chosen to purify my hands in accordance with [your] will and your servant’s soul detests every 19 work of iniquity. I know that no one besides you is just. I have appeased your face by the spirit which you have placed [in me,] to lavish 20 your [kind]nesses on [your] serv[ant] for [ever,] to purify me with your holy spirit, to bring me near by your will according to the extent of your kindnesses […] and to act 21 with me […] the place of [your] wi[ll] which you have cho[sen] for those who love you, and for those who keep your precep[ts …] 22 in your presence [for ev]er.

[May … not] associate with the spirit of your servant or with all [his] works […] 23 […] May no affliction [come] upon him which would let him fall away from the precepts of your covenant! For […] 24 your face. And I kn[ow that you are a lenient] and compassionate [God,] s[lo]w to a[ng]er, full of kindness and of truth, who forgives offense […] 25 and has pity on the [evil of those who love you] and keep [your] prec[epts, those] who turn to you with trust and a perfect heart […] 26 to serve you [and to do what] is good in your eyes. Do not turn your face away from your servant, [do not reject] the son of [your] maidservant! […] 27 […] And I, through your words [I] have approached […] (1Qha VIII: 10-27, Martinez Translation)