What is a Christian Prayer Shawl or Prayer Quilt?
Christians routinely use “Prayer Shawls” or “Prayer Quilts” but for vastly different purposes. The most common commercially available prayer shawls used by Christians are the ones used by Messianic Jewish believers (some of whom prefer not to be called “Christians”). Another common type of Christian prayer shawl is usually available free through local Christian ministries. Here are the key differences…
Messianic (Christian) Jewish Prayer Shawls
Messianic Jews, with Christians, profess that Israel’s promised Messiah has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Culturally though, these believers have lives that more closely resemble Torah observant Jews than Gentile Christians. Part of that cultural identity requires the use of the Tallit or prayer shawl.
These shawls are worn during worship primarily in response to the divine command given Numbers 15:37-39 (KJV quoted):
37 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
38 Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them ; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes…
The Messianic Jewish (Christian) prayer shawl in this instance was to call to memory that Israel was to be a “royal priesthood” and “holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The sight of the tassles or ribbons hanging from the corners (called “tzitzits”) were a visual prompt to remember – and live by – “all the commandments of the Lord”. As a act of obedience in its own right, this wearing of the prayer shawl was to remind of the obligation to follow all the other commands of the Lord and turn away from their own rebellious inclinations.
This is an instance of a Christian Prayer Shawl being a highly symbolic reminder or God’s covenant… God’s gracious gathering of a people for Himself epitomized by revealing his holy name translated in English Bibles as “LORD” and, in turn, the people’s obligation to respond in grateful and self-forgetful obedience to their God’s commands.
As such these prayer shawls are worn by worshippers in general (usually men as the prime actors in worship but increasingly by women as well). Their function is liturgical and public to call the congregation to remembrance and obedience (covenant renewal).
Other Christian Prayer Shawls or Quilts:
While the Tallit (above) has a fairly standard design, though highlight colors on the shawl vary, the other type of Christian prayer shawl varies greatly. They may be cloth like the Tallit, they may be crocheted, or produced in any number of ways. They also may be quilt portions with Christian artwork or text on them.
These Christian prayer shawls are usually consecrated with special prayer for the recipients. Recipients are often victims of trauma, suffering some disaster or disease, or being given special recognition (like a missionary). The common denominator is that these Christian prayer shawls are given to people to represent extensive and special prayer on their behalf by a congregation of Christians.
Many Christian sewing circles produce these Christian prayer shawls freely and without charge as part of their ministry.
While these Christian Prayer Shawls may be given to someone in a liturgical setting, they are primarily for private use. People returning to worship wearing the prayer shawl would be out of place in most congregations.
In addition to not being used liturgically, these Christian Prayer Shawls are not marked by the “tzitzits”. They are given representing special prayer for the person and do not represent the individual or groups’ requirement to follow the LORD’S commandments. In other words, these Christian Prayer Shawls have a SUBJECTIVE meaning instead of an OBJECTIVE meaning. The video below shows a representative Christian prayer shawl being made to comfort someone and represents this type of prayer shawl quite well.
Are Christian Prayer Shawls controversial? Not usually. The controversy would come from whether the shawl serves any actually religious purpose? That seems less controversial for the Tallit. Sometimes christian prayer shawls are made to sound almost magical. That may be an area where controversy sometimes arises.
Video: How to make a quick and easy Christian prayer shawl…
You can see various Christian Prayer Shawls for sale here: