Jews are taught to pray three times a day. Shacharit is recited in the morning, Minchah in the afternoon, and Maariv in the evening.
Where does prayer come from? From our forefathers, says the Talmud. Abraham inaugurated the morning prayer, Isaac the afternoon and Jacob the evening. (Later commentators pointed out that the Yiddish word for prayer, “daven,” comes from the Aramaic meaning “of our fathers”).
The Talmud also explains, however, that the times set for prayer are based upon Temple sacrifices. Tamid sacrifices were offered in the morning and afternoon. In the evening, leftovers were burnt on the altar.
We no longer have sacrifices; instead, we have prayer.
Makes sense, except that according to the 11th century commentator Rashi, it was the men of the Great Assembly in Talmudic times who established the times for prayer, men that governed in the time of the Temple. Why did we need prayer in Temple times?
Some Torah scholars equate prayer with the song of the Levites, which accompanied each sacrifice. The result: Prayers were not instituted to replace the sacrificial services, but to complement them, which means that absent the Temple — and even when Messiah comes and the Third Temple is built — heartfelt prayer is a wonderful and valuable path to God.