Ancient Near East
Images & Art
Maps & Geography
Mythology & Beliefs
People in History
Timelines & Charts
(1) Techinnah, from chandra "to be gracious"; hithpael, "to entreat grace"; Greek deesis.
(2) Tephillah, from hithpael of paalal, "to seek judgment"; Greek proseuchee. "Prayer," proseuchee, for obtaining blessings, implying devotion; "supplication," deesis, for averting evil. "Prayer" the general term; "supplication" with imploring earnestness (implying the suppliant's sense of need); enteuxis, intercession for others, coming near to God, seeking an audience in person, generally in another's behalf. Thanksgiving should always go with prayer (1 Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 6:18; Philemon 4:6). An instinct of every nation, even pagan (Isaiah 16:12; Isaiah 44:17; Isaiah 45:20; 1 Kings 18:26). In Seth's days, when Enos (frailty) was born to him, "men began to call upon the name of Jehovah."
The name Enos embodies the Sethites' sense of human frailty urging them to prayer, in contrast to the Cainites' self sufficient "pride of countenance" which keeps sinners from seeking God (Psalm 10:4). While the Cainites by building a city and inventing arts were founding the kingdom of this world, the Sethites by united calling upon Jehovah constituted the first church, and laid the foundation of the kingdom of God. The name of God is His whole self manifestation in relation to man. On this revealed divine character of grace and power believers fasten their prayers (Psalm 119:49; Proverbs 18:10). The sceptic's objections to prayer are:
(1) The immutability of nature's general laws. But nature is only another name for the will of God; that will provides for answers to prayer in harmony with the general scheme of His government of the world. There are higher laws than those observed in the material world; the latter are subordinate to the former.
(2) God's predestinating power, wisdom and love make prayer useless and needless. But man is made a free moral agent; and God who predestines the blessing predestines prayer as the means to that end (Matthew 24:20).
Prayer produces and strengthens in the mind conscious dependence on God, faith, and love, the state for receiving and appreciating God's blessing ordained in answer to prayer. Moreover prayer does not supersede work; praying and working are complementary of each other (Nehemiah 4:9). Our weakness drives us to cast ourselves on God's fatherly love, providence, and power. Our cf6 "Father knoweth what things we have need of before we ask Him"; "we know not what things we should pray for as we ought" (Matthew 6:8; Romans 8:26). Yet "the Spirit helpeth our infirmities," and Jesus teaches us by the Lord's prayer how to pray (Luke 11). Nor is the blessing merely subjective; but we may pray for particular blessings, temporal and spiritual, in submission to God's will, for ourselves. cf6 "Thy will be done," (Matthew 6:10) and "if we ask anything according to His will" (1 John 5:14-15), is the limitation. Every truly believing prayer contains this limitation. God then grants either the petition or something better than it, so that no true prayer is lost (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Luke 22:42; Hebrews 5:7).
Also "intercessions" for others (the effect of which cannot be merely subjective) are enjoined (1 Timothy 2:1). God promises blessings in answer to prayer, as the indispensable condition of the gift (Matthew 7:7-8). Examples confirm the command to pray. None prayed so often as Jesus; early in the morning "a great while before day" (Mark 1:35), "all the night" (Luke 6:12), in Gethsemane with an "agony" that drew from Him "sweat as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44); "when He was being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened" (Luke 3:21); "as He prayed" He was transfigured (Luke 9:29); "as He was praying in a certain place" (Luke 11:1) one disciple struck by His prayer said, "Lord teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples" (Luke 11:1) (an interesting fact here only recorded). Above all, the intercession in John 17, His beginning of advocacy with the Father for us; an example of the highest and holiest spiritual communion.
The Holy Spirit in believers "maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." "He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit," and so casts off all that is imperfect and mistaken in our prayers, and answer s the Spirit who speaks in them what we would express aright but cannot (Romans 8:26-27; Romans 8:34). Then our Intercessor at God's right hand presents out prayers, accepted on the ground of His merits and blood (John 14:13; John 15:16; John 16:23-27). Thus God incarnate in the God-man Christ reconciles God's universal laws, i.e. His will, with our individual freedom, and His predestination with our prayers. Prayer is presupposed as the adjunct of sacrifice, from the beginning (Genesis 4:4). Jacob's wrestling with the divine Angel and prayer, in Genesis 32, is the first full description of prayer; compare the inspired continent on it, Hosea 12:3-6. But Abraham's intercession for Sodom (Genesis 18), and Isaac's, preceded (Genesis 24:63 margin).
Moses' law prescribes sacrifice, and takes for granted prayer (except the express direction for prayer, Deuteronomy 26:12-15) in connection with it and the sanctuary, as both help us to realize God's presence; but especially as prayer needs a propitiation or atonement to rest on, such as the blood of the sacrifices symbolizes. The temple is "the house of prayer" (Isaiah 56:7). He that hears player (Psalm 65:2) three manifested Himself. Toward it the prayer of the nation, and of individuals, however distant, was directed (1 Kings 8:30; 1 Kings 8:35; 1 Kings 8:38; 1 Kings 8:46-49; Daniel 6:10; Psalm 5:7; Psalm 28:2; Psalm 138:2). Men used to go to the temple at regular hours for private prayer (Luke 18:10; Acts 3:1). Prayer apparently accompanied all offerings, as did the incense its symbol (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 8:3-4; Luke 1:10; Deuteronomy 26:12-15, where a form of prayer is prescribed).
The housetop and mountain were chosen places for prayer, raised above the world. The threefold Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), and Moses' prayer at the moving (expanded in Psalm 68) and resting of the ark (Numbers 10:35-36), are other forms of prayer in the Mosaic legislation. The regular times of prayer were the third (morning sacrifice), sixth, and ninth hours (evening sacrifice); Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10; Daniel 9:21; Acts 3:1; Acts 10:3; Acts 2:15. "Seven times a day" (Psalm 119:164), i.e. continually, seven being the number for perfection; compare Psalm 119:147-148, by night. Grace was said before meals (Matthew 15:36; Acts 27:35).
Posture. Standing: 1 Samuel 1:26; Matthew 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11. Kneeling, in humiliation: 1 Kings 8:54; 2 Chronicles 6:13; Ezra 9:5; Psalm 95:6; Daniel 6:10. Prostration: Joshua 7:6; 1 Kings 18:42; Nehemiah 8:6. In the Christian church, kneeling only: (Acts 7:60) Stephen, (Acts 9:40) Peter, (Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5) Paul imitating Christ in Gethsemane. In post apostolic times, standing on the Lord's day, and from Easter to Whitsunday, to commemorate His resurrection and ours with Him. The hands were lifted up, or spread out (Exodus 9:33; Psalm 28:2; Psalm 134:2).
The spiritual songs in the Pentateuch (Exodus 15:1-19; Numbers 21:17-18; Deuteronomy 32) and succeeding books (Judges 5; 1 Samuel 2:1-10; 1 Samuel 2:2 Samuel 22; 1 Kings 8:23-53; Nehemiah 9:5-38) abound in prayer accompanied with praise. The Psalms give inspired forms of prayer for public and private use. Hezekiah prayed in the spirit of the Psalms. The prophets contain many such prayers (Isaiah 12; 25; 26; Isaiah 37:14-20; Isaiah 38:9-20; Daniel 9:3-23). The praise and the reading and expounding of the law constituted the service of the synagogue under the sheliach hatsibbur, "the apostle" or "legate of the church."
THE LORD'S PRAYER, (Matthew 6:9-13) couched in the plural, cf6 "when ye pray, say, Our Father ... give us ... forgive us ... lead us" shows that forms suit public joint prayer. cf6 "Thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet ... shut thy door, pray to thy Father [which is] in secret" (Matthew 6:6); in enjoining private prayer Christ gives no form. The Lord's prayer is our model. The invocation is the plea on which the prayer is grounded, God's revealed Fatherhood. Foremost stand the three petitions for hallowing God's name, God's kingdom coming, God's will being done below as above; then our four needs, for bread for body and soul, for forgiveness producing a forgiving spirit in ourselves, or not being led into temptation, and for deliverance from evil. The petitions are seven the sacred number (Matthew 6:5-13).
Prayer was the breath of the early church's life (Acts 2:42; Acts 1:24-25; Acts 4:24-30; Acts 6:4; Acts 6:6; Acts 12:5; Acts 13:2-3; Acts 16:25; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5). So in the epistles (Ephesians 4:14-21; Romans 1:9-10; Romans 16:25-27; Philemon 1:3-11; Colossians 1:9-15; Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Peter 5:10-11). "With one accord" is the keynote of Acts (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1; Acts 2:46; Acts 4:24; Acts 5:12). The kind of prayer in each dispensation corresponds to its character: simple, childlike, asking for the needs of the family, in the patriarchal dispensation (Genesis 15:2-3; Genesis 17:18; Genesis 25:21; Genesis 24:12-14; Genesis 18:23-32, which however is a larger prayer, namely, for Sodom; Genesis 20:7; Genesis 20:17). In the Mosaic dispensation the range of prayer is wider and loftier, namely, intercession for the elect nation.
So Moses (Numbers 11:2; Numbers 12:13; Numbers 21:7); Samuel (1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Samuel 12:19; 1 Samuel 12:23); David (2 Samuel 24:17-18); Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:15-19); Isaiah (Isaiah 19:4; 2 Chronicles 32:20); Asa (2 Chronicles 14:11); Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:6-12); Daniel (Daniel 9:20-21). Prayer for individuals is rarer: Hannah (1 Samuel 1:12), Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:2), Samuel for Saul (1 Samuel 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:35). In the New Testament prayer is mainly for spiritual blessings: the church (Acts 4:24-30), the apostles (Acts 8:15), Cornelius (Acts 10:4; Acts 10:31), for Peter (Acts 12:5), Paul (Acts 16:25; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9); in connection with miraculous healings, etc., Peter for Tabitha (Acts 9:40), the elders (James 5:14-16).
So in Old Testament Moses (Exodus 8:12-30; Exodus 15:25), Elijah (1 Kings 17:20; 1 Kings 18:36-37), Elisha (2 Kings 4:33; 2 Kings 6:17-18), Isaiah (2 Kings 20:11). Intercessions, generally of prophets or priests, are the commonest prayer in the Old Testament. Besides those above, the man of God (1 Kings 13:6), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:6), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:3; Jeremiah 42:4), Job (Job 42:8). God's acceptance of prayer is taken for granted (Job 33:26; Job 22:27), provided it be prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 15:29; John 9:31), "in an acceptable time" (Psalm 69:13; Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 61:2), in the present day of grace (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Confession of sin, and the pleading God's past mercies as a ground of future mercies, characterize the seven (the perfect number) prayers given in full in the Old Testament: of David (2 Samuel 7:18; 2 Samuel 7:29), Solomon (2 Chronicles 6), Hezekiah (2 Kings 19), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:16), Daniel (Daniel 9:3), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1; Nehemiah 9). In the New Testament Christ in the body at God's right hand "for us" is the object toward which faith looks, as formerly the Israelite's face was toward the temple. He endorses our prayers so that they find acceptance with God. Intercessions now should embrace the whole human brotherhood (Matthew 5:44; Matthew 9:38; 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:8).
Requirements in prayer. Spiritual worship, in spirit and truth, not mere form (Matthew 6:6; John 6:24; 1 Corinthians 14:15). No secret iniquity must be cherished (Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 28:9; James 4:3; Isaiah 1:15). Hindrances to acceptance are pride (Job 35:12-13; Luke 18:14), hypocrisy (Job 27:8-10), doubt, double mindedness, and unbelief (James 1:6; Jeremiah 29:13; Mark 11:24-25; Matthew 21:22), not forgiving another, setting up idols in the heart (Ezekiel 14:3). Doing His will, and asking according to His will, are the conditions of acceptable prayer (1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14-15; James 5:16); also persevering importunity in prayer for ourselves, taught in the parable of the importunate widow; as importunity in intercession for others, that the Lord would give us the right spiritual food to set before them, is taught in that of the borrowed loaves (Luke 18:1, etc.; Luke 11:5-13).
Modes of prayer.
(1) Sighing meditation (hagigiy), intense prayer of the heart (margin Isaiah 26:16).
(3) Prayer "set in order" ("direct," 'atak), as the wood upon the altar, the shewbread on the table (Psalm 5:1-3; Genesis 22:9). Prayer is not to be at random; God has no pleasure in the sacrifice of fools (Ecclesiastes 5:1). The answer is to be "looked for," otherwise we do not believe in the efficacy of prayer (Habakkuk 2:1; Micah 7:7). Faith realizes need, and looks to Him who can and will save. This is the reason of Peter's telling the impotent man, "look on us" (Acts 3:4); expectancy and faith (so Matthew 9:28).
(4) "Pouring out the heart before God"; emptying it of all its contents (1 Samuel 1:8; 1 Samuel 1:15; Lamentations 2:19; Psalm 142:2; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 62:1; Psalm 62:8, "waiteth," literally, is silent unto God.
(5) Ejaculation, as Nehemiah in an absolute king's presence, realizing the presence of the higher King (Nehemiah 2:4), and amidst all his various businesses (Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:14; Nehemiah 13:22-31).
Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)
Online Bible (KJV)
Naves Topical Bible
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Easton's Bible Dictionary
Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Matthew Henry Bible Commentary
Hitchcock's Bible Dictionary
Related Bible History