Manners & Customs: Prayer
Prayer and Praying in Ancient Biblical Times
Prayer in Easton's Bible Dictionary
is converse with God; the intercourse of the soul with God,
in contemplation or meditation, but in direct
address to him.
Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or
ejaculatory or formal. It is a "beseeching the Lord"
32:11); "pouring out the soul before the Lord" (1
"praying and crying to heaven" (2 Chr. 32:20);
"seeking unto God
and making supplication" (Job 8:5); "drawing near to
73:28); "bowing the knees" (Eph. 3:14).
Prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of
ability and willingness to hold intercourse with us,
personal control of all things and of all his
creatures and all
Acceptable prayer must be sincere (Heb. 10:22),
reverence and godly fear, with a humble sense of our
insignificance as creatures and of our own
sinners, with earnest importunity, and with
submission to the divine will. Prayer must also be
the faith that God is, and is the hearer and
answerer of prayer,
and that he will fulfil his word, "Ask, and ye shall
(Matt. 7:7, 8; 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13, 14),
and in the
name of Christ (16:23, 24; 15:16; Eph. 2:18; 5:20;
Col. 3:17; 1
Prayer is of different kinds, secret (Matt. 6:6);
family prayers, and in social worship; and public,
service of the sanctuary.
Intercessory prayer is enjoined (Num. 6:23; Job
62:6; Ps. 122:6; 1 Tim. 2:1; James 5:14), and there
instances on record of answers having been given to
prayers, e.g., of Abraham (Gen. 17:18, 20; 18:23-32;
18), of Moses for Pharaoh (Ex. 8:12, 13, 30, 31; Ex.
the Israelites (Ex. 17:11, 13; 32:11-14, 31-34; Num.
Deut. 9:18, 19, 25), for Miriam (Num. 12:13), for
9:20), of Samuel (1 Sam. 7:5-12), of Solomon (1
Kings 8; 2 Chr.
6), Elijah (1 Kings 17:20-23), Elisha (2 Kings 4:33-
(2 Kings 19), Jeremiah (42:2-10), Peter (Acts 9:40),
(12:5-12), Paul (28:8).
No rules are anywhere in Scripture laid down for the
prayer or the attitude to be assumed by the
suppliant. There is
mention made of kneeling in prayer (1 Kings 8:54; 2
Ps. 95:6; Isa. 45:23; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; 9:40;
etc.); of bowing and falling prostrate (Gen. 24:26,
4:31; 12:27; Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:35, etc.); of
the hands (1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54; Ps. 28:2; 63:4;
88:9; 1 Tim.
2:8, etc.); and of standing (1 Sam. 1:26; 1 Kings
8:14, 55; 2
Chr. 20:9; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11, 13).
If we except the "Lord's Prayer" (Matt. 6:9-13),
however, rather a model or pattern of prayer than a
to be offered up, we have no special form of prayer
use given us in Scripture.
Prayer is frequently enjoined in Scripture (Ex.
22:23, 27; 1
Kings 3:5; 2 Chr. 7:14; Ps. 37:4; Isa. 55:6; Joel
36:37, etc.), and we have very many testimonies that
it has been
answered (Ps. 3:4; 4:1; 6:8; 18:6; 28:6; 30:2; 34:4;
James 5:16-18, etc.).
"Abraham's servant prayed to God, and God directed
him to the
person who should be wife to his master's son and
"Jacob prayed to God, and God inclined the heart of
irritated brother, so that they met in peace and
(Gen. 32:24-30; 33:1-4).
"Samson prayed to God, and God showed him a well
quenched his burning thirst, and so lived to judge
"David prayed, and God defeated the counsel of
Sam. 15:31; 16:20-23; 17:14-23).
"Daniel prayed, and God enabled him both to tell
Nebuchadnezzar his dream and to give the
interpretation of it
(Dan. 2: 16-23).
"Nehemiah prayed, and God inclined the heart of the
Persia to grant him leave of absence to visit and
Jerusalem (Neh. 1:11; 2:1-6).
"Esther and Mordecai prayed, and God defeated the
Haman, and saved the Jews from destruction (Esther
"The believers in Jerusalem prayed, and God opened
doors and set Peter at liberty, when Herod had
resolved upon his
death (Acts 12:1-12).
"Paul prayed that the thorn in the flesh might be
his prayer brought a large increase of spiritual
the thorn perhaps remained (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
"Prayer is like the dove that Noah sent forth, which
him not only when it returned with an olive-leaf in
but when it never returned at all.", Robinson's Job.
Prayer in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
(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
(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;
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...
Prayer in Naves Topical Bible
MISCELLANY OF MINOR SUB-TOPICS
Prayer test proposed by Elijah
Daily, in the morning
Ps 5:3; 88:13; 143:8; Isa 33:2
Ps 55:17; Da 6:10
Exemplified by Abraham in his inquiry concerning Sodom
By Moses, supplicating for assistance in delivering
Ge 24:63; Mt 6:6
In a loud voice, satirized by Elijah
Mr 12:40; Lu 20:47
Profuse, to be avoided
Ec 5:2; Mt 6:7
Vain repetitions of, to be avoided
Tokens asked for, as assurance of answer
By Abraham's servant
Gideon asks for a sign of dew on a fleece
Of Moses, at the Red Sea
When Moses prayed to see Canaan, the promised land
Evils averted by
"The Lord's Prayer,"
Mt 6:9-13; Lu 11:2-4
Answer to, withheld
De 23:5; Jos 24:10
Job 30:20; with 42:12
Of the Israelites, when attacked by the Amorites
The prayer of Jesus, "Let this cup pass away,"
Mt 26:39,42,44; with 26:45-75
Answer to, delayed
Ps 22:1,2; 40:1; 80:4; 88:14; Jer 42:7; Hab 1:2; Lu
Answer to, exceeds petition
Solomon asked for wisdom; the answer included wisdom,
riches, honour, and long life
1Ki 3:7-14; 2Ch 1:10-12
The disciples prayed for Peter; the answer included
Ac 12:15; with 12:5
Answer to, different from the request
Moses asked to be permitted to cross the Jordan River;
answer was permission to view the land of promise
The Israelites lusted for the fleshpots of Egypt; the
gave them, flesh, but also leanness of soul
Martha and Mary asked Jesus to come and heal their
Lazarus; Jesus delayed, but raised Lazarus from the
Paul asked that the "thorn in the flesh" be removed; the
answer was a promise of grace to endure it
In Behalf of Nations
See NATIONS, PRAYER FOR
Prayer in Smiths Bible Dictionary
The object of this article will be to touch briefly on --
1. The doctrine of Scripture as to the nature and
efficacy of prayer;
2. Its directions as to time, place and manner of
3. Its types and examples of prayer.
1. Scripture does not give any theoretical
explanation of the mystery which attaches to prayer. The
difficulty of understanding real efficacy arises chiefly
from two sources: from the belief that man lives under
general laws, which in all cases must be fulfilled
unalterably; and the opposing belief that he is master of
his own destiny, and need pray for no external blessing.
Now, Scripture, while, by the doctrine of spiritual
influence it entirely disposes of the latter difficulty,
does not so entirely solve that part of the mystery which
depends on the nature of God. It places it clearly before
us, and emphasizes most strongly those doctrines on which
the difficulty turns. Yet while this is so, on the other
hand the instinct of prayer is solemnly sanctioned and
enforced on every page. Not only is its subjective effect
asserted, but its real objective efficacy, as a means
appointed by God for obtaining blessing, is both implied and
expressed in the plainest terms. Thus, as usual in the case
of such mysteries, the two apparently opposite truths are
emphasized, because they are needful: to man's conception of
his relation to God; their reconcilement is not, perhaps
cannot be, fully revealed. For, in fact, it is involved in
that inscrutable mystery which attends on the conception of
any free action of man as necessary for the working out of
the general laws of God's unchangeable will. At the same
time it is clearly implied that such a reconcilement exists,
and that all the apparently isolated and independent
exertions of man's spirit in prayer are in some way
perfectly subordinated to the one supreme will of God, so as
to form a part of his scheme of providence. It is also
implied that the key to the mystery lies in the fact of
man's spiritual unity with God in Christ, and of the
consequent gift of the Holy Spirit. So also is it said of
the spiritual influence of the Holy Ghost on each individual
mind that while "we know not what to pray for, "the
indwelling" Spirit makes intercession for the saints,
according to the will of God." Ro 8:26,27 Here, as probably
in still other cases, the action of the Holy Spirit on the
soul is to free agents what the laws of nature are to things
inanimate, and is the power which harmonizes free individual
action with the universal will of God.
2. There are no directions as to prayer given in the
Mosaic law: the duty is rather taken for granted, as an
adjunct to sacrifice, than enforced or elaborated. It is
hardly conceivable that, even from the beginning public
prayer did not follow every public sacrifice. Such a
practice is alluded to in Lu 1:10 as common; and in one
instance, at the offering of the first-fruits, it was
ordained in a striking form. De 26:12-15 In later times it
certainly grew into a regular service both in the temple and
in the synagogue. But, besides this public prayer, it was
the custom of all at Jerusalem to go up to the temple, at
regular hours if possible, for private prayer, see Lu 18:10;
Ac 3:1 and those who were absent were wont to "open their
windows toward Jerusalem," and pray "toward" the place...
Prayer in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
prar (deesis, proseuche, (enteuxis; for an excellent
discussion of the meaning of these see Thayer's Lexicon, p.
126, under the word deesis; the chief verbs are euchomai,
proseuchomai, and deomai, especially in Luke and Acts;
aiteo, "to ask a favor" distinguished from erotao, "to ask a
question," is found occasionally): In the Bible "prayer" is
used in a simpler and a more complex a narrower and a wider
signification. In the former case it is supplication for
benefits either for one's self (petition) or for others
(intercession). In the latter it is an act of worship which
covers all soul in its approach to God. Supplication is at
the heart of it, for prayer always springs out of a sense of
need and a belief that God is a rewarder of them that
diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6). But adoration and confession
and thanksgiving also find a It place, so that the suppliant
becomes a worshipper. It is unnecessary to distinguish all
the various terms for prayer that are employed in the Old
Testament and the New Testament. But the fact should be
noticed that in the Hebrew and Greek aloe there are on the
one hand words for prayer that denote a direct petition or
short, sharp cry of the heart in its distress (Ps 30:2; 2
Cor 12:8), and on the other "prayers" like that of Hannah (1
Sam 2:1-10), which is in reality a song of thanksgiving, or
that of Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, in which
intercession is mingled with doxology (Eph 3:14-21).
1. In the Old Testament:
The history of prayer as it meets us here reflects various
stages of experience and revelation. In the patriarchal
period, when `men began to call upon the name of the Lord'
(Gen 4:26; compare 12:8; 21:33), prayer is naive, familiar
and direct (Gen 15:2 ff; 17:18; 18:23 ff; 24:12). It is
evidently associated with sacrifice (Gen 12:8; 13:4; 26:25),
the underlying idea probably being that the gift or offering
would help to elicit the desired response. Analogous to this
is Jacob's vow, itself a species of prayer, in which the
granting of desired benefits becomes the condition of
promised service and fidelity (Gen 28:20 ff). In the pre-
exilic history of Israel prayer still retains many of the
primitive features of the patriarchal type (Ex 3:4; Nu
11:11-15; Jdg 6:13 ff; 11:30 f; 1 Sam 1:11; 2 Sam 15:8; Ps
66:13 f). The Law has remarkably little to say on the
subject, differing here from the later Judaism (see Schurer,
HJP, II, i, 290, index-vol, p. 93; and compare Mt 6:5 ff;
23:14; Acts 3:1; 16:13); while it confirms the association
of prayer with sacrifices, which now appear, however, not as
gifts in anticipation of benefits to follow, but as
expiations of guilt (Dt 21:1-9) or thank offerings for past
mercies (Dt 26:1-11). Moreover, the free, frank access of
the private individual to God is more and more giving place
to the mediation of the priest (Dt 21:5; 26:3), the
intercession of the prophet (Ex 32:11-13; 1 Sam 7:5-13;
12:23), the ordered approach of tabernacle and temple
services (Ex 40; 1 Ki 8). The prophet, it is true,
approaches God immediately and freely--Moses (Ex 34:34; Dt
34:10) and David (2 Sam 7:27) are to be numbered among the
prophets--but he does so in virtue of his office, and on the
ground especially of his possession of the Spirit and his
intercessory function (compare Ezek 2:2; Jer 14:15).
A new epoch in the history of prayer in Israel was brought
about by the experiences of the Exile. Chastisement...
Prayer Scripture - 1 Kings 8:29
That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day,
[even] toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall
be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy
servant shall make toward this place.
Prayer Scripture - 1 Kings 9:3
And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy
supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed
this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for
ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.
Prayer Scripture - 2 Chronicles 6:20
That thine eyes may be open upon this house day and night,
upon the place whereof thou hast said that thou wouldest put
thy name there; to hearken unto the prayer which thy servant
prayeth toward this place.
Prayer Scripture - 2 Kings 19:4
It may be the LORD thy God will hear all the words of
Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to
reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the
LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up [thy] prayer for
the remnant that are left.
Prayer Scripture - 2 Kings 20:5
Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus
saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy
prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on
the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
Prayer Scripture - 2 Samuel 7:27
For thou, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy
servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath
thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.
Prayer Scripture - Isaiah 37:4
It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh,
whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the
living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God
hath heard: wherefore lift up [thy] prayer for the remnant
that is left.
Prayer Scripture - Job 22:27
Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee,
and thou shalt pay thy vows.
Prayer Scripture - Nehemiah 1:6
Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou
mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before
thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy
servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel,
which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's
house have sinned.
Prayer Scripture - Psalms 142:1
Prayer when he was in the cave.> I cried unto the LORD with my
voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.
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