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Dictionaries :: Prayer

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Easton's Bible Dictionary

Prayer:

is converse with God; the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him. Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or constant, ejaculatory or formal. It is a "beseeching the Lord" (Exd 32:11); "pouring out the soul before the Lord" (1Sa 1:15); "praying and crying to heaven" (2Ch 32:20); "seeking unto God and making supplication" (Job 8:5); "drawing near to God" (Psa 73:28); "bowing the knees" (Eph 3:14).

Prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of God, his ability and willingness to hold intercourse with us, his personal control of all things and of all his creatures and all their actions.

Acceptable prayer must be sincere (Hbr 10:22), offered with reverence and godly fear, with a humble sense of our own insignificance as creatures and of our own unworthiness as sinners, with earnest importunity, and with unhesitating submission to the divine will. Prayer must also be offered in the faith that God is, and is the hearer and answerer of prayer, and that he will fulfil his word, "Ask, and ye shall receive" (Mat 7:7,8; 21:22; Mar 11:24; Jhn 14:13,14), and in the name of Christ (Jhn 16:23,24; 15:16; Eph 2:18; 5:20; Col 3:17; 1Pe 2:5).

Prayer is of different kinds, secret (Mat 6:6); social, as family prayers, and in social worship; and public, in the service of the sanctuary.

Intercessory prayer is enjoined (Num 6:23; Job 42:8; Isa 62:6; Psa 122:6; 1Ti 2:1; Jam 5:14), and there are many instances on record of answers having been given to such prayers, e.g., of Abraham (Gen 17:18,20; 18:23-32; 20:7,17,18), of Moses for Pharaoh (Exd 8:12,13,30,31; Exd 9:33), for the Israelites (Exd 17:11,13; 32:11-14,31-34; Num 21:7,8; Deu 9:18,19,25), for Miriam (Num 12:13), for Aaron (Deu 9:20), of Samuel (1Sa 7:5-12), of Solomon (1Ki 8; 2Ch 6), Elijah (1Ki 17:20-23), Elisha (2Ki 4:33-36), Isaiah (2Ki 19), Jeremiah (Jer 42:2-10), Peter (Act 9:40), the church (12:5-12), Paul (28:8).

No rules are anywhere in Scripture laid down for the manner of prayer or the attitude to be assumed by the suppliant. There is mention made of kneeling in prayer (1Ki 8:54; 2Ch 6:13; Psa 95:6; Isa 45:23; Luk 22:41; Act 7:60; 9:40; Eph 3:14, etc.); of bowing and falling prostrate (Gen 24:26,52; Exd 4:31; 12:27; Mat 26:39; Mar 14:35, etc.); of spreading out the hands (1Ki 8:22,38,54; Psa 28:2; 63:4; 88:9; 1Ti 2:8, etc.); and of standing (1Sa 1:26; 1Ki 8:14,55; 2Ch 20:9; Mar 11:25; Luk 18:11,13).

If we except the "Lord's Prayer" (Mat 6:9-13), which is, however, rather a model or pattern of prayer than a set prayer to be offered up, we have no special form of prayer for general use given us in Scripture.

Prayer is frequently enjoined in Scripture (Exd 22:23,27; 1Ki 3:5; 2Ch 7:14; Psa 37:4; Isa 55:6; Joe 2:32; Eze 36:37, etc.), and we have very many testimonies that it has been answered (Psa 3:4; 4:1; 6:8; 18:6; 28:6; 30:2; 34:4; 118:5; Jam 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 heir (Gen 24:10-20).

"Jacob prayed to God, and God inclined the heart of his irritated brother, so that they met in peace and friendship (Gen 32:24-30; 33:1-4).

"Samson prayed to God, and God showed him a well where he quenched his burning thirst, and so lived to judge Israel (Jdg 15:18-20).

"David prayed, and God defeated the counsel of Ahithophel (2Sa 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 king of Persia to grant him leave of absence to visit and rebuild Jerusalem (Neh 1:11; 2:1-6).

"Esther and Mordecai prayed, and God defeated the purpose of Haman, and saved the Jews from destruction (Est 4:15-17; 6:7,8).

"The believers in Jerusalem prayed, and God opened the prison doors and set Peter at liberty, when Herod had resolved upon his death (Act 12:1-12).

"Paul prayed that the thorn in the flesh might be removed, and his prayer brought a large increase of spiritual strength, while the thorn perhaps remained (2Cr 12:7-10).

"Prayer is like the dove that Noah sent forth, which blessed him not only when it returned with an olive-leaf in its mouth, but when it never returned at all.", Robinson's Job.

International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia

Prayer:

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; 2Co 12:8), and on the other "prayers" like that of Hannah (1Sa 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' (Ge 4:26; compare Ge 12:8; 21:33), prayer is naive, familiar and direct (Ge 15:2 ff; 17:18; 18:23 ff; 24:12). It is evidently associated with sacrifice (Ge 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 (Ge 28:20 ). 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; Jud 6:13 ff; 11:30 f; 1Sa 1:11; 2Sa 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; Ac 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 (De 21:1-9) or thank offerings for past mercies (De 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 (De 21:5; 26:3), the intercession of the prophet (Ex 32:11-13; 1Sa 7:5-13; 12:23), the ordered approach of tabernacle and temple services (Ex 40; 1Ki 8). The prophet, it is true, approaches God immediately and freely-Moses (Ex 34:34; De 34:10) and David (2Sa 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 Eze 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 drove the nation to seek God more earnestly than before, and as the way of approach through the external forms of the temple and its sacrifices was now closed, the spiritual path of prayer was frequented with a new assiduity. The devotional habits of Ezra (Ezr 7:27; 8:23), Nehemlab (Ne 2:4; 4:4,9, etc.) and Daniel (Da 6:10) prove how large a place prayer came to hold in the individual life; while the utterances recorded in Ezr 9:6-15; Ne 1:5-11; 9:5-38; Da 9:4-19; Isa 63:7-64:12 serve as illustrations of the language and spirit of the prayers of the Exile, and show especially the prominence now given to confession of sin. In any survey of the Old Testament teaching the Psalms occupy a place by themselves, both on account of the large period they cover in the history and because we are ignorant in most cases as to the particular circumstances of their origin. But speaking generally it may be said that here we see the loftiest flights attained by the spirit of prayer under the old dispensation-the intensest craving for pardon, purity and other spiritual blessings (Ps 51$; 130$), the most heartfelt longing for a living communion with God Himself (Ps 42:2; 63:1; 84:2).

2. In the New Testament:

Here it will be convenient to deal separately with the material furnished by the Gospel narratives of the life and teaching of Christ and that found in the remaining books. The distinctively Christian view of prayer comes to us from the Christ of the Gospels. We have to notice His own habits in the matter (Lu 3:21; 6:12; 9:16,29; 22:32,39-46; 23:34-46; Mt 27:46; Joh 17), which for all who accept Him as the revealer of the Father and the final authority in religion immediately dissipate all theoretical objections to the value and efficacy of prayer. Next we have His general teaching on the subject in parables (Lu 11:5-9; 18:1-14) and incidental sayings (Mt 5:44; 6:5-8; 7:7-11; 9:38; 17:21; 18:19; 21:22; 24:20; 26:41 and the parallels), which presents prayer, not as a mere energizing of the religious soul that is followed by beneficial spiritual reactions, but as the request of a child to a father (Mt 6:8; 7:11), subject, indeed, to the father's will (Mt 7:11; compare Mt 6:10; 26:39,42; 1Joh 5:14), but secure always of loving attention and response (Mt 7:7-11; 21:22). In thus teaching us to approach God as our Father, Jesus raised prayer to its highest plane, making it not less reverent than it was at its best in Old Testament times, while far more intimate and trustful. In the LORD'S PRAYER (which see). He summed up His ordinary teaching on the subject in a concrete example which serves as a model and breviary of prayer (Mt 6:9-13; Lu 11:2-4). But according to the Fourth Gospel, this was not His final word upon the subject. On the night of the betrayal, and in full view of His death and resurrection and ascension to God's right hand, He told His disciples that prayer was henceforth to be addressed to the Father in the name of the Son, and that prayer thus offered was sure to be granted (Joh 16:23,24,26). The differentia of Christian prayer thus consists in its being offered in the name of Christ; while the secret of its success lies on the one hand in the new access to the Father which Christ has secured for His people (Joh 17:19; compare Heb 4:14-16; 10:19-22), and on the other in the fact that prayer offered in the name of Christ will be prayer in harmony with the Father's will (Joh 15:7; compare 1Joh 3:22; 5:13).

In the Ac and Epistles we see the apostolic church giving effect to Christ's teaching on prayer. It was in a praying atmosphere that the church was born (Ac 1:14; compare Ac 2:1); and throughout its early history prayer continued to be its vital breath and native air (Ac 2:42; 3:1; 6:4,6 and passim). The Epistles abound in references to prayer. Those of Paul in particular contain frequent allusions to his own personal practice in the matter (Ro 1:9; Eph 1:16; Php 1:9; 1Th 1:2, etc.), and many exhortations to his readers to cultivate the praying habit (Ro 12:12; Eph 6:18; Php 4:6; 1Th 5:17, etc.). But the new and characteristic thing about Christian prayer as it meets us now is its connection with the Spirit. It has become a spiritual gift (1Co 14:14-16); and even those who have not this gift in the exceptional charismatic sense may "pray in the Spirit" whenever they come to the throne of grace (Eph 6:18; Jude 1:20). The gift of the Spirit, promised by Christ (Joh 14:16 ff, etc.), has raised prayer to its highest power by securing for it a divine cooperation (Ro 8:15,26; Ga 4:6). Thus Christian prayer in its full New Testament meaning is prayer addressed to God as Father, in the name of Christ as Mediator, and through the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit.



Written by J. C. Lambert

See PRAYERS OF CHRIST

Torrey's New Topical Textbook

Prayer: Commanded

Isa 55:6; Mat 7:7; Phl 4:6

Prayer: To Be Offered

To God

Psa 5:2; Mat 4:10

To Christ

Luk 23:42; Act 7:59

To the Holy Spirit

2Th 3:5

Through Christ

Eph 2:18; Hbr 10:19

Prayer: God Hears

Psa 10:17; 65:2

Prayer: God Answers

Psa 99:6; Isa 58:9

Prayer: Is Described As

Bowing the knees

Eph 3:14

Looking up

Psa 5:3

Lifting up the soul

Psa 25:1

Lifting up the heart

Lam 3:41

Pouring out the heart

Psa 62:8

Pouring out the soul

1Sa 1:15

Calling upon the name of the Lord

Gen 12:8; Psa 116:4; Act 22:16

Crying to God

Psa 27:7; 34:6

Drawing near to God

Psa 73:28; Hbr 10:22

Crying to heaven

2Ch 32:20

Beseeching the Lord

Exd 32:11

Seeking to God

Job 8:5

Seeking the face of the Lord

Psa 27:8

Making supplication

Job 8:5; Jer 36:7

Prayer: Acceptable through Christ

Jhn 14:13,14; 15:16; 16:23,24

Prayer: Ascends to Heaven

2Ch 30:27; Rev 5:8

Prayer: Quickening Grace Necessary To

Psa 80:18

Prayer: The Holy Spirit

Promised as a Spirit of

Zec 12:10

As the Spirit of adoptions, leads to

Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6

Helps our infirmities in

Rom 8:26

Prayer: An Evidence of Conversion

Act 9:11

Prayer: Of the Righteous, Avails Much

Jam 5:16

Prayer: Of the Upright, a Delight to God

Pro 15:8

Prayer: Should Be Offered Up

In the Holy Spirit

Eph 6:18; Jud 1:20

In faith

Mat 21:22; Jam 1:6

In full assurance of faith

Hbr 10:22

In a forgiving spirit

Mat 6:12

With the heart

Jer 29:13; Lam 3:41

With the whole heart

Psa 119:58,145

With preparation of heart

Job 11:13

With a true heart

Hbr 10:22

With the soul

Psa 42:4

With the spirit and understanding

Jhn 4:22-24; 1Cr 14:15

With confidence in God

Psa 56:9; 86:7; 1Jo 5:14

With submission to God

Luk 22:42

With unfeigned lips

Psa 17:1

With deliberation

Ecc 5:2

With holiness

1Ti 2:8

With humility

2Ch 7:14; 33:12

With truth

Psa 145:18; Jhn 4:24

With desire to be heard

Neh 1:6; Psa 17:1; 55:1,2; 61:1

With desire to be answered

Psa 27:7; 102:2; 108:6; 143:1

With boldness

Hbr 4:16

With earnestness

1Th 3:10; Jam 5:17

With importunity

Gen 32:26; Luk 11:8,9; 18:1-7

Night and day

1Ti 5:5

Without ceasing

1Th 5:17

Everywhere

1Ti 2:8

In everything

Phl 4:6

Prayer: For Temporal Blessings

Gen 28:20; Pro 30:8; Mat 6:11

Prayer: For Spiritual Blessings

Mat 6:33

Prayer: For Mercy and Grace to Help in Time of Need

Hbr 4:16

Prayer: Model For

Mat 6:9-13

Prayer: Vain Repetitions In, Forbidden

Mat 6:7

Prayer: Ostentation In, Forbidden

Mat 6:5

Prayer: Accompanied With

Repentance

1Ki 8:33; Jer 36:7

Confession

Neh 1:4,7; Dan 9:4-11

Self-abasement

Gen 18:27

Weeping

Jer 31:9; Hsa 12:4

Fasting

Neh 1:4; Dan 9:3; Act 13:3

Watchfulness

Luk 21:36; 1Pe 4:7

Praise

Psa 66:17

Thanksgiving

Phl 4:6; Col 4:2

Prayer: Plead in The

Promises of God

Gen 32:9-12; Exd 32:13; 1Ki 8:26; Psa 119:49

Covenant of God

Jer 14:21

Faithfulness of God

Psa 143:1

Mercy of God

Psa 51:1; Dan 9:18

Righteousness of God

Dan 9:16

Prayer: Rise Early For

Psa 5:3; 119:147

Prayer: Seek Divine Teaching For

Luk 11:1

Prayer: Faint Not In

Luk 18:1

Prayer: Continue Instant In

Rom 12:12

Prayer: Avoid Hindrances In

1Pe 3:7

Prayer: Suitable in Affliction

Isa 26:16; Jam 5:13

Prayer: Shortness of Time a Motive To

1Pe 4:7

Prayer: Postures In

Standing

1Ki 8:22; Mar 11:25

Bowing down

Psa 95:6

Kneeling

2Ch 6:13; Psa 95:6; Luk 22:41; Act 20:36

Falling on the face

Num 16:22; Jos 5:14; 1Ch 21:16; Mat 26:39

Spreading forth the hands

Isa 1:15

Lifting up the hands

Psa 28:2; Lam 2:19; 1Ti 2:8

Prayer: The Promises of God Encourage To

Isa 65:24; Amo 5:4; Zec 13:9

Prayer: The Promises of Christ Encourage To

Luk 11:9,10; Jhn 14:13,14

Prayer: Experience of past Mercies an Incentive To

Psa 4:1; 112:2

Smith's Bible Dictionary

Prayer:

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 prayer;

(3.) Its types and examples of prayer.

(4.) 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." (Romans 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.

(5.) 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 Luke 1:10 as common; and in one instance, at the offering of the first‐fruits, it was ordained in a striking form (Deuteronomy 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 Luke 18:10; Acts 3:1) and those who were absent were wont to "open their windows toward Jerusalem," and pray "toward" the place of God's presence (1 Kings 8:46-49; Psalm 5:7; 28:2; 138:2; Daniel 6:10). The regular hours of prayer seem to have been three (see Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10) "the evening," that is the ninth hour (Acts 3:1; 10:3) the hour of the evening sacrifice (Daniel 9:21) the "morning," that is, the third hour (Acts 2:15) that of the morning sacrifice; and the sixth hour, or "noonday." Grace before meat would seem to have been a common practice. (See Matthew 15:36; Acts 27:35). The posture of prayer among the Jews seems to have been most often standing (1 Samuel 1:26; Matthew 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11) unless the prayer were offered with especial solemnity and humiliation, which was naturally expressed by kneeling (1 Kings 8:54 compare 2 Chronicles 6:13; Ezra 9:5; Psalm 95:8; Daniel 6:10) or prostration (Joshua 7:6; 1 Kings 18:42; Nehemiah 8:6).

(6.) The only form of prayer given for perpetual use in the Old Testament is the one in Deuteronomy 26:5-15 connected with the offering of tithes and first‐fruits, and containing in simple form the important elements of prayer, acknowledgment of God's mercy, self‐dedication and prayer for future blessing. To this may perhaps be added the threefold blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 couched as it is in a predatory form, and the short prayer of Moses (Numbers 10:35, 36) at the moving and resting of the cloud the former of which was the germ of the 68th Psalm. But of the prayers recorded in the Old Testament the two most remarkable are those of Solomon at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:23-58) and of Joshua the high priest, and his colleagues, after the captivity (Nehemiah 9:5-38). It appears from the question of the disciples in Luke 11:1 and from Jewish tradition, that the chief teachers of the day gave special forms of prayer to their disciples as the badge of their discipleship and the best fruits of their learning. All Christian prayer is, of course, based on the Lord's Prayer; but its spirit is also guided by that of His prayer in Gethsemane and of the prayer recorded by St. John (John 17:1) … the beginning of Christ's great work of intercession. The influence of these prayers is more distinctly traced in the prayers contained in the epistles, (see Romans 16:25-27; Ephesians 3:14-21; Philemon 1:3-11; Colossians 1:9-15; Hebrews 13:20, 21; 1 Peter 5:10, 11 etc.) than in those recorded in the Acts. The public prayer probably in the first instance took much of its form and style from the prayers of the synagogues. In the record on prayer accepted and granted by God, we observe, as always, a special adaptation to the period of His dispensation to which they belong. In the patriarchal period, they have the simple and childlike tone of domestic application for the ordinary and apparently trivial incidents of domestic life. In the Mosaic period they assume a more solemn tone and a national bearing, chiefly that of direct intercession for the chosen people. More rarely are they for individuals. A special class are those which precede and refer to the exercise of miraculous power. In the New Testament they have a more directly spiritual hearing. It would seem the intention of Holy Scripture to encourage all prayer more especially intercession, in all relations and for all righteous objects.

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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.