From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

PRAYER . Prayer in the Bible is the uplifting of the heart to God with whatever motive. It includes supplication, whether in view of material or of spiritual needs; intercession, for individuals or communities; confession of sin but also assertion of righteousness; adoration; colloquy with God; vows; thanksgiving; blessing; Imprecation. The results are chiefly objective and external. But the apparent failure of prayer may be more instructive than its outward success. (Apart from Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane [  Mark 14:35 ff. ||], take St. Paul’s for the removal of his affliction [  2 Corinthians 12:8 f.].) Failure makes way for a boon greater than the one denied. Such cases would support the view that prayer is reflex in its action, specially potent in a subjective, inward, spiritual sense. Intercessory prayer must on the lowest view be of great altruistic value; while a recognition of God’s personality makes natural the belief that He may control events in answer to prayer made according to His will.

1. Terminology

(i.) In OT. (1) The moat usual noun ( tephillah ) and the verb (primarily of intercession) connected with it are possibly derived from a root meaning ‘to cut.’ If so, this might hark back to days when devotees lacerated their flesh in worship (cf.   1 Kings 18:28 ). Another word (used only of prayer to God) is from a root of similar meaning Some conjecture that the Jewish tephillin (phylacteries) originated as substitutes for such marks of laceration. tephillah may, however, indicate merely ‘intervention.’

(2) Several words mean ‘to call.’ To ‘call on the Name’ is to worship ( e.g.   Genesis 4:26 ). Others mean to call for the redress of wrongs ( e.g.   Judges 3:9 ), or for help in trouble ( e.g.   Psalms 72:12 ). One noun is a ‘ringing outcry’ ( e.g.   Psalms 17:1 ).

(3) It is natural to find words meaning ‘seek’ ( e.g.   Amos 5:4; a different word in   Hosea 5:15 ‘to seek God’s face’), ‘ask’ ( e.g.   Psalms 105:40 ). To all such words, and generally, the correlative is ‘hear’ or ‘answer.’

(4) Some expressions are anthropomorphic: ‘to encounter,’ ‘fall upon’ in order to supplicate or intercede ( e.g.   Jeremiah 7:16 ); ‘to make the face of God pleasant,’ i.e. to appease ( e.g.   Exodus 32:11 ), thus equivalent to a more general word, ‘to crave favour’ ( e.g.   Deuteronomy 3:23 ).

(5) Other terms regard the suppliant’s state of mind: prayer is ‘an outpouring of soul’ ( e.g.   Psalms 62:8 ); or ‘a meditation’ ( e.g.   John 15:4 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ); or ‘complaint’ ( e.g.   Psalms 142:2 ); or the original connotation may be physical, ‘to bow down’ (  Ezra 6:10 , cf.   Ephesians 3:14 ), ‘to whisper’ (  Isaiah 26:16 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ).

(ii.) In NT. (1) The classical Gr. word ( proseuchomai ) is largely used. Unlike most OT words, this is used for prayer to God only. A related word ( euchomai ) is by itself little more than wish’ ( e.g.   Romans 9:3 ), and needs supplementing to mean ‘prayer’ ( e.g.   2 Corinthians 13:7 ). The corresponding noun ( euchç ) usually means ‘vow’ ( e.g.   Acts 18:18 ); but ‘prayer’ in   James 5:15 .

(2) ‘To call on the Name’ or invoke in prayer ( e.g.   Acts 9:14 ).

(3) The words for ‘seek’ and ‘ask’ may be used of requests or inquiries made to man ( e.g .   Acts 8:34 ), and do not of themselves connote worship. One word denotes the request of the will ( e.g.   Matthew 6:8 ), another the request of need ( e.g.   Acts 8:22 ), another the form of the request ( e.g .   John 17:9 , cf. RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ).

(4) The OT ‘encounter’ has NT equivalent used of intercession ( e.g.   Romans 8:27 ).

(5) Prayer is a ‘struggle’ ( e.g.   Romans 15:30 ). One picturesque word ( hike tçria ), found only in   Hebrews 5:7 , suggests the olive branches held forth by suppliants.

2. Place, time, and circumstance

(i.) Place. While no restriction is suggested at any period (cf. e.g.   Genesis 24:12-13 ,   Jonah 2:1 ,   Psalms 42:6;   Psalms 61:2 ,   Daniel 6:10 ,   Luke 6:12 ,   Acts 16:24-25;   Acts 21:6 ), and is disclaimed by Christ in view of true worship (  John 4:21-23 ), yet naturally specific worship-centres were regarded as appropriate: thus in early times Shiloh, where the ark rested (  1 Samuel 1:9-10 ), Mizpah (  1 Samuel 7:5 , 1Ma 3:48 ), Gibeon (  1 Kings 3:4 ff.). But, later, the Temple was the place where (  Isaiah 37:14 ff;   Isaiah 56:7 ) or (in absence) ‘toward’ which prayer was offered (  1 Kings 8:29-30 etc.,   Psalms 28:2 ,   Daniel 6:10 , 1Es 4:56 ). Synagogues afforded, in later times, local prayer-centres. Where there was no synagogue, a spot outside the town was chosen, near some stream, for hand-washing before prayer (  Acts 16:13;   Acts 16:16 ). In the NT we find Apostles going to the Temple (  Acts 3:1 ); and St. Paul attended the synagogue on his mission journeys (  Acts 17:1-2 ). Distinctively Christian worship was held in ordinary buildings (  Acts 1:13-14;   Acts 4:23;   Acts 12:12 ,   Colossians 4:15 ) a practice made natural by Jewish arrangements for private prayer (  Daniel 6:10 , Jdt 8:6; Jdt 10:2 ,   Matthew 6:8 ,   Acts 10:9;   Acts 10:30 ) or for Passover celebration (  Matthew 26:16 ). Ostentatious praying at street corners is discouraged by Christ (  Matthew 6:5 ).

(ii.) Time. It became a custom to pray thrice daily, i.e. at the 3rd, 6th, and 9th hours (cf. ?   Psalms 55:17 [may mean ‘all day long’],   Daniel 6:10 ,   Acts 3:1;   Acts 10:9;   Acts 10:30; cf.   Acts 2:15;   Acts 1:1-26 ). For instances of ‘grace before meat,’ cf.   1 Samuel 9:13 ,   Matthew 15:35 ,   Acts 27:35 , and the Paschal meal.

(iii.) Circumstance

(1) Attitude  : ( a ) standing ( e.g.   Genesis 18:22 ,   1 Samuel 1:26 ,   Nehemiah 9:5 ,   Mark 11:25 ,   Luke 18:11;   Luke 18:13 [the usual Jewish mode, not followed by early Christian Church save on Sundays and the days between Easter and Whitsun]); ( b ) kneeling (  Psalms 95:6 , Isa 45:23 ,   1 Kings 8:54 ,   Ezra 9:6 ,   Daniel 6:10 ,   Luke 22:41 ,   Acts 7:60;   Acts 9:40;   Acts 20:35;   Acts 21:5 ,   Ephesians 3:14 ); ( c ) prostrate, face to ground (  Exodus 34:6 ,   Nehemiah 8:6 , 1Es 8:91 , Jdt 9:1 , 2Ma 13:12 ,   Matthew 26:39 ); face between knees (  1 Kings 18:42 , cf. ?   Psalms 35:13 b); ( d ) sitting (?   2 Samuel 7:18 ); ( e ) hands uplifted (  Psalms 28:2;   Psalms 63:4;   Psalms 134:2 ,   Lamentations 2:19;   Lamentations 3:41 , 2Ma 3:20 ,   1 Timothy 2:3 ) or extended [symbol of reception from God?] ( Exo 9:20 ,   1 Kings 8:22 ,   Isaiah 1:16 ,   Ezra 9:5 ,   Psalms 77:2 [ct. AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ]).

(2) Forms of prayer  : ( a ) formulæ (  Deuteronomy 21:7-8;   Deuteronomy 26:5-15 ); ( b ) the Lord’s Prayer; ( c ) allusion to the Baptist’s (  Luke 11:1 ); ( d ) Christ’s repeated prayer (  Matthew 26:44 ); ( e ) allusion to ‘vain repetitions’ or ‘battology’ (  Matthew 6:7 , cf. Sir 7:14 ).

(3) Incense . The OT word sometimes means merely the smoke from a sacrifice. Real incense was (certainly in later OT period) in use at sacrificial ceremonies, with which prayer was probably always associated (cf.   Genesis 12:6 ). Incense typifies prayer (  Psalms 141:2; cf.   Jeremiah 11:12 ,   Malachi 1:11 ,   Luke 1:10 ,   Revelation 5:8;   Revelation 8:3-4 ).

(4) Fasting . Being appropriate for times of solicitude and sorrow, fasting naturally became associated with prayer (  Psalms 35:13 ), especially after the Exile (  Nehemiah 1:4 ,   Daniel 9:3; cf.   Luke 2:37 ), and was continued in the Christian Church (  Acts 13:3;   Acts 14:23 ,   Matthew 9:16 ). The following AV [Note: Authorized Version.] allusions to fasting coupled with prayer are absent from RV [Note: Revised Version.] (but see RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ):   Matthew 17:21 ,   Mark 9:29 ,   Acts 10:30 ,   1 Corinthians 7:5 .

3. Prayer in the OT

(i.) Patriarchal Period. Prayer is (1) colloquy with God ( e.g.   Genesis 15:1-2;   Genesis 15:7-8;   Genesis 17:15-16;   Genesis 17:22 ); (2) intercession ( e.g.   Genesis 17:16;   Genesis 18:23 ff.); (3) personal supplication ( e.g.   Genesis 15:2;   Genesis 32:11;   Genesis 43:14 ); (4) asseveration ( e.g.   Genesis 14:22 ); (5) vow ( e.g.   Genesis 28:20; see art. Vows).

(ii.) The Law ( i.e. as codified and expanded in later times). The reticence as to prayer might suggest that it is voluntary and not patient of legislation; but in OT it is less a general duty (ct. [Note: t. contrast.] NT) than a prophetic privilege (especially re intercession); cf.   Genesis 20:7 and below, §§ iii. vi. Note, however, the formulæ for thanksgiving (  Deuteronomy 26:5-11 ), assertion of obedience (  Deuteronomy 26:13-14 , ct. [Note: t. contrast.] NT), supplication (  Deuteronomy 26:16 ), expiation (  Deuteronomy 21:7-8 ).

(iii.) Moses to Judges. (1) Moses pre-eminently a man of prayer and an intercessor ( e.g.   Exodus 8:12;   Exodus 8:30;   Exodus 32:11-13;   Exodus 32:32 , cf.   Jeremiah 15:1 ): colloquy with God (  Exodus 3:1-22;   Exodus 4:1-31;   Exodus 5:22;   Exodus 6:1;   Exodus 6:10;   Exodus 6:12;   Exodus 6:28-30 ,   Deuteronomy 3:23-25 ), appeal in crises (  Exodus 5:22 ,   Numbers 11:11 ), prophetic blessing (  Deuteronomy 33:6-11 ); (2) Joshua’s prayer after defeat (  Joshua 7:7-9 ), and in battle (  Joshua 10:14 ); (3) Gideon’s colloquy (  Judges 6:11-24 ); (4) Israelites’ frequent cry for help (  Judges 3:9;   Judges 3:15;   Judges 6:6 etc.).

(iv.) Kingdom Period. (1) Samuel, like Moses, an intercessor (  1 Samuel 7:5-6; 1Sa 7:9;   1 Samuel 8:6;   1 Samuel 8:10; 1Sa 8:21;   1 Samuel 12:23;   1 Samuel 15:11 ): colloquy (  1 Samuel 16:1-3; cf.   1 Samuel 3:10-11 ); (2) David  : apart from the Psalms, with which his connexion is dubious, the following prayers may be noted, especially the last: for guidance (  1 Samuel 23:2;   1 Samuel 30:8 [consulting ephod]), on behalf of child (  2 Samuel 12:18 ), prayer of asseveration (  1 Samuel 24:12-15;   1 Samuel 25:22 [a threat]), confession (  2 Samuel 24:17 ), adoration, etc. (  2 Samuel 7:18-29 ); (3) Solomon’s prayer for wisdom (  1 Kings 3:6 ff.; note the elaborate intercession attributed to him at dedication of Temple,   1 Kings 8:22-53 , where (ct. [Note: t. contrast.]   1 Kings 8:63 ) sacrifice is not mentioned! The Temple is a house of prayer); (4) Elijah’s intercession (  1 Kings 18:36-37 ), colloquy (  1 Kings 19:9-11 ), prayer before miracle (  1 Kings 17:20-21 ), so also Elisha (  2 Kings 4:33;   2 Kings 6:17 ); (5) Hezekiah prays in national crisis (  2 Kings 19:15 ) and in illness (  2 Kings 20:3 ); note his assertion of righteousness. For this period see also § v.

(v.) The Prophets. Intercession in attitude, action, word, characterizes the prophets (much more than the priests, but cf.  Joel 2:17 ), whether the earlier prophets, (§ iv. above) or those whose writings are extant. The reason lay in the prophet’s Divine call, his vision of the Divine will (so a ‘seer’), and his forthtelling of the Divine message. Hence comes prayerful expectancy ( e.g.   Jeremiah 42:4 ), in the spirit of   Habakkuk 2:1; and intercession to avert disaster ( e.g.   Amos 7:2-3;   Amos 7:5-6 ,   Isaiah 63:9-17 , and vividly   Jeremiah 14:15 [where observe the colloquy of persistent intercession not withstanding Divine discouragement]), combined with prayer in view of personal difficulty ( e.g.   Jeremiah 20:7-13 ).

(vi.) Exile and Return. In this period prayer looms large, owing to the cessation of sacrificial worship and the realization of chastisement. Accordingly confession and a humble sense of dependence are prominent. The following passages should be studied:  Isaiah 63:7 to   Isaiah 64:12 ,   Ezra 9:5-15 ,   Nehemiah 1:4-11;   Nehemiah 9:5-38 (cf. retrospective Psalms, e.g. 106),   Daniel 9:4-19 . Further, note the personal prayer-habit of Jewish leaders (  Daniel 6:1-28 ,   Ezra 8:21-23 ). Nehemiah’s prayer is often ejaculatory (  Nehemiah 2:4;   Nehemiah 4:4 ), and sometimes betrays self-complacency (  Nehemiah 5:13;   Nehemiah 13:14;   Nehemiah 13:22 ).

(vii.) Psalms, Proverbs, Job. The Book of ‘Praises’ might be appropriately called also the Book of ‘Prayers.’ (Five only are so described in title:  Psalms 17:1-15;   Psalms 86:1-17;   Psalms 90:1-17;   Psalms 102:1-28;   Psalms 142:1-7 , but cf.   Psalms 72:20 ,   Habakkuk 3:1 .) (1) Throughout the Psalms, prayer whether of the poet as an individual or as representing the nation is specially an outpouring artless and impulsive of varied experiences, needs, desires. Hence typical psalms exhibit transitions of thought and alternation of mood ( e.g.   Psalms 6:7-10;   Psalms 42:1-11;   Psalms 69:20;   Psalms 69:27;   Psalms 69:30;   Psalms 77:9-11;   Psalms 109:23-30 ). (2) The blessing sought is oftener material or external, like rescue from trouble or chastisement. Not seldom, however, there is a more spiritual aim: in   Psalms 51:1-19 pardon is sought for its own sake, not to avert punishment, and   Psalms 119:1-176 is notable for repeated requests for inward enlightenment and quickening. The trend of the whole collection is indicated by its ready and natural adaptation to NT ideals of prayer. In estimating psalms which express vindictive and imprecatory sentiments, we should note that they breathe abhorrence of evil, and are not the utterance of private malice. Even on the lowest view they would illustrate the human element in the Scriptures, and the progressive nature of revelation, throwing into vivid relief the Gospel temper and teaching. The propriety of their regular use in public worship need not be discussed here.

Proverbs . Note the suggestive allusion to the character of a suppliant (  Proverbs 15:6;   Proverbs 15:29;   Proverbs 28:9; cf.   Psalms 145:18-19 , Jdt 8:31 , Sir 35:16 ,   James 5:10 ), and Agur’s prayer (  Proverbs 30:7-9 ).

Job . In this dramatic poem Job’s objections to his friends’ criticisms often take the form of daring expostulation directly addressed to God ( e.g. especially ch. 10). As a ‘cry in the dark’ the book re-echoes prayers like   Psalms 88:1-18; but the conflict of doubt culminates in the colloquy between God and Job, in which the latter expresses the reverent submission of faith (  Job 42:1-6 ).

4. Prayer in the Apocrypha . The Apocr. [Note: Apocrypha, Apocryphal.] books of fiction, fable, history, with apocalyptic and sapiential writings are of very unequal value, but contain many prayers. The ideas are on the whole admirable, sometimes reaching a distinctively NT level; the thought in 2Ma 12:44 as to prayer in relation to the dead is noteworthy (cf. below, 2 Es. and Bar.). As the books are little read, it may be well to take them in order, giving fairly full reference to relevant passages.

1 Esdras . Zerubbabel’s thanksgiving (4:68 69); prayer for journey, with confession (8:78 90).

2 Esdras . Confession and historical retrospect (3:4 36), colloquy with Uriel (4 14, where note the allusion to various OT intercessors, all useless at judgment-day, 7:102, 112 [not in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ]).

Tobit . Prevailing prayer of Tobit and Sarah ( Tob 3:1-15 ); Tobias urged to pray ( Tob 4:19 ) prays in nuptial room ( Tob 8:4-8 ); thanksgiving of Raguel ( Tob 8:15-17 ), Tobit ( Tob 11:14-15; Tob 11:17; Tob 11:13 ).

Judith . Except where general supplication is made ( Jdt 4:9 to Jdt 13:16; Jdt 6:18-19; Jdt 7:29 ), or where Judith’s intercession is sought ( Jdt 8:31 ), prayer in this romance is of a very unworthy kind: prayer for the success of a trick (ch. 9); prayer and the plans of Holofernes ( Jdt 11:17-18 ); prayer before slaying him ( Jdt 13:4-5 ).

Ad. Esther . Prayers of Mordecai (13:8 18) and Esther (14:3 19) in national peril.

Wisdom . Chs. 9 19 are in prayer-form. Note the picturesque illustration of manna and the morning prayer ( Wis 16:27-28 ).

Sirach . In this book prayer reaches heights: value of prayer ( Sir 21:5 ), true prayer heard of God ( Sir 35:13-17 ), prayer in sickness ( Sir 38:8; Sir 38:14 , cf.   James 5:14-16 ), for deliverance from sin ( Sir 23:1-5 ), prayer and alms ( Sir 7:10 ), ‘battology’ ( Sir 7:14 , cf.   Matthew 6:7 ), prayer and revenge ( Sir 28:1-4 , cf.   Matthew 6:14;   Matthew 18:21-22 ), national prayer against foe ( Sir 36:1-17 ), thanksgiving, led by Simon ( Sir 50:21-24 ), author’s closing prayer ( Sir 51:1-12 ).

Baruch . Jews of Babylon ask those of Jerusalem to pray for welfare of Nebuchadnezzar (1:11; cf.   Ezra 6:10 ,   Jeremiah 29:7 ,   1 Timothy 2:2 ); prayer and confession of captive Israelites (1:15 3:8, where note prayer by the dead, 3:4, but see RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ).

Song of the Three . Prayer and confession of Azarias before the Benedicite (vv. 1 22; cf.   Ezra 9:1-15 ,   Daniel 9:1-27 ).

Susanna . Her prevailing prayer (vv. 42 44).

Bel . Brief prayer by Habakkuk (v. 35), Daniel (v. 38), king of Babylon (v. 41).

Prayer of Manasses . For pardon.

Maccabees . The two books are quite distinct, 1 Mac. being much the more reliable as history. Prayer is very prominent throughout the whole Maccabæan struggle, before, during, and after battles ( 1Ma 3:46-53; 1Ma 4:10; 1Ma 4:24; 1Ma 4:30-33; 1Ma 4:40; 1Ma 4:55; 1Ma 7:33-38; 1Ma 7:41-42; 1Ma 9:46; 1Ma 11:71 , 2Ma 1:24-29; 2Ma 3:22; 2Ma 10:13; 2Ma 10:25; 2Ma 10:33; 2Ma 11:6; 2Ma 12:15; 2Ma 12:28; 2Ma 12:42; 2Ma 13:10-12; 2Ma 13:14; 2Ma 14:16; 2Ma 14:34-36; 2Ma 15:22-24; 2Ma 15:28; 2Ma 15:27 ). Note specially in 2 Mac. the allusion to the efficacy of prayer, etc., of the living for the dead ( 1Ma 12:44-45 . cf. baptism for dead,   1 Corinthians 15:29 , and [?]   2 Timothy 1:18 ), and prayer of the dead for the living ( 1Ma 15:12-14; cf. angelic intercession,   Zechariah 1:12 ).

5. Prayer in the NT

I. Example and teaching of Jesus Christ. The special character of the Fourth Gospel should be remembered. Of the Synoptics, Lk. is specially instructive as to prayer (cf. Acts also). For Lord’s Prayer, see separate article.

(i.) Christ’s example

( a ) Prays at great moments in His life  : baptism (  Luke 3:21 ), election of Apostles (  Luke 6:12-13 ), miracles (  Luke 9:16; cf.   John 6:23 ,   Mark 7:34 [implied]   Mark 9:29 ,   John 9:30-33 [implied]   John 11:41-42 ), transfiguration (  Luke 9:29 ); Gethsemane (  Luke 22:39-46 ), crucifixion (  Matthew 27:46 ,   Luke 23:46 ); ( b ) intercedes for disciples (  John 17:1-26 ), Peter (  Luke 22:32 ), soldiers (  Luke 23:34 ); for His intercession in glory, see below, § II. (ii.) (1).

(ii.) Christ’s teaching. The range of prayer is chiefly (ct. [Note: t. contrast.] OT) for spiritual blessing (cf. Lord’s Prayer, and esp.  Matthew 6:33 ), but not exclusively so (‘daily bread’ in Lord’s Prayer and   Matthew 24:20 ). The conditions and requisites of prayer are numerous. ( a ) Earnestness [cf. urgent supplication in OT, esp. Psalms] (  Luke 11:5-13 , where note juxtaposition with Lord’s Prayer,   Luke 18:1-8 ); and His attitude to the SyrophÅ“nician seems to teach urgency of petition (  Mark 7:27 ). ( b ) Humility (  Luke 18:9-14; the juxtaposition with preceding parable is suggestive, and ct. [Note: t. contrast.] OT assertion of righteousness; e.g. in Dt. and Neh. [see above, 3 (vi.)],   Luke 17:10 ); ambition rebuked (  Matthew 20:20-23 ). ( c ) A forgiving spirit  : as in Sir. (see above, § 4 ). ( d ) Privacy recommended; see above, § 2 (i.) end, and cf. Christ’s own example of solitary prayer (  Luke 6:12 ). ( e ) Without ‘battology’  ; see above, § 2 (iii.) (2), where the reff. show that the repetition discouraged is that of mere mechanical prayer (cf. heathen incantations) or of pretence (  Mark 12:40 ). (f) With faith .   Mark 11:23 contains just such hyperbole as would appeal to an Eastern mind and enforce the value of prayer; while the seeming paradox of v. 24 must be taken along with this and understood in the light of Christ’s general teaching. The need of faith is further illustrated by Christ’s attitude to those seeking aid ( e.g.   Matthew 8:13;   Matthew 9:28 ,   Mark 5:35;   Mark 9:23 ,   Luke 8:48 ). ( g ) Agreement when two or three join in prayer (  Matthew 18:19-20 ). ( h ) In His name (  John 14:13;   John 15:16;   John 16:23-25 ). This specially Johannine feature suggests frame of mind rather than form of speech (cf.   Matthew 18:5;   Matthew 18:20;   Matthew 10:22 etc.; on the other hand, cf.   Acts 3:6;   Acts 3:10 ). For the Christology it supports, see below, § II. (ii.) 1.

II. Customs and ideas in Apostolic times. Evidence is afforded by Acts (where the prominence given to prayer is natural if Lk. wrote it, see above, § I.), and by Epp., whose writers had inherited the best traditions of Jewish piety and had also assimilated their Master’s teaching (which, however, they may not in every point have grasped fully). A glimpse of prayer-triumphs would be afforded by such passages as  Acts 3:10;   Acts 4:31;   Acts 9:40;   Acts 10:4;   Acts 12:5;   Acts 12:12;   Acts 16:25;   Acts 28:8 . One or two detailed points have already come up for notice (see above § 2 (i. ii. iii. 1. 4), 5 (I. ii. ( h )), but it may be well now to collect, from Acts to the Apocalypse, some passages showing the practice and teaching as to prayer in the Apostolic Church.

(i.) Prayer is found in connexion with: (1) Laying on of hands  : ( a ) in healing (  Acts 28:8; cf.   Acts 9:17 , (see below (3)); ( b ) after baptism (  Acts 8:14-17; cf.   Acts 19:6 ); ( c ) on appointment to office (  Acts 6:6;   Acts 13:3 ), with which also prayerful lot-casting is associated (  Acts 1:24;   Acts 1:26 , cf.   Proverbs 16:33 ). (2) Public worship (  1 Timothy 2:1-15 ). ( a ) Both sexes participate (cf.   1 Timothy 5:6 ,   1 Corinthians 11:4-5 ); ( b ) prayer and gift of tongues (  1 Corinthians 14:14;   1 Corinthians 14:16 , where it is suggested that the head as well as the heart is concerned with prayer); ( c ) ‘state-prayers’ in the Apostolic Church (  1 Timothy 2:1 f.; cf. § 4 Baruch ’). (3) Sickness (  James 5:13-16 , where notice conjunction of prayer and outward means [for unction cf.   Mark 6:13 ] with confession; physical and spiritual healing are associated, and both with prayer; see above, § 4 Sirach ’).

(ii.) (1) A distinctive Idea in NT prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit . He aids us in prayer (  Romans 8:14-16 ,   Ephesians 6:18 ,   Judges 1:20 ), interceding for us (  Romans 8:26 ). Christ also intercedes (  Romans 8:34 ,   Hebrews 7:25; cf. § 5 I. (1.) ( b )). Ct. [Note: t. contrast.] presentation of prayer to God in   Revelation 5:8;   Revelation 8:4 . By Christ we enjoy free access to God (  Galatians 4:4-7 ,   Ephesians 2:18;   Ephesians 3:12 ,   Hebrews 4:15-16;   Hebrews 10:19-22; see above, § 5 I. (II.) ( h )); prayer offered to Christ direct (  Acts 7:59-60;   Acts 9:14 (?),   1 Corinthians 1:2 (?)). (2) Prayer needs faith (  James 1:6-8 ,   1 Timothy 2:8 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ,   Hebrews 10:22 ), must have right alms (  James 4:3 ), and be backed by conduct (  1 John 3:22 , cf. above, § 3 (vii.) ‘ Proverbs ’). Such prayer succeeds (  James 5:16-18 ,   1 John 3:22;   1 John 5:14-15 ). Prayer for temporal gifts is not very conspicuous in NT, but see Rom 1:10 ,   2 Corinthians 12:8 ,   Philippians 4:6 . (3) Exhortations to prayer (  Romans 12:12 , Col 4:2 ,   1 Thessalonians 5:16 ,   1 Peter 4:7 ,   Judges 1:20 ). (4) Reminiscences of OT occur in prayer as colloquy (  Acts 9:13-16;   Acts 22:17-21; cf. § 3 ), as struggle (  Romans 15:30 ,   Colossians 2:1;   Colossians 4:12; cf.   Genesis 32:24 ), as cry for vengeance (  Revelation 6:9-10 , ct. [Note: t. contrast.]   1 Timothy 2:8 ). (5) Intercession , which in OT is specially characteristic of the prophetic office, is here a general duty, and is very prominent: Apostles for converts (  Romans 10:1; Rom 15:5 ,   2 Corinthians 13:7 ,   Ephesians 1:15;   Ephesians 3:14 ,   Philippians 1:4;   Philippians 1:9 ,   Colossians 1:9; Col 2:1 ,   1 Thessalonians 1:2 ,   2 Thessalonians 1:11 ,   Philippians 1:4 ,   3 John 1:2 ); converts for Apostles (  Acts 12:5 , Rom 15:30 ,   2 Corinthians 1:11;   2 Corinthians 9:14 ,   Colossians 4:3 ,   2 Thessalonians 3:1 ,   Philippians 1:22 ); for one another (  James 5:15 ,   1 John 5:16 [within limit]). (6) Thanksgiving abounds (  Romans 1:3 ,   1 Corinthians 1:4 ,   2 Corinthians 2:14;   2 Corinthians 8:15 ,   Philippians 1:3 , Col 1:3 ,   1 Thessalonians 1:2;   1 Thessalonians 2:13 , 2Th 1:3;   2 Thessalonians 2:13 ,   1 Timothy 1:12 ,   2 Timothy 1:3 ). (7) Note also the salutation and blessing at the beginning and close of Epistles. The NT closes with a threefold prayer for Christ’s coming (  Revelation 22:17;   Revelation 22:20 ).

H. F. B. Compston.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [2]

A request or petition for mercies; or it is "an offering up our desires to God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies." Nothing can be more rational or consistent than the exercise of this duty. It is a divine injunction that men should always pray, and not faint,  Luke 18:1 . It is highly proper we should acknowledge the obligations we are under to the Divine Being, and supplicate his throne for the blessings we stand in need of. It is essential to our peace and felicity, and is the happy mean of our carrying on and enjoying fellowship with God. It has an influence on our tempers and conduct, and evidences our subjection and obedience to God. We shall here consider the object, nature, kinds, matter, manner, and forms of prayer, together with its efficacy, and the objections made against it.

I. The object of prayer is God alone, through Jesus Christ, as the Mediator. All supplications, therefore, to saints or angels, are not only useless but blasphemous. All worship of the creature, however exalted that creature is, is idolatry, and strictly prohibited in the sacred law of God. Nor are we to pray to the Trinity, as three distinct Gods; for though the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be addressed in various parts of the Scripture,  2 Corinthians 13:14 .  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ., yet never as three Gods, for that would lead us directly to the doctrine of polytheism: the more ordinary mode the Scripture points out, is, to address the Father through the Son, depending on the Spirit to help our infirmities,  Ephesians 2:18 .  Romans 8:26 .

II. As to the nature of this duty: it must be observed, that it does not consist in the elevation of the voice, the posture of the body, the use of a form, or the mere extemporary use of words, nor, properly speaking, in any thing of an exterior nature; but simply the offering up of our desires to God,  Matthew 15:8 . (

See the definition above.) It has been generally divided into adoration, by which we express our sense of the goodness and greatness of God,  Daniel 4:34-35; confession, by which we acknowledge our unworthiness,  1 John 1:9; supplication, by which we pray for pardon, grace, or any blessing we want,  Matthew 7:7; intercession, by which we pray for others,  James 5:16; and thanksgiving, by which we express our gratitude to God,  Philippians 4:6 . To which some add invocation, a making mention of one or more of the names of God; pleading, arguing our case with God in an humble and fervent manner; dedication, or surrendering ourselves to God; deprecation, by which we desire that evils may be averted; blessing, in which we express our joy in God, and gratitude for his mercies: but, as all these appear to me to be included in the first five parts of prayer, I think they need not be insisted on.

III. The different kinds of prayer, are,

1. Ejaculatory, by which the mind is directed to God on any emergency. It is derived from the word ejaculor, or dart or shoot out suddenly, and is therefore appropriate to describe this kind of prayer, which is made up of short sentences spontaneously springing from the mind. The Scriptures afford us many instances of ejaculatory prayer,  Exodus 14:15 .  1 Samuel 1:1-28;  1 Samuel 2:1-36;  1 Samuel 3:1-21;  1 Samuel 4:1-22;  1 Samuel 5:1-12;  1 Samuel 6:1-21;  1 Samuel 7:1-17;  1 Samuel 8:1-22;  1 Samuel 9:1-27;  1 Samuel 10:1-27;  1 Samuel 11:1-15;  1 Samuel 12:1-25;  1 Samuel 13:1-23;  1 Samuel 14:1-52;  1 Samuel 15:1-35;  1 Samuel 16:1-23;  1 Samuel 17:1-58;  1 Samuel 18:1-30;  1 Samuel 19:1-24;  1 Samuel 20:1-42;  1 Samuel 21:1-15;  1 Samuel 22:1-23;  1 Samuel 23:1-29;  1 Samuel 24:1-22;  1 Samuel 25:1-44;  1 Samuel 26:1-25;  1 Samuel 27:1-12;  1 Samuel 28:1-13 .  Romans 7:24-25 .  Genesis 43:29 .  Judges 16:28;  Luke 23:42-43 . It is one of the principal excellencies of this kind of prayer, that it can be practised at all times, and in all places; in the public ordinances of religion; in all our ordinary and extraordinary undertakings; in times of affliction, temptation, and danger; in seasons of social intercourse, in worldly business, in travelling, in sickness, and pain. In fact, every thing around us, and every event that transpires, may afford us matter for ejaculation. It is worthy, therefore, of our practice, especially when we consider that it is a species of devotion that can receive no impediment from any external circumstances; that it has a tendency to support the mind, and keep it in a happy frame; fortifies us against the temptations of the world; elevates our affections to God; directs the minds into a spiritual channel; and has a tendency to excite trust and dependence on Divine Providence.

2. Secret or closet prayer is another kind of prayer to which we should attend. It has its name from the manner in which Christ recommended it,  Matthew 6:6 . He himself set us an example of it,  Luke 6:12; and it has been the practice of the saints in every age,  Genesis 28:1-22 :   Daniel 6:10 .  Acts 10:9 . There are some particular occasions when this duty may be practised to advantage, as when we are entering into any important situation; undertaking any thing of consequence; before we go into the world; when calamities surround us,  Isaiah 26:20; or when ease and prosperity attend us. As closet prayer is calculated to inspire us with peace, defend us from our spiritual enemies, excite us to obedience, and promote our real happiness, we should be watchful lest the stupidity of our frame, the intrusion of company, the cares of the world, the insinuations of Satan, or the indulgence of sensual objects, prevent us from the constant exercise of this necessary and important duty.

3. Family prayer is also another part not to be neglected. It is true there is no absolute command for this in God's word; yet from hints, allusions, and examples, we may learn that it was the practice of our forefathers: Abraham,  Genesis 18:19 . David,  2 Samuel 6:20 . Solomon,  Proverbs 22:6 .  Job 1:4-5 .  Joshua 24:15 .

See also  Ephesians 6:4 .  Proverbs 6:20 .  Jeremiah 10:25 .  Acts 10:2;  Acts 10:30 .  Acts 16:15 . Family prayer, indeed, may not be essential to the character of a true Christian, but it is surely no honour to heads of families to have it said that they have no religion in their houses. If we consider what a blessing it is likely to prove to our children and our domestics; what comfort it must afford to ourselves; what utility it may prove to the community at large; how it sanctifies domestic comforts and crosses; and what a tendency it has to promote order, decency, sobriety, and religion in general, we must at once see the propriety of attending to it. The objection often made to family prayer is, want of time; but this is a very frivolous excuse, since the time allotted for this purpose need be but short, and may easily be redeemed from sleep or business. Others say, they have no gifts: where this is the case, a form may soon be procured and used, but it should be remembered that gifts increase by exercise, and no man can properly decide, unless he make repeated trials. Others are deterred through shame, or the fear of man; in answer to such we shall refer them to the declarations of our Lord,  Matthew 10:37-38 .  Mark 8:38 . As to the season for family prayer, every family must determine for itself; but before breakfast every morning, and before supper at night, seems most proper: perhaps a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes may be sufficient as to the time.

4. Social prayer is another kind Christians are called upon to attend to. It is denominated social, because it is offered by a society of Christians in their collective capacity, convened for that particular purpose, either on some peculiar and extraordinary occasions, or at stated and regular seasons. Special prayer- meetings are such as are held at the meeting and parting of intimate friends, especially churches and ministers; when the church is in a state of unusual deadness and barrenness; when ministers are sick, or taken away by death; in times of public calamity and distress, &c. Stated meetings for social prayer are such as are held weekly in some places which have a special regard to the state of the nation and churches: missionary prayer-meetings for the spread of the Gospel: weekly meetings held in most of the congregations which have a more particular reference to their own churches, ministers, the sick, feeble, and weak of the flock. Christians are greatly encouraged to this kind of prayer from the consideration of the promise,  Matthew 18:20; the benefit of mutual supplications; from the example of the most eminent primitive saints,  Malachi 3:16 .  Acts 12:12; the answers given to prayer,  Acts 12:1-12 .  Joshua 10:1-43 :   Isaiah 37:1-38 : &c. and the signal blessing they are to the churches,   Philippians 1:19 .  2 Corinthians 1:11 .

These meetings should be attended with regularity; those who engage should study simplicity, brevity, Scripture language, seriousness of spirit, and every thing that has a tendency to edification. We now come, lastly, to take notice of public prayer, or that in which the whole congregation is engaged, either in repeating a set form, or acquiescing with the prayer of the minister who leads their devotions. This is both an ancient and important part of religious exercise; it was a part of the patriarchical worship,  Genesis 45:6; it was also carried on by the Jews,  Exodus 29:43 .  Luke 1:10 . It was a part of the temple service, Is. 56: 7.  1 Kings 8:59 . Jesus Christ recommended it both by his example and instruction,  Matthew 18:20 .  Luke 4:16 . The disciples also attended to it,  Acts 2:41-42; and the Scriptures in many places countenance it,  Exodus 20:24 ,  Psalms 63:1-2;  Psalms 84:11;  Psalms 27:4 . For the nature, necessity, place, time, and attendance on public worship, see Worship. Iv Of the matter of prayer. "It is necessary, " says Dr. Watts, "to furnish ourselves with proper matter, that we may be able to hold much converse with God; to entertain ourselves and others agreeably and devoutly in worship; to assist the exercise o our own grace and others, by a rich supply of divine thought and desires in prayer, that we may not be forced to make too long and indecent pauses whilst we are performing that duty; nor break off abruptly as soon as we have begun for want of matter; nor pour out abundance of words to dress up narrow and scanty sense for want of variety of devout thoughts.

1. We should labour after a large acquaintance with all things that belong to religion; for there is nothing that relates to religion but may properly make some part of the matter of our prayer. A great acquaintance with God in his nature, perfections, works and word; an intimate acquaintance with ourselves, and a lively sense of our own frames, wants, sorrows, and joys, will supply us with abundant furniture. We should also be watchful observers of the dealings of God with us in every ordinance, and in every providence. We should observe the working of our heart towards God, or towards the creature, and often examine our temper and our life, both in our natural, our civil, and religious actions. For this purpose, as well as upon many other accounts, it will be of great advantage to keep by us in writing some of the most remarkable providences of God, and instances of his mercy or anger towards us, and some of our most remarkable carriages towards him, whether sins, or duties, or the exercises of grace.

2. We should not content ourselves merely with generals; but if we wish to be furnished with larger supplies of matter, we must descend to particulars in our confessions, petitions, and thanksgivings. We should enter into a particular consideration of the attributes, the glories, the graces, and the relations of God. We should express our sins, our wants, and our sorrows, with a particular sense of the mournful circumstances that attend them: it will enlarge our hearts with prayer and humiliation if we confess the aggravations that increase the guilt of our sins, viz. whether they have been committed against knowledge, against the warnings of conscience, &c. It will furnish us with large matter, if we run over the exalting and heightening circumstances of our mercies and comforts, viz. that they are great, and spiritual, and eternal, as well as temporal. Our petitions and thanksgivings, in a special manner, should be suited to the place and circumstances of ourselves, and those that we pray with, and those that we pray for.

3. It is very proper, at solemn seasons of worship, to read some part of the word of God, or some spiritual treatise written by holy men; or to converse with fellow Christians about divine things, or to spend some time in recollection or meditation of things that belong to religion: this will not only supply us with divine matter, but will compose our thoughts to a solemnity. Just before we engage in that work, we should be absent a little from the world, that our spirits may be freer for converse with God.

4. If we find our hearts, after all very barren, and hardly know how to frame a prayer before God of ourselves, it has been oftentimes useful to take a book in our hand, wherein are contained some spiritual meditations in a petitionary form, some devout reflections, or excellent patterns of prayer; and, above all, the Psalms of David, some of the prophecies of Isaiah, some chapters in the Gospels, or any of the Epistles. Thus we may lift up our hearts to God in secret, according as the verses or paragraphs we read are suited to the case of our own souls. This many Christians have experienced as a very agreeable help, and of great advantage in their secret retirement.

5. We must not think it absolutely necessary to insist upon all the parts of prayer in every address to God; though in our stated and solemn prayers there are but few of them that can be well left out. What we omit at one time we may, perhaps, pursue at another with more lively affection. But let us be sure to insist most upon those things which are warmest in our hearts, especially in secret. We should let those parts of prayer have the largest share in the performance for which our spirits is best prepared, whether it be adoration, petition, confession, or thanksgiving.

6. We should suit the matter of our prayers to the special occasion of each particular duty, to the circumstances of the time, place, and persons with and for whom we pray. This will direct us to the choice of proper thoughts and language for every part of prayer.

7. We should not affect to pray long for the sake of length, or to stretch out our matter by labour and toil of thought, beyond the furniture of our own spirit. Sometimes a person is betrayed by an affectation of long prayers into crude, rash, and unseemly expressions; we are tempted hereby to tautologies, to say the same thing over and over again. We are in danger of tiring those that join with us. We exceed the season that is allotted for us in prayer, especially when others are to succeed in the same work." V. Of the method of prayer. "Method, " continues Dr. Watts, "is necessary to guide our thoughts, to regulate our expressions, and dispose of the several parts of prayer in such an order, as is most easy to by understood by those that join with us, and most proper to excite and maintain our own devotion and theirs. This will be of use to secure us from confusion, prevent repetitions, and guard us against roving digressions. The general rules of method in prayer are these three:

1. Let the general and the particular heads in prayer be well distinguished, and usually let generals be mentioned first, and particulars follow.

2. Let things of the same kind, for the most part, be put together in prayer. We should not run from one part to another by starts, and sudden wild thoughts, and then return often to the same part again, going backward and forward in confusion: this bewilders the mind of him that prays, disgusts our fellow-worshippers, and injures their devotion.

3. Let those things, in every part of prayer, which are the proper objects of our judgment, be first mentioned, and then those that influence and move our affections; not that we should follow such a manner of prayer as is more like preaching, as some imprudently have done, speaking many divine truths without the form or air of prayer. Yet it must be granted that there is no necessity of always confining ourselves to this, or to any other set method, no more than there is of confining ourselves to a form in prayer. Sometimes the mind is so divinely full of one particular part of prayer, that high expressions of gratitude, and of devoting ourselves to God, break out first. I am persuaded, however, that if young Christians did not give themselves up to a loose and negligent habit of speaking every thing that comes uppermost, but attempted to learn this holy skill by a recollection of the several parts of prayer, and properly disposing their thoughts, there would be great numbers in our churches that would arrive at a good degree of the gift of prayer, and that to the great edification of our churches, as well as of their own families."

As to expression in prayer, it may be observed, that though prayer be the proper work of the heart, yet in this present state, in secret as well as in social prayer, the language of the lips is an excellent aid in this part of worship. Expressions are useful not only to dress our thoughts, but sometimes to form, and shape, and perfect the ideas and affections of our minds. They serve to awaken the holy passions of the soul as well as to express them. They fix and engage all our powers in religion and worship; and they serve to regulate as well as to increase our devotion. The directions to attain a treasure of expressions are these:

1. We should labour after a fresh, particular, and lively sense of the greatness and grace of God, and of our own wants, and sins, and mercies. The passions of the mind, when they are moved, do mightily help the tongue; they give a natural eloquence to those who know not any rules of art, and they almost constrain the dumb to speak. There is a remarkable instance of this in ancient history. When Atys, the son of Croesus the king, who was dumb from his childhood, saw his father ready to be slain, the violence of his passion broke the bonds wherewith his tongue was tied, and he cried out to save him. Let our spiritual senses be always awake and lively, then words will follow in a greater or less degree.

2. We should treasure up such expressions, especially, as we read in Scripture, and such as we have found in other books of devotion, or such as we have heard fellow Christians make use of, whereby our own hearts have been sensibly moved and warmed.

3. We should be always ready to engage in holy conference, and divine discourse. This will teach us to speak of the things of God. It should be our practice to recollect and talk over with one another the sermons we have heard, the books of divinity we have been conversant with, those parts of the word of God we have lately read, and especially our own experiences of divine things. Hereby we shall gain a large treasure of language to clothe our thoughts and affections.

4. We should pray for the gift of utterance, and seek the blessing of the Spirit of God upon the use of proper means to obtain a treasure of expressions for prayer; for the wise man tells us, that "the preparation of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord, "  Proverbs 16:1 . The rules about the choice and use of proper expressions are these:

1. We should choose those expressions that best suit our meaning, that most exactly answer the ideas of our mind, and that are fitted to our sense and apprehension of things.

2. We should use such a way of speaking as may be most natural and easy to be understood, and most agreeable to those that join with us. We should avoid all foreign and uncommon words; all those expressions which are too philosophical, and those which savour too much of mystical divinity; all dark metaphors, or expressions that are used only by some particular violent partymen. We should likewise avoid length and obscurity in our sentences, and in the placing of our words; and not interline our expressions with too many parentheses, which cloud and entangle the sense.

3. Our language should be grave and decent, which is a medium between magnificence and meanness; we should avoid all glittering language and affected style. An excessive fondness of elegance and finery of style in prayer discovers the same pride and vanity of mind, as an affection to many jewels and fine apparel in the house of God: it betrays us into a neglect of our hearts, and of experimental religion, by an affection to make the nicest speech, and say the finest things we can, instead of sincere devotion, and praying in the spirit. On the other hand, we should avoid mean and coarse, and too familiar expressions; such as excite any contemptible or ridiculous ideas; such as raise any improper or irreverent thoughts in the mind, or base and impure images, for these much injure the devotion of our fellow-worshippers.

4. We should seek after those ways of expression that are pathetical; such as denote the fervency of affection, and carry life and spirit with them; such as may awaken and exercise our love, our hope, our holy joy, our sorrow, our fear, and our faith, as well as express the activity of those graces. This is the way to raise, assist, and maintain devotion. We should, therefore, avoid such a sort of style as looks more like preaching, which some persons that affect long prayers have been guilty of to a great degree: they have been speaking to the people rather than speaking to God; they have wandered away from god to speak to men; but this is quite contrary to the nature of prayer, for prayer is our own address to God, and pouring out our hearts before him with warm and proper affections.

5. We should not always confine ourselves to one set form of words to express any particular request; nor take too much pains to avoid an expression merely because we used it in prayer heretofore. We need not be over fond of a nice uniformity of words, nor of perpetual diversity of expression in every prayer: it is best to keep the middle between these two extremes. The imitation of those Christians and ministers that have the best gifts, will be an excellent direction in this as well as in the former cases. As to the voice in prayer: in the first place, our words should be all pronounced distinct, and ought not to be made shorter by cutting off the last syllable, nor longer by the addition of hems and o's, of long breaths, affected groanings, and useless sounds, &c.

2. Every sentence should be spoken loud enough to be heard, yet none so loud as to affright or offend the ear. Some persons have got a habit of beginning their prayers, and even upon the most common family occasions, so loud as to startle the company; others begin so low in a large assembly, that it looks like secret worship, and as though they forbid those that are present to join with them. Both these extremes are to be avoided by prudence and moderation.

3. we should observe a due medium between excessive swiftness and slowness of speech, for both are faulty in their kind. If we are too swift, our words will be hurried on, and be mingled in confusion; if we are too slow, this will be tiresome to the hearers, and will make the worship appear heavy and dull. As to gesture in prayer: all indecencies should be avoided. Prostration may be sometimes used in secret prayer, under a deep and uncommon sense of sin; but kneeling is the most frequent posture; and nature seems to dictate and lead us to it as an expression of humility, of a sense of our wants, a supplication for mercy, and adoration of and dependence on him before whom we kneel. "Standing is a posture not unfit for this worship, especially in places where we have not conveniency for the humbler gestures: but sitting, or other postures of rest and laziness, ought not to be indulged, unless persons are aged or infirm, or the work of prayer be drawn out so long as to make it troublesome to human nature to maintain itself always in one posture.

The head should be kept for the most part without motion; the whole visage should be composed to gravity and solemnity. The eye should be kept from roving, and some think it best to keep the eyes closed. The lifting up of the hands is a very natural expression of our seeking help from God. As to other parts of the body there is little need of direction. In secret devotion, sighs and groans may be allowed; but in public these things should be less indulged. If we use ourselves to various motions, or noise made by the hands or feet, or any other parts, it will tempt others to think that our minds are not very intensely engaged; or, at least, it will appear so familiar and irreverent, as we would not willingly be guilty of in the presence of our superiors here on earth." VI. As to forms of prayer. We find this has been a matter of controversy among divines and Christians, whether such ought to be used, or whether extempore prayers are not to be preferred. We shall state the arguments on both sides. Those who are advocates for forms, observe, that it prevents absurd, extravagant, or impious addresses to God, as well as the confusion of extemporary prayer; that forms were used under the Old Testament dispensation; and, in proof thereof cite Numb. 6: 24, 26. Numb. 10: 35, 36. On the other side it is answered, that it is neither reasonable nor Scriptural to look for the pattern of Christian worship in the Mosaic dispensation, which, with all its rites and ceremonies, is abrogated and done away; that, though forms may be of use to children, and such as are very ignorant, yet restriction to forms, either in public or private does not seem Scriptural or lawful. If we look to the authority and example of Christ and his apostles, every thing is in favour of extempore prayer. The Lord's prayer, it is observed, was not given to be a set form, exclusive of extemporary prayer.

See Lord'S Prayer

It is farther argued, that a form cramps the desires; inverts the true order of prayer, making our words to regulate our desires, instead of our desires regulating our words; has a tendency to make us formal; cannot be suited to every one's case; that it looks as if we were not in reality convinced of our wants, when we want a form to expess them; and, finally, in answer to the two first arguments, that it is seldom the case that those who are truly sensible of their condition, and pray extempore, do it in an impious and extravagant manner; and if any who have the gift of prayer really do so, and run into the extreme of enthusiasm, yet this is not the case with the generality, since an unprejudiced attention to those who pray extempore must convince us, that, if their prayers be not so elegantly composed as that of a set form, they are more appropriate, and delivered with more energy and feeling. VII. The efficacy of prayer. It has been objected, that, "if what we request be fit for us, we shall have it without praying; if it be not fit for us, we cannot obtain it by praying." But it is answered, that it may be agreeable to perfect wisdom to grant that to our prayers which it would not have been agreeable to the same wisdom to have given us without praying for. But what virtue, you will ask, is there in prayer, which should make a favour consistent with wisdom, which would not have been so without it? To this question, which contains the whole difficulty attending the subject, the following possibilities are offered in reply:

1. A favour granted to prayer, may be more apt on that very account to produce a good effect upon the person obliged. It may hold in the divine bounty, what experience has raised into a proverb in the collation of human benefits, that what is obtained without asking, is oftentimes received without gratitude.

2. It may be consistent with the wisdom of the Deity to withhold his favours till they be asked for, as an expedient to encourage devotion in his rational creation, in order thereby to keep up and circulate a knowledge and sense of their dependency on him.

3. Prayer has a natural tendency to amend the petitioner himself; it composes the mind, humbles us under a conviction of what we are, and under the gracious influence of the Divine Spirit assimilates us into the divine image. Let it suffice, therefore, to say, that, though we are certain that God cannot be operated on, or moved as a fellow- creature may; that though we cannot inform him of any thing he does not know, nor add any thing to his essential and glorious perfections, by any services of ours; yet we should remember that he has appointed this as a mean to accomplish an end; that he has commanded us to engage in this important duty,  1 Thessalonians 5:17; that he has promised his Spirit to assist us in it,  Romans 8:26; that the Bible abounds with numerous answers to prayer; and that the promise still relates to all who pray, that answers shall be given,  Matthew 7:7 .  Psalms 50:15 .  Luke 18:1 &c.   Philippians 4:6-7 .  James 5:16 . Wilkins, Henry, Watts, on Prayer; Townsend's Nine Sermons on Prayer; Paley's Mor. Phil. vol. 2: p. 31; Mason's Student and Pastor, p. 87; Wollaston's Rel. of Nat. p.122, 124; H. Moore on Education, ch. 1. vol. 2:; Barrow's Works, vol. 1: ser. 6; Smith's System of Prayer; Scamp's Sermon on Family Religion.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [3]

An examination of the Old and New Testaments and of the early Church Fathers reveals certain "minimal" beliefs or assumptions that underlie the practice of Christian praying. This is not to deny that there was a development in the conception of prayer, though this development is more pronounced in the Old Testament than it is in the New Testament and early church. The consistency in the latter case is seen in the close correspondence between Jesus' prayer life and the prayer life of the New Testament church. This consistency extended into the patristic period, for the early Father's understanding of prayer was thoroughly shaped and limited by the Lord's Prayer, particularly through mutually influencing exegetical literature on it, devotional and liturgical use of it, and the catechetical tradition that employed it.

Petition . Though prayer also includes adoration (e.g.,  Psalm 144-150   Luke 1:46-55 ), confession (e.g.,  Psalm 51;  Luke 18:13 ), and thanksgiving (e.g.,  Psalm 75;  1 Thessalonians 1:2 ), Christian prayer has always been essentially petitionary. Indeed, the simple and almost naive petitioning that marks New Testament prayer is reflected in all its humanness in the psalms—the liturgical inheritance of the early Christiansas well as in the rest of the early church's Scriptures. Petitions are made for rain and fire, relief from famine and plague, resurrections from the dead, and so forth (e.g., see  1 Kings 8:35-40;  17:20-22;  18:26-39 ). In fact, most Hebrew terms used in the Old Testament for prayer refer in some sense to petition; prayer in the Old Testament more frequently expressed supplication than anything else.

Christian prayer, then, shared a simple belief that God could be petitioned to intervene and effect changes in nature and in the course of world events. The immediate source of this confidence came from the teachings and examples of Jesus himself, such as the model prayer he offered ( Matthew 6:9-13;  Luke 11:2-4 ) and his assurance that one had only to ask the Father in order to receive what was needed ( Matthew 7:7;  Luke 11:9 ). We can readily document that Jesus' instructions were taken to heart by his early followers: there were prayers for the selection of leaders, for deliverances from prisons, for the spread of the gospel, for healings, and so on (e.g., see  Acts 1:24;  12:5;  13:3 ). Indeed, Paul's teaching in  Philippians 4:6 echoes Jesus' own. Thus, prayer was unquestioningly believed to be an effective cause of God's actions such that a difference resulted in human events.

Such petitions were, in part, motivated by the need of the moment. In fact, a notable characteristic of New Testament prayer (and its predecessor) was its spontaneity. Prayer was to be placed in the midst of everyday life, not just reserved for liturgical contexts. Accordingly, petitions were to cover the entire gamut of one's life, including material and spiritual needs, though by the time we reach the New Testament period the former has been subordinated to the latter, as the pattern of the Lord's Prayer suggested. The pray-er should feel free to make requests of God, which, according to biblical material is equivalent to letting God know the desires of one's heart (see  Job 6:8;  Psalm 21:2;  Philippians 4:6 ).

At this point we must guard against equating Christian belief in the efficacy of prayer and magic. Magic attempts to control or manipulate the divine will in order to induce it to grant one's wishes, especially through the use of techniques such as charms, spells, rituals, or ceremonies. Christian prayer involves a struggle of wills in which the pray-er attempts to persuade God, all the time seeing prayer as a divinely given means whereby the pray-er can participate in God's agenda.

God . One's understanding of prayer varies in accordance with one's conception of the two parties involvednamely, the divine and the humanand their relation to each other. We turn then to the biblical conception of the first partyGod. The view of prayer found in the Old Testament, the soil for that in the New Testament, was founded on the Hebraic conception of God as both immanent and transcendent.

The prayers of Israel reveal their fundamental belief that they were talking to a God who, though mysterious, was immediately and actively present.

This immanent God of Israel was addressed as "you who hear prayer" ( Psalm 65:2 ). That is to say, from the beginning of the Old Testament traditions, God and humans engaged in dialoguein conversation made possible by the ascription of personhood to God. Thus, Elohim was a God who listened and answered ( Genesis 21:16-18;  22:11-12 ). The Divine shares his intentions ( Genesis 18:17;  Exodus 3 ). The human questions ( Genesis 15:2,8 ), requests guidance ( Exodus 5:22-23;  32:11-13 ), complains ( Numbers 11:1-15 ), reasons ( Genesis 18:23 ), and bargains ( Genesis 28:20-22 ). This personal relationship established in prayer recurs in almost every book of the Old Testament (especially in Jeremiah). This understanding of prayer as personal confrontation with a responsive objective referent continues into the New Testament and makes Christian prayer distinctive from merely reverencing an impersonal sacred object that can never be prayed to, petitioned, or thanked. Personhood includes mutuality, rapprochement, and reciprocityaddressing and being addressed. Christian prayer is possible only if it is an event between two persons in an essential reciprocal relationship. This sense of reciprocity, which is found in the Judeo-Christian concept but is lost in a monistic understanding of prayer, allows us to speak of prayer as talking to God.

The essence of Judeo-Christian prayer conceives of this fellowship between God and humans as a communion reflecting the forms of the social relations of humanity (friendship, master-servant, groom-bride, father-child). (One implication is that anyone capable of conventional interhuman discourse is capable of praying.) It is the last relationship that is most important as we move from the Old Testament's conception of God to the New Testament's. In fact, it has been suggested that the outstanding idea of Christ's teaching was the fatherhood of God.

The notion of God as father is not absent from the Old Testament, though it appears only fifteen times. Still, nothing in all the extant literature of ancient Palestinian Judaism indicates that "my Father" was used as a personal address to God. The community did pray to God as Father, and the individual occasionally spoke of God as his heavenly Father; but this was rare before the diaspora, and other titles for God were far more frequent in Jewish prayers. Instead, "my Father" is characteristic of the ipsissima vox Jesu . (Jesus always addresses God in prayer as "Father" except for the "cry of dereliction" on the cross.) With the word "abba" Jesus introduced a new way of prayingtalking to God as naturally, intimately, and sincerely as a child talks to his or her father. "Abba" reveals the heart of Jesus' relationship with God, marking his complete obedient surrender to the Father (  Mark 14:36 ) and his authority as the one to whom God reveals his thoughts ( Matthew 11:27 ). The early church used this same address and thereby appropriated the central element of Jesus' understanding of God (see  Romans 8:15;  Galatians 4:6 ). Indeed, by giving the disciples the paradigm prayer with the address "Our Father, " Jesus invited his followers to share in the same relationship with God he had, for it was customary in the Judaism of that time for individual religious groups to be united and characterized by a particular prayer (hence the disciples' request in  Luke 11:1 ).

The Christian tradition also conceives of God as susceptible to human influence by means of prayer. The conception of a real influence of humans on God lies at the root of the prophetic belief that God hears or answers prayer. God can let himself be determined by the pray-er and grant what is asked for or, because God is Person, he can refuse the petitioner and deny the request. (The very notion of "petition" or "request" implies this.) Certainly this is true of the Old Testament. For example, one thinks of Abraham's intercession for Sodom ( Genesis 18:22-23 ), Moses' intercession for his people ( Numbers 14:12-20 ), or Israel's desire to have a king against God's wishes ( 1 Samuel 8:19-22 ). But while this belief is presupposed by those who pray and teach about prayer in the Gospels and the New Testament church, in two prominent cases God's will is precisely not changed by human petitioning: in Jesus' Gethsemane prayer and in Paul's thrice-prayed request to have his "thorn in the flesh" removed. (Again, though, even in these cases pray-ers must have presupposed that God's will could be influenced in order to pray such prayers.) In fact, the New Testament emphasis seems not to be on changing God's will through prayer, but on changing the human's will. Nonetheless, in Christian prayer the human response to the Word of God has an effect on God. These words constitute part of the history between God and humans, and thus become part of God's history as well.

While the immanence of God formed much of the basis for prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition, God's transcendence is important as well. We have already implied it by noting that God maintains the prerogative of denying the pray-er's request. God's hand cannot be forced. In fact, even the intimacy of the "abba" in the Lord's Prayer is mitigated by the following phrase, "who are in heaven, " to insure that petitioners remember that they and the addressee are not on a par with each other. God is the Supreme Being or reality, both omnipresent and omnipotent. He can perform what is asked, but he stands over against the pray-er and, as such, he is sovereign over the petitioner, in providential control of the universe, and the source and bestower of all that we receive.

Humans . If God is the sovereign Lord of the universe from whom we should seek and receive the provision of spiritual and physical necessities, then we are reminded of our utter creaturely dependence on God. The divine-human relationship is understood to have its origin and the determination of its character entirely from the divine side, so that prayer is but a trusting response in a relationship that has been initiated by God. Prayer's form, content, and efficacy belong to the divine economy of human salvation.

Christian prayer has traditionally also expressed the human's freedom to play its essential role in prayer. Prayer in the Old Testament often pictures the pray-er as an active cooperator. Such prayer is a dynamic dialogue that expresses the history Immanuel wills to have with humans. Prayer thus becomes one of the ways in which the creature cooperates with God in order to bring about God's plan. This is evident in God's history of salvation when many significant events include the prayers of mediators such as Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, and others. In fact, it sometimes even seems in the Old Testament that God so desires obedience and cooperation that he is unwilling to carry out his purposes until men and women have recognized the divine summons and answered it (e.g., see   Exodus 4:10-17 ).

This Old Testament emphasis is not as clearly set forth in the New Testament, which may account, for example, for some disagreements about the intention of the first three petitions in the Lord's Prayerwhether they are a call for God to act alone (Lohmeyer, for example) or a call to God for help (Augustine, Luther). If the latter is the case (as the majority think), then why ask God to do for us what should be our duty? It is certainly not to escape our responsibility for action, but to enter into this human-divine partnership in which we offer ourselves at God's disposal, expecting and seeking him to be at work to make our efforts effective. This raises two important Judeo-Christian themes regarding prayer.

First, while prayer is a kind of work, the corollary is not necessarily ( nor even usually ) true. We must guard against the reductionistic motto "To work is to pray." It should be obvious that work cannot be a substitute for prayer, for no matter how faithful one has been in planning and toil, the harvest ultimately depends on factors outside of human control. The reduction of work to prayer may even be a manifestation of the human proclivity toward self-justification.

Second, both Testaments insist that while prayer and service are not to be equated with each other, they are also not to be separated from each other. With this insistence goes the belief that only the prayer of the righteous is efficacious ( Proverbs 15:29 ). This set of convictions is particularly a prophetic emphasis in the Old Testament, beginning as early as Samuel's intercession for Saul, which leads to the conclusion that prayer must result in obedience ( 1 Samuel 7:12,15;  15:22-23 ). It was especially the eighth-century prophets who emphasized the necessity for moral goodness of the one who prayed. Prayer was not to be substituted for righteousness. Jahweh wanted more than mere ritual and ceremony, notwithstanding Israel's elected status. There can only be true prayer if one is simultaneously actively seeking good; insincere prayer cannot be a substitute for justice and responsible action.

These twin virtues of service and prayer were also inseparably linked in the New Testament. Prayer in the early church is depicted as producing encouragement ( Acts 18:9-10;  23:11 ), guidance ( Acts 8:26-40;  10-11;  13:1-3 ), and power ( Acts 16:25-26 ) in one's work. And again, effective prayer in such cases is not to be disassociated from righteousness (e.g., see  James 5:15-16 ).

The Basis of Prayer . The true basis of prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition is the recollection of God's acts in history. Such remembrances establish the ground on which a request can be made and guide the petitioner to make appropriate requests. This is especially seen in Deuteronomy where appropriate prayer is prompted by the recollection of God's mighty deeds (4:9,32-39; 9:25-29; 32:1-43). The memory of God's lovingkindness often becomes the preamble and ground for the petition ( Genesis 32:10-13;  1 Kings 3:3-14 ). In fact, failure to recall God's past Acts might prevent a favorable response to prayer ( Jeremiah 2:5-13 ). Thus, prayer in the Old Testament must be discussed in the light of God's covenantal relationship with Israel. This is quite noticeable in the psalms, which recapitulate the great events of salvation history. The grounding of prayer in the recollection of God's nature and deeds contains the seeds of New Testament liturgical practice and teaching (e.g., see  2 Kings 19:14-19;  Matthew 6:5-8 ).

"Christian" Prayer . If prayer is based on God's Acts, then prayer is ultimately a response to the prior activity of God. In Christian prayer, the primary divine act is God's new revelation in Jesus Christ, in whom all the promises of God find their "yes." Christian prayer is, thus, a sequel in a relationship that begins before the idea of praying even occurs to us. One is summoned to continue the dialogue by the God who offers the gift of prayer, who guarantees its reality, and who calls on men and women to pray through the instrumentality of human speech. Thus, Christian prayer is not conceived of as the natural human's own achievement. Though our own endeavors are not precluded, ultimately the believer is impelled to pray by the indwelling God at work in the deepest places of his or her soul. In the New Testament, this understanding of prayer as God's work focuses on the roles of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

First, Christian prayer is to be prayed "in the name of Christ" ( John 14:13-14;  16:23-28 ). This is not some magical formula. It signifies that the suppliant takes the posture and attitude of Christ toward God and toward the world. To pray "in his name" is therefore to pray in a manner consistent with our new identity effected by the reconciliation of God and humans in Jesus Christ. That is to say, the use of Jesus' name in prayer is effective not as some sort of password that can be used indiscriminately by every petitioner. It is only effective to pray "in Jesus' name" if we are truly living in the name of Jesus. This phrase, then, has more to do with the identification of the person who prays than it does with right methods or conditions of prayer (e.g., see   Acts 19:13-16 ). Such prayer guards against a misreading of God's nature and will, and saves prayer from human selfishness and presumption.

Prayer "in Christ's name" is usually associated with prayer that is in keeping with God's will. Indeed, the patristic exegesis of the third petition of the Lord's Prayer insisted that God's will is expressed by the divine economy in Christ. In the third petition we ask not only for God's will to be done; we pray that it may be done among and through usthat we may become obedient participants in its accomplishments. By so praying, we also guard against the self-centered request for personal gain, away from which biblical prayer seems to move, at least in the New Testament.

Second, Christian prayer is mediated by Christ, a theme that is particularly found in John's Gospel and the letter to the Hebrews. This role of Christ began with his ascension to the Father and is made possible, in part, by his experiences whereby he empathizes with our condition ( Hebrews 4:14-16 ). The role of mediator in prayer was prevalent in the Old Testament (as in Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Amos, Solomon, Hezekiah, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Israel). But Christ is pictured in the New Testament as the ultimate intercessor, and, because of this, all Christian prayer becomes intercession since it is presented through and by Christ to God. In fact, Calvin insisted that without Christ's intercession we are cut off from the benefits of prayer, for the only hope that our prayers are heard lies in the fact that Christ causes them to be heard in his mediatorial role.

Third, Christian prayer is prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament the Spirit is that which makes possible even the address of God as "abba" ( Romans 8:15-16;  Galatians 4:6 ). The precise meaning of the Spirit's role in  Romans 8:26-27 is variously interpreted, though it is usually associated with the regulation and purification of our requests as the interpreter of the mind of God. Thus, the Holy Spirit is the arbiter, director, and interpreter of all our wishes. Accordingly, God may answer our petitions in his own way (see   2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ).

Wrestling in Prayer . We have established that prayer is a dialogue between two distinct partners. In fact, prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition is often a struggle between two willsbetween two covenant partners. And though the two partners are not equal, the human agent is not precluded from the complaining, questioning, and passionate vehemence that characterize true dialogues.

The psalms offer some of the best examples of this. We must not overlook or censor the humanness of the psalmist just so that our modern "piety" will not be disturbed.

The prototype of this wrestling or conflict with God is the story of Jacob in  Genesis 32:22-32 . Jacob engages God with a perseverance that refuses to let go until Jacob's desire is met. In this case, the struggle results in a character change and marks the petitioner for life. Other outstanding Old Testament examples of contention with God in prayer include the prophets Jeremiah (see  Jeremiah 12:1 ) and Habakkuk (see  Habakkuk 1:2-4 ). In these cases, the arguments result in assurances that all is in God's control and a deepened understanding of God's purposes; however, while Habakkuk finally takes delight in God's providence, Jeremiah never seems to be sure whether he should delight in or despair over such divine government (compare  Habakkuk 3:17-19; with  Jeremiah 20:7-18 ). Somewhat paralleling these prophets, especially with regard to the subsequent submission of the suppliant, the exemplary New Testament models of the engagement of two wills in prayer are Jesus' Gethsemane prayer ( Matthew 26:36-46 ,; par.) and Paul's "thorn-in-the-flesh" prayer ( 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ).

The New Testament passages that are more difficult to explain include those that seem to teach importunity in prayer (e.g.,  Luke 11:5-13;  18:1-8 ). Some argue that these parables teach perseverance in a request until either our wills or the circumstances of our lives are altered. Others argue that the original design of these stories may not have been to teach importunity. In  Luke 11,18 , for instance, Jesus is telling his hearers that if humans are like this, how much more readily will God respond to petitions. In  Luke 11 , then, Jesus was concerned to teach that the needy may always resort to God without hesitation. Luke added his application in verse 8 ("I tell you "). In  Luke 18 the parable is placed in an eschatological setting regarding the vindication of sufferers, and verse 1 does not specify persistence with respect to the same request. Even if this latter interpretation is correct regarding the original intention of these parables, one must still deal with the way they were understood and applied by the early church. And we are still left with the examples of persistent storming of heaven in the Old Testamentexamples in which the petitioners sometimes get their way (e.g., refer to Israel's request for a king in   1 Samuel 8 ).

In the Bible there seem to be what C. S. Lewis calls two "patterns" of petitionary prayer. On the one hand, there is the wrestling that strives with God to change God's will and/or the circumstances. On the other hand, there is the resignation to God's will and to the circumstances.

God's Response . If God is to be thought of in the Judeo-Christian tradition as a personal being with whom one wrestles in prayer, it is not surprising to find that within this tradition God is sometimes conceived of as not "hearing" or "answering" prayer. In fact, if petitionary prayer is request, it follows that it may or may not be granted, since that is the nature of requests over against compulsion. Just as God cannot be bound by human wishes nor induced to carry out the petitioner's will just because the prayer is long or eloquent or the pray-er is pious, so there are no automatic guarantees that God will hear our prayers.

There is certainly an expressed confidence that God will answer prayer ( Psalm 3:4;  6:9;  17:6;  138:3;  Matthew 7:7-11 ). But God sometimes seems far off or silent (see  Psalm 10:1;  13:1-2;  77:5-9;  89:46 ). In fact, there are times when God does not answer or hear prayer. There is no formal treatment of this phenomenon in the Bible, though recurrent episodes suggest reasons why God does not hear some prayers. Such reasons include broken taboos (  1 Samuel 14:36-42 ), divine displeasure with a people's behavior ( Deuteronomy 3:23-27 ), sins of various sorts ( Psalm 66:18;  Isaiah 1:15;  59:1-3 ), selfish ends ( James 4:3 ), and so forth. At times, the silence of God is simply inexplicable (as in Job).

But to be fair to the Judeo-Christian tradition more needs to be said. First, it is assumed that prayers that will be answered in due time (that is, in God's time) are prayers prayed in accord with God's will, particularly as that is expressed in Christ. This is especially the New Testament answer to the "problem of unanswered prayer." Thus, such silences are only temporary; for example, the silence of God experienced and expressed by the psalmist is not typically isolated in the biblical accounts but is set in the context of God's answering (e.g., see  Psalm 22,28 ). Second, prayers that are answered in a way that we do not expect give us the appearance of God's silence only because we do not hear the response we want to hear; such "unanswered" prayer may really uncover a moral problem on the petitioner's part. Third, in refusing the specific answer requested, God may truly be hearing and answering our prayers if our intention is to seek God's will, because God sometimes wrathfully gives exactly what the wicked seek to their own damnation (see   Romans 1 ).

A caution is in order here. The suggestion is often made that prayer is "unanswered" because one does not pray "in Christ's name" nor "according to God's will." Not only does such a way out of the problem raise some interesting questions regarding Jesus' Gethsemane prayer, but it ignores the times when one seems to pray in Christ's name or according to God's will and does not receive an answer. Any solution must being with the reminder that answers to prayer are grounded in God's graciousness and faithfulness to his promises, not in the petitioner's rights.

Dennis L. Okholm

Bibliography . K. Barth, The Christian Life  ; D. G. Bloesch, The Struggle of Prayer  ; G. A. Buttrick, Prayer  ; J. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion  ; A. Cunningham, Prayer: Personal and Liturgical  ; G. Ebeling, On Prayer: Nine Sermons  ; J. Ellul, Prayer and Modern Man  ; F. L. Fischer, Prayer in the New Testament  ; R. J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home  ; M. Greenberg, Biblical Prose Prayer: A Window to the Popular Religion of Ancient Israel  ; F. Heiler, Prayer: A Study in the History and Psychology of Religion  ; H. T. Hughes, Prophetic Prayer: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Prayer to the Reformation  ; J. Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus  ; P. LeFevre, Understandings of Prayer  ; C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer  ; R. L. Simpson, The Interpretation of Prayer in the Early Church; Tertullian's Tract on the Prayer  ; H. Thielicke, Our Heavenly Father: Sermons on the Lord's Prayer  ; E. D. Willis, Daring Prayer .

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

(1) Τechinnah , from Chandra "to be gracious"; hithpael, "to entreat grace"; Greek Deesis .

(2) Τephillah , 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;  Philippians 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 ( Psalms 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 ( Psalms 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 ( Psalms 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;  Psalms 5:7;  Psalms 28:2;  Psalms 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 ( Psalms 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) ;  Psalms 55:17;  Daniel 6:10;  Daniel 9:21;  Acts 3:1;  Acts 10:3;  Acts 2:15. "Seven times a day" ( Psalms 119:164), i.e. continually, seven being the number for perfection; compare  Psalms 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;  Psalms 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;  Psalms 28:2;  Psalms 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;  Philippians 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" ( Psalms 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 ( Psalms 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).

(2) Cry.

(3) Prayer "set in order" ("direct," 'Atak ), as the wood upon the altar, the shewbread on the table ( Psalms 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;  Psalms 142:2;  1 Peter 5:7;  Psalms 62:1;  Psalms 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).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

has been well defined, the offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name or through the mediation of Jesus Christ, by the help of the Holy Spirit, with a confession of our sins, and a thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

1. Prayer is in itself a becoming acknowledgment of the all-sufficiency of God, and of our dependence upon him. It is his appointed means for the obtaining of both temporal and spiritual blessings. He could bless his creatures in another way: but he will be inquired of, to do for them those things of which they stand in need,   Ezekiel 36:37 . It is the act of an indigent creature, seeking relief from the fountain of mercy. A sense of want excites desire, and desire is the very essence of prayer. "One thing have I desired of the Lord," says David; "that will I seek after." Prayer without desire is like an altar without a sacrifice, or without the fire from heaven to consume it. When all our wants are supplied, prayer will be converted into praise; till then Christians must live by prayer, and dwell at the mercy seat. God alone is able to hear and to supply their every want. The revelation which he has given of his goodness lays a foundation for our asking with confidence the blessings we need, and his ability encourages us to hope for their bestowment. "O thou that hearest prayer; unto thee shall all flesh come,"  Psalms 65:2 .

2. Prayer is a spiritual exercise, and can only be performed acceptably by the assistance of the Holy Spirit,   Romans 8:26 . "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight." The Holy Spirit is the great agent in the world of grace, and without his special influence there is no acceptable prayer. Hence he is called the Spirit of grace and of supplication: for he it is that enables us to draw nigh unto God, filling our mouth with arguments, and teaching us to order our cause before him,  Zechariah 12:10 .

3. All acceptable prayer must be offered in faith, or a believing frame of mind. "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering—for let not the wavering man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord,"   James 1:5-7 . "He that cometh unto God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,"  Hebrews 11:6 . It must be offered in the name of Christ, believing in him as revealed in the word of God, placing in him all our hope of acceptance, and exercising unfeigned confidence in his atoning sacrifice and prevalent intercession.

4. Prayer is to be offered for "things agreeable to the will of God." So the Apostle says: "This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him,"   1 John 5:14-15 . Our prayers must therefore be regulated by the revealed will of God, and come within the compass of the promises. These are to be the matter and the ground of our supplications. What God has not particularly promised he may nevertheless possibly bestow; but what he has promised he will assuredly perform. Of the good things promised to Israel of old not one failed, but all came to pass; and in due time the same shall be said of all the rest.

5. All this must be accompanied with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of God's mercies. These are two necessary ingredients in acceptable prayer. "I prayed," says the Prophet Daniel, "and made confession." Sin is a burden, of which confession unloads the soul. "Father," said the returning prodigal, "I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight." Thanksgiving is also as necessary as confession; by the one we take shame to ourselves; by the other, we give glory to God. By the one, we abase the creature; by the other we exalt the Creator. In petitioning favours from God, we act like dependent creatures; in confession, like sinners; but in thanksgiving, like angels.

The reason on which this great and efficacious duty rests, has been a subject of some debate. On this point, however, we have nothing stated in the Scriptures. From them we learn only, that God has appointed it; that he enjoins it to be offered in faith, that is, faith in Christ, whose atonement is the meritorious and procuring cause of all the blessings to which our desires can be directed; and that prayer so offered is an indispensable condition of our obtaining the blessings for which we ask. As a matter of inference, however, we may discover some glimpses of the reason in the divine Mind on which its appointment rests. That reason has sometimes been said to be the moral preparation and state of fitness produced in the soul for the reception of the divine mercies which the act and, more especially, the habit of prayer must induce. Against this stands the strong, and, in a Scriptural view, fatal objection, that an efficiency is thus ascribed to the mere act of a creature to produce those great, and, in many respects, radical changes in the character of man, which we are taught, by inspired authority, to refer to the direct influences of the Holy Spirit. What is it that fits man for forgiveness, but simply repentance? Yet that is expressly said to be the "gift" of Christ, and supposes strong operations of the illuminating and convincing Spirit of truth, the Lord and Giver of spiritual life; and if the mere acts and habit of prayer had efficiency enough to produce a Scriptural repentance, then every formalist attending with ordinary seriousness to his devotions, must, in consequence, become a penitent. Again: if we pray for spiritual blessings aright, that is, with an earnestness of desire which arises from a due apprehension of their importance, and a preference of them to all earthly good, who does not see that this implies such a deliverance from the earthly and carnal disposition which characterizes our degenerate nature, that an agency far above our own, however we may employ it, must be supposed? or else, if our own prayers could be efficient up to this point, we might, by the continual application of this instrument, complete our regeneration, independent of that grace of God, which, after all, this theory brings in. It may indeed be said, that the grace of God operates by our prayers to produce in us a state of moral fitness to receive the blessings we ask. But this gives up the point contended for, the moral efficiency of prayer; and refers the efficiency to another agent working by our prayers as an instrument. Still, however, it may be affirmed, that the Scriptures no where represent prayer as an instrument for improving our moral state, in any other way than as the means of bringing into the soul new supplies of spiritual life and strength. It is therefore more properly to be considered as a condition of our obtaining that grace by which such effects are wrought, than as the instrument by which it effects them. In fact, all genuine acts of prayer depend upon a grace previously bestowed, and from which alone the disposition and the power to pray proceed. So it was said of Saul of Tarsus, "Behold, he prayeth! " He prayed in fact then for the first time; but that was in consequence of the illumination of his mind as to his spiritual danger, effected by the miracle on the way to Damascus, and the grace of God which accompanied the miracle. Nor does the miraculous character of the means by which conviction was produced in his mind, affect the relevancy of this to ordinary cases. By whatever means God may be pleased to fasten the conviction of our spiritual danger upon our minds, and to awaken us out of the long sleep of sin, that conviction must precede real prayer, and comes from the influence of his grace, rendering the means of conviction effectual. Thus it is not the prayer which produces the conviction, but the conviction which gives birth to the prayer; and if we pursue the matter into its subsequent stages, we shall come to the same result. We pray for what we feel we want; that is, for something not in our possession; we obtain this either by impartation from God, to whom we look up as the only Being able to bestow the good for which we ask him; or else we obtain it, according to this theory, by some moral efficiency being given to the exercise of prayer to work it in us. Now, the latter hypothesis is in many cases manifestly absurd. We ask for pardon of sin, for instance; but this is an act of God done for us, quite distinct from any moral change which prayer may be said to produce in us, whatever efficiency, we may ascribe to it; for no such change in us can be pardon, since that must proceed from the party offended. We ask for increase of spiritual strength; and prayer is the expression of that want. But if it supply this want by its own moral efficiency, it must supply it in proportion to its intensity and earnestness; which intensity and earnestness can only be called forth by the degree in which the want is felt, so that the case supposed is contradictory and absurd, as it makes the sense of want to be in proportion to the supply which ought to abate or remove it. And if it be urged, that prayer at least produces in us a fitness for the supply of spiritual strength, because it is excited by a sense of our wants, the answer is, that the fitness contended for consists in that sense of want itself which must be produced in us by the previous agency of grace, or we should never pray for supplies. There is, in fact, nothing in prayer simply which appears to have any adaptation, as an instrument, to effect a moral change in man, although it should be supposed to be made use of by the influence of the Holy Spirit. The word of God is properly an instrument, because it contains the doctrine which that Spirit explains and applies, and the motives to faith and obedience which he enforces upon the conscience and affections; and although prayer brings these truths and motives before us, prayer cannot properly be said to be an instrument of our regeneration, because that which is thus brought by prayer to bear upon our case is the word of God itself introduced into our prayers, which derive their sole influence in that respect from that circumstance. Prayer simply is the application of an insufficient to a sufficient Being for the good which the former cannot otherwise obtain, and which the latter only can supply; and as that supply is dependent upon prayer, and in the nature of the thing consequent, prayer can in no good sense be said to be the instrument of supplying our wants, or fitting us for their supply, except relatively, as a mere condition appointed by the Donor.

If we must inquire into the reason of the appointment of prayer, and it can scarcely be considered as a purely arbitrary institution, that reason seems to be, the preservation in the minds of men of a solemn and impressive sense of God's agency in the world, and the dependence of all creatures upon him. Perfectly pure and glorified beings, no longer in a state of probation, and therefore exposed to no temptations, may not need this institution; but men in their fallen state are constantly prone to forget God; to rest in the agency of second causes; and to build upon a sufficiency in themselves. This is at once a denial to God of the glory which he rightly claims, and a destructive delusion to creatures, who, in forsaking God as the object of their constant affiance, trust but in broken reeds, and attempt to drink from "broken cisterns which can hold no water." It is then equally in mercy to us, as in respect to his own honour and acknowledgment, that the divine Being has suspended so many of his blessings, and those of the highest necessity to us, upon the exercise of prayer; an act which acknowledges his uncontrollable agency; and the dependence of all creatures upon him; our insufficiency, and his fulness; and lays the foundation of that habit of gratitude and thanksgiving which is at once so meliorating to our own feelings, and so conducive to a cheerful obedience to the will of God. And if this reason for the injunction of prayer is no where in Scripture stated in so many words, it is a principle uniformly supposed as the foundation of the whole scheme of religion which they have revealed.

To this duty objections have been sometimes offered, at which it may be well at least to glance. One has been grounded upon a supposed predestination of all things which come to pass; and the argument is, that as this established predetermination of all things cannot be altered, prayer, which supposes that God will depart from it, is vain and useless. The answer which a pious predestinarian would give to this objection is, that the argument drawn from the predestination of God lies with the same force against every other human effort, as against prayer; and that as God's predetermination to give food to man does not render the cultivation of the earth useless and impertinent, so neither does the predestination of things shut out the necessity and efficacy of prayer. It would also be urged, that God has ordained the means as well as the end; and although he is an unchangeable Being, it is a part of the unchangeable system which he has established, that prayer shall be heard and accepted. Those who have not these views of predestination will answer the objection differently; for if the premises of such a predestination as is assumed by the objection, and conceded in the answer, be allowed, the answer is unsatisfactory. The Scriptures represent God, for instance, as purposing to inflict a judgment upon an individual or a nation, which purpose is often changed by prayer.

In this case either God's purpose must be denied, and then his threatenings are reduced to words without meaning; or the purpose must be allowed; in which case either prayer breaks in upon predestination, if understood absolutely, or it is vain and useless. To the objection so drawn out it is clear that no answer is given by saying that the means as well as the end are predestinated, since prayer in such cases is not a means to the end, but an instrument of thwarting it; or is a means to one end in opposition to another end, which, if equally predestinated with the same absoluteness, is a contradiction. The true answer is, that although God has absolutely predetermined some things, there are others which respect his government of free and accountable agents, which he has but conditionally predetermined. The true immutability of God consists, not in his adherence to his purposes, but in his never changing the principles of his administration; and he may therefore, in perfect accordance with his preordination of things, and the immutability of his nature, purpose to do, under certain conditions dependent upon the free agency of man, what he will not do under others; and for this reason, that an immutable adherence to the principles of a wise, just, and gracious government requires it.

Prayer is in Scripture made one of these conditions; and if God has established it as one of the principles of his moral government to accept prayer, in every case in which he has given us authority to ask, he has not, we may be assured, entangled his actual government of the world with the bonds of such an eternal predestination of particular events, as either to reduce prayer to a mere form of words, or not to be able himself, consistently with his decrees, to answer it, whenever it is encouraged by his express engagements.

A second objection is, that as God is infinitely wise and good, his wisdom and justice will lead him to bestow "whatever is fit for us without praying; and if any thing be not fit for us, we cannot obtain it by praying." To this Dr. Paley very well replies, "that it may be agreeable to perfect wisdom to grant that to our prayers which it would not have been agreeable to the same wisdom to have given us without praying for." This, independent of the question of the authority of the Scriptures which explicitly enjoin prayer, is the best answer which can be given to the objection; and it is no small confirmation of it, that it is obvious to every reflecting man, that for God to withhold favours till asked for, "tends," as the same writer observes, "to encourage devotion among his rational creatures, and to keep up and circulate a knowledge and sense of their dependency upon him."

But it is urged, "God will always do what is best from the moral perfection of his nature, whether we pray or not." This objection, however, supposes that there is but one mode of acting for the best, and that the divine will is necessarily determined to that mode only; "both which positions," says Paley, "presume a knowledge of universal nature, much beyond what we are capable of attaining." It is, indeed, a very unsatisfactory mode of speaking, to say, God will always do what is best; since we can conceive him capable in all cases of doing what is still better for the creature, and also that the creature is capable of receiving more and more from his infinite fulness for ever. All that can be rationally meant by such a phrase is, that, in the circumstances of the case, God will always do what is most consistent with his own wisdom, holiness, and goodness; but then the disposition to pray, and the act of praying, add a new circumstance to every case, and often bring many other new circumstances along with them. It supposes humility, contrition, and trust, on the part of the creature; and an acknowledgment of the power and compassion of God, and of the merit of the atonement of Christ: all which are manifestly new positions, so to speak, of the circumstances of the creature, which, upon the very principle of the objection, rationally understood, must be taken into consideration.

But if the efficacy of prayer as to ourselves be granted, its influence upon the case of others is said to be more difficult to conceive. This may be allowed without at all affecting the duty. Those who bow to the authority of the Scriptures will see, that the duty of praying for ourselves and for others rests upon the same divine appointment; and to those who ask for the reason of such intercession in behalf of others, it is sufficient to reply, that the efficacy of prayer being established in one case, there is the same reason to conclude that our prayers may benefit others, as any other effort we may use. It can only be by divine appointment that one creature is made dependent upon another for any advantage, since it was doubtless in the power of the Creator to have rendered each independent of all but himself. Whatever reason, therefore, might lead him to connect and interweave the interests of one man with the benevolence of another, will be the leading reason for that kind of mutual dependence which is implied in the benefit of mutual prayer. Were it only that a previous sympathy, charity, and good will, are implied in the duty, and must, indeed, be cultivated in order to it, and be strengthened by it, the wisdom and benevolence of the institution would, it is presumed, be apparent to every well constituted mind. That all prayer for others must proceed upon a less perfect knowledge of them than we have of ourselves, is certain; that all our petitions must be, even in our own mind, more conditional than those which respect ourselves, though many of these must be subjected to the principles of a general administration, which we but partially apprehend; and that all spiritual influences upon others, when they are subject to our prayers, will be understood by us as liable to the control of their free agency, must also be conceded; and, therefore, when others are concerned, our prayers may often be partially or wholly fruitless. He who believes the Scriptures will, however, be encouraged by the declaration that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man," for his fellow creatures, "availeth much;" and he who demands something beyond mere authoritative declaration, as he cannot deny that prayer is one of those instruments by which another may be benefited, must acknowledge that, like the giving of counsel, it may be of great utility in some cases, although it should fail in others; and that as no man can tell how much good counsel may influence another, or in many cases say whether it has ultimately failed or not, so it is with prayer. It is a part of the divine plan, as revealed in his word, to give many blessings to man independent of his own prayers, leaving the subsequent improvement of them to himself. They are given in honour of the intercession of Christ, man's great "Advocate;" and they are given, subordinately, in acceptance of the prayers of Christ's church, and of righteous individuals. And when many or few devout individuals become thus the instruments of good to communities, or to whole nations, there is no greater mystery in this than in the obvious fact, that the happiness or misery of large masses of mankind is often greatly affected by the wisdom or the errors, the skill or the incompetence, the good or the bad conduct, of a few persons, and often of one.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [6]

1. General.-Prayer was to the Apostolic Church the very secret of a ‘life hid with Christ in God’ ( Colossians 3:3). It was to them the most natural thing in the world to pray for guidance in perplexity, for strength and blessing when the will of God was manifest. In a word, their intercourse with God passed through the whole scale of feeling from the low note of penitence to the highest notes of thanksgiving and praise. Petition for themselves invariably grew into intercession for others and was never the last word of prayer. Alike when the apostles were about to choose a successor to Judas ( Acts 1:24) and when the Church of Antioch sent forth Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey ( Acts 13:3), prayer was offered. When Paul was kept in prison, he desired and expected such earnest prayer of the Church unto God for him as was offered by the Church of Jerusalem for Peter ( Acts 12:5).

At first the Temple was the centre for the Christians’ devotions. They clung to it as ‘the house of prayer,’ and used ‘the prayers’ ( Acts 3:1) of Jewish devotion at the customary hours. The third hour was marked by the gift of the Spirit ( Acts 2:15), the ninth by the miracle of the healing of a lame man by Peter and John on their way to prayer ( Acts 3:1), the sixth by the vision which taught Peter to receive Gentile converts. The ill-will of priests and Sadducees only drove them to more earnest prayer for grace to speak God’s word ‘with all boldness’ ( Acts 4:24-30). There is a deep thought in  1 John 3:22 where prayer is spoken of as the boldness with which a son appears before the Father to make requests. Every such prayer is answered ‘not as a reward for meritorious action, but because the prayer itself rightly understood coincides with God’s will’ (Westcott, ad loc.).

The chief characteristic of Christian prayer is the new power which the fellowship of the Spirit brought to Christians, and the grace of perseverance ( Ephesians 6:18). It is the Spirit whose voice within each child of God cries ‘Abba, Father’ ( Galatians 4:6)._ And, when we are weak and know not what to pray for, ‘the Spirit itself entreats for us with groans which are not to be expressed in words,’ ‘bears His part in our present difficulties’ and makes ‘our inarticulate longings for a better life … audible to God … and acceptable to Him since they are the voice of His Spirit’ (H. B. Swete, The Holy Spirit in the NT, London, 1909, pp. 220, 221). In this deepest teaching of Paul we are led to associate with the work of the Spirit within the intercession of the Son at the Right Hand ( Romans 8:34). And we find the clue to the great prayers of Paul.

Beginning with  1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, we find that the Apostle includes thanksgiving, intercession, and consciousness of the presence of God as of the needs of others. He lays stress on the need of intelligence if prayer is to edify ( 1 Corinthians 14:14 ff.). And along with intelligence he demands from the Christian soldier the resolute perseverance which characterizes his own prayers.

 Ephesians 6:18.-The universality of the duty as to mode, times, and persons is enforced by the words ‘all prayer,’ ‘at all seasons,’ ‘in all perseverance’, ‘for all the saints.’

 Romans 1:8-12.-As elsewhere, Paul begins with thankfulness, offering all prayer through the one Mediator, to whom he commends all the service of the Roman Christians, remembering them, no doubt by name, and desiring to see them both to impart and to receive grace.

 Ephesians 1:15-19;  Ephesians 3:14-19.-Again, beginning with thanksgiving, he asks that his friends may have the spirit of efficiency, growth in knowledge, enlightenment, issuing in power. Knowledge and power are the keynotes in the second prayer, in which there is remarkable social teaching. As each individual is strengthened, the life of the whole community will be uplifted by the Spirit of the Father from whom every fatherhood is named, and who has sent the Christ to teach love as ‘the characteristic virtue both of the historic Person and of the ideal State’ (Chadwick, Pastoral Teaching of St. Paul, p. 292).

In  Colossians 1:9 ff. the same keynotes-knowledge, strength, thankfulness-recur. Knowledge of God’s will affects conduct; under the guidance of the Spirit we are led to new forms of service, are enabled to bear with cheerfulness our difficulties and disappointments, assured that the lot of the saints is a privilege ‘in the [Divine] light.’

In  Philippians 1:9-11 Paul prays that love may abound in knowledge and in all perception. All the faculties of reason and emotion will be cultivated in the well-balanced life, in which enthusiasm does not overpower intelligence and tact, but in the long series of moral choices, by which character is built up, the presence and power of Christ will determine the goal which is ‘the fruit of righteousness’ in a life lived in union with Him. ‘Gloria Dei vivens homo.’

These prayers of Paul throw a bright light on the meaning of the different words for prayer which are often discussed from a philological rather than from a religious point of view. The most important are united in the explicit charge given to Timothy ( 1 Timothy 2:1 f.): ‘I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications (δεήσεις), prayers (προσευχαί), intercessions (ἐντεύξεις), thanksgivings (εὐχαριστίαι), be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity.’ Here προσευχή means prayer in general, always as addressed to God, whereas εὐχή means more often a vow than prayer; δέησις is prayer for particular benefits; ἔντευξις (lit._ ‘a pleading for or against others’) includes the idea of approach (ἐντυγχάνω) which in  Romans 8:26 emphasizes its meaning of the intercession of the Spirit, and in  Romans 8:34,  Hebrews 7:25 of the Son. Other words are αἴτημα, a petition of man to God ( Philippians 4:6,  1 John 5:15); and ἱκετηρία, an adjective used at first with such a word as ῥάβδος or ἐλαία, picturing the symbol of supplication, an olive branch bound round with wool carried by the suppliant.

While all Christians are exhorted to pray without ceasing ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17) it was regarded as a special privilege of those who had leisure, such as ‘widows indeed’ ( 1 Timothy 5:5), to continue in supplications and prayers night and day. Thus the apostles enlisted the help of the Seven in order to give themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word ( Acts 6:4).

There is a deep meditation on the hearing of prayer in  Hebrews 5:7, with reference to our Lord’s prayers. ‘True prayer-the prayer which must be answered-is the personal recognition and acceptance of the divine will ( John 14:7 : comp.  Mark 11:24 ἐλάβετε). It follows that the hearing of prayer, which teaches obedience, is not so much the granting of a specific petition, which is assumed by the petitioner to be the way to the end desired, but the assurance that what is granted does most effectively lead to the end. Thus we are taught that Christ learned that every detail of His Life and Passion contributed to the accomplishment of the work which He came to fulfil, and so He was most perfectly “heard.” In this sense He was “heard for His godly fear” ’ (Westcott). These pregnant sentences go to the very root of the problem of prayer. We learn its meaning as the Apostolic Church learnt it only by following our Lord to Gethsemane and the Cross. The ordinary posture of prayer was standing with arms outstretched, like the Pharisee of our Lord’s parable ( Luke 18:11), and the earliest paintings of Orantes in the Roman Catacombs. The well-known words of Tertullian may be quoted (Apol. 30): ‘Gazing up heavenward we Christians pray with hands extended because they are innocent, with the head uncovered because we are not ashamed; finally, without a guide because we pray from the heart.’

Following the example of our Lord, both kneeling and prostration were also adopted; Stephen ( Acts 7:60), Peter ( Acts 9:40), Paul ( Acts 20:36,  Acts 21:5), all knelt. Clement of Rome associated prostration with penitence (Ep. ad Cor. i. 48): ‘Let us therefore root this out quickly, and let us fall down before the Master, and entreat Him with tears.’ The value attached by Ignatius to the influence of prayer is expressed in the words (Ephesians 5): ‘For if the prayer of one and another hath so great force, how much more that of the bishop and of the whole Church.’

2. Prayers for the departed.-The possible references to prayers for the departed in the NT taken by themselves are ambiguous, nor is it easy to deal with this subject without reference to authors who wrote outside the limits of this Dictionary. But there is one reference, which may be fairly said to prove the existence of this practice during the first half of the 2nd century.

The epitaph of Abercius (Avircius Marcellus), who was bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia Salutaris c._ a.d. 160, includes: ‘Let every friend who observeth this pray for me.’ This is confirmed by the evidence of Tertullian, de Corona, 3 (written c._ a.d. 211): ‘We offer oblations for the dead on the anniversary of their birth.’ And again (c._ a.d. 217), in de Monogamia, 10, Tertullian describes a Christian widow as one ‘who prays for his [i.e. her husband’s] soul, and requests refreshment for him in the meanwhile, and fellowship in the first resurrection, and she offers [sacrifice] on the anniversaries of his falling asleep.’

There are also many such references in the inscriptions of the Catacombs, some of which may be assigned to the 2nd century. And there is a continuous tradition of such prayers in the ancient Liturgies, in which prayers are offered for those who rest in Christ that they may have peace and light, rest and refreshment: that they may live in God (or in Christ): that they may be partakers of the joyful resurrection, and of the inheritance of the Kingdom of God.

It is clear that such intercessions date from the beginning of the 2nd cent., and that they represent quite faithfully the general tenor of the teaching of the Apostolic Church on the Future State. Without labouring the point we may say that they support the inference that Onesiphorus was dead when Paul prayed for him ( 2 Timothy 1:16-18): ‘The Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day.’ The Apostle mentions his household in  2 Timothy 1:16 and  2 Timothy 4:19, but says nothing of Onesiphorus himself.

The reference in  2 Maccabees 12:43-45 to sacrifices offered for the dead by Judas Maccabaeus may be taken to prove that prayers for the dead were not unknown in our Lord’s time. But the author speaks in an apologetic way, as if the act of Judas were not a common practice. And the Sadducees who controlled the Temple services did not believe in any resurrection, so we cannot suppose that they would have approved of such prayers.

The central thought of the Apostolic Church with regard to their relationship to the faithful departed is summed up in the Epistle to the Hebrews ( Hebrews 12:22-23) in the words: ‘Ye are come … to the spirits of just men made perfect,’ also described ( Hebrews 12:1) as ‘a great cloud of witnesses.’ They are living and they are interested in both our faith and conduct, and the least response of our loyalty to them will naturally find expression in our prayers for their peace and progress.

Literature-W. E. Chadwick, The Pastoral Teaching of St. Paul, Edinburgh, 1907; F. E. Warren, The Liturgy and Ritual of the Ante-Nicene Church, London, 1897; A. J. Worlledge, Prayer, do., 1902; G. Bull, Serm. iii. (= Works, 7 vols., Oxford, 1846, i. 77); H. M. Luckock, After Death: Testimony of Primitive Times4, London, 1832; S. C. Gayford, Future State, do., 1903; J. Ussher, An Answer to a Challenge made by a Jesuite in Ireland, do., 1631; G. H. S. Walpole, The Gospel of Hope, do., 1914.

A. E. Burn.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [7]

Prayer is that activity of believers whereby they communicate with God, worshipping him, praising him, thanking him, confessing to him and making requests of him. This article will be concerned mainly with those aspects of prayer connected with requests, whether personal or for others. Concerning other aspects of prayer see Confession ; Fasting ; Praise ; Worship .

God’s power and human helplessness

Believers pray because they know that God is the source of all good, the controller of all events and the possessor of supreme power ( Nehemiah 1:4-5;  Nehemiah 9:6;  Matthew 6:9). By praying they acknowledge that they have no power to bring about the things they pray for, but God has. Believers are in the position of inferiors to a superior. They have no right to try to force God to do what they want, but by their prayers they are admitting their own helplessness and their complete dependence on God ( Mark 9:17-24;  Romans 9:20;  Romans 11:33-34). They are, in effect, inviting God to work his solution to the matter concerning which they are praying.

The answer to a prayer depends not upon the will-power, zeal or emotions of the person praying, but upon the wisdom and power of God. God looks not for an effort to work up feelings, but for a humble and helpless spirit that trusts entirely in him ( Psalms 51:17;  Proverbs 3:5-6;  Luke 18:10-14). The merit is not in the prayer, but in God who answers the prayer. Only when believers recognize their helplessness can they really pray in the right spirit; for then they acknowledge that God can do what they cannot ( John 15:5). Their helplessness causes them to trust in God, which means, in other words, that they exercise faith.

Faith and God’s will

Faith, therefore, is a basic requirement of all true prayer ( Matthew 8:13;  Mark 9:23;  Mark 11:24;  Hebrews 11:6;  James 1:6-8). People do not need large amounts of faith. All they need is enough faith to turn in their helplessness to God ( Matthew 21:21-22). Faith has no merit in itself, as if God needs people’s faith to help him do things. God has complete power in himself. Faith is simply the means by which believers come to God and ask him to exercise that power ( Mark 11:22;  Acts 3:16;  Acts 4:24-31).

Since faith is part of the very nature of prayer, it is impossible for people to use prayer to get their own way. Those who try to use prayer in such a way are not really praying at all. They are arrogantly commanding God instead of humbly depending on him; they are wanting their will to be done instead of God’s ( Matthew 20:20-23;  James 4:3).

Long and impressive prayers will not persuade God; neither will an outward show of zeal and earnestness ( Matthew 6:5-8;  Mark 12:38-40). If believers expect to have their prayers answered, they must pray in the name of Jesus, not in their own name. That is, they must pray for what Jesus wants, not what they want. They must desire that certain things will happen for Jesus’ sake, not for their own sake. They must desire that glory be brought to God, not to themselves ( John 14:13;  John 16:23-24).

Answers to prayer

God promises to answer the prayers of his people, but only if they offer those prayers out of pure motives, according to his will, and with a genuine desire to glorify God ( Numbers 14:13-20;  Matthew 6:10;  Matthew 18:19;  John 14:13;  1 John 5:14-15). Believers should bear in mind that they have no right of their own to come into God’s presence with their requests. They come only because Christ has made entrance into God’s presence possible and because God in his grace accepts them. They come before God humbly and reverently, but they also come confidently ( Hebrews 4:14-16;  Hebrews 10:19-22).

Although God’s people can pray with assurance, they have no guarantee that God will immediately give the things they pray for. In fact, he may not give them at all. The reason for this may be that he has something else in mind that will, in the end, be better for themselves, better for others and more glorifying to God. If people pray in the right spirit and with the sincere desire that God’s will be done, they are assured God will answer their prayers. In so doing he may give something different from what was requested. He gives what people would have asked for if they had the full knowledge that he has ( Matthew 7:7-11;  Matthew 26:38-46;  John 11:32;  John 11:37;  John 11:40-45;  2 Corinthians 12:8-10;  Ephesians 3:20).

If believers live righteous and godly lives, they can have confidence that God hears and answers their prayers. But disobedience, unconfessed sin and an unforgiving spirit are hindrances to prayer ( Psalms 66:18-19;  Isaiah 1:15-17;  Mark 11:25;  Hebrews 5:7;  James 5:16;  1 Peter 3:12;  1 John 3:22).

Believers are to pray with the mind as well as with the spirit ( 1 Corinthians 14:15; cf.  Romans 12:2;  Colossians 1:9). However, they may not always know how exactly to express their prayers or what exactly to pray for. In such cases the Spirit of Christ, who operates through them in all true prayer, presents the prayers to God on their behalf ( Romans 8:26-27;  Romans 8:34;  Ephesians 6:18;  Hebrews 7:25;  1 John 2:1;  Judges 1:20).

Matters for prayer

Prayer is an exercise for Christians collectively as well as individually. It is one of the functions of the church, particularly of the leaders of the church ( Matthew 18:19;  Acts 1:14;  Acts 2:42;  Acts 6:4;  Acts 12:12;  Acts 13:3;  Acts 20:36).

The Bible gives many examples of the matters believers are to pray about. In their concern for the world, they are to pray that the kingly rule of God will have its rightful place in people’s lives ( Matthew 6:10;  Romans 10:1;  1 Timothy 2:1-4). They are to pray that God will send his servants into the world to bring people to know God ( Matthew 9:37-38), and that God will protect and guide those servants to make their work fruitful ( Acts 12:5;  Romans 15:30-31;  2 Corinthians 1:11;  Ephesians 6:19;  Philippians 1:19).

Concerning the church, Christians should pray that they and their fellow believers might know God and his purposes better, be strengthened by God’s power, have unity among themselves, grow in love, develop wisdom, exercise right judgment, endure hardship with joy, and bring glory to God by lives of fruitfulness and uprightness ( John 17:20-23;  Ephesians 1:16-23;  Ephesians 3:14-19;  Ephesians 6:18;  Philippians 1:9-11;  Colossians 1:9-11;  Colossians 4:12). They should pray also for the physical well-being of each other ( James 5:16).

Believers are to pray for those who treat them unkindly ( Job 42:10;  Matthew 5:44), and ask for mercy on those who have sinned and brought disgrace on themselves and on God ( Exodus 32:11-13;  Exodus 34:9;  1 Samuel 12:23). They are to pray for civil rulers, so that God’s will might be done on earth and people might live in peace ( Matthew 6:10;  1 Timothy 2:1-2).

In relation to themselves, believers should pray in times of temptation and when they have spiritual battles ( Matthew 6:13;  Matthew 26:36-46). They are to pray for God’s guidance ( Luke 6:12-13;  Acts 1:24-25), for wisdom ( James 1:5-8), for protection ( Nehemiah 4:8-9;  Psalms 57:1-3), and for the necessities of life ( Deuteronomy 26:15;  Matthew 6:11). By prayer they can overcome anxiety ( Philippians 4:6;  1 Peter 5:6-7).

Praying always

People can engage in prayer anywhere and at any time ( Genesis 24:12-13;  Nehemiah 2:4;  Luke 5:16;  Luke 6:12;  Luke 18:10;  Acts 10:9;  1 Timothy 5:5). In addition to developing the habit of speaking to God freely regardless of time or place, believers should set aside certain times when they can be alone with God and pray. Even Jesus recognized the need for set times of prayer ( Daniel 6:10;  Matthew 14:23;  Mark 1:35). A person may pray in any position, such as standing or kneeling, with hands stretched out or hands lifted up, with head bowed or head uplifted ( 1 Samuel 1:26;  1 Kings 8:54;  1 Kings 18:42;  Ezra 9:5;  Luke 18:11;  Luke 18:13;  John 11:41;  Ephesians 3:14;  1 Timothy 2:8).

Praying in faith does not mean that persistence in prayer is unnecessary. On the contrary faith involves perseverance. Believers do not have to beg from a God who is unwilling to give; nevertheless they pray constantly, since their prayers are an expression of their unwavering faith. They know that their heavenly Father will supply his children’s needs ( Mark 14:38;  Luke 11:5-13;  Luke 18:1-8;  Ephesians 6:18;  Colossians 4:2;  1 Thessalonians 1:2;  1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Holman Bible Dictionary [8]

Old Testament Israel is a nation born of prayer. Abraham heard God's call ( Genesis 12:1-3 ), and God heard the cries of the Hebrew children ( Exodus 3:7 ). Moses conversed with God ( Exodus 3:1-4:17 ) and interceded for Israel ( Exodus 32:11-13;  Numbers 11:11-15 ). By prayer Joshua discerned sin in the conquest community ( Joshua 7:6-9 ), but was tricked when he did not discern God's opinion by prayer ( Joshua 9:1 ). God also spoke to the Judges to deliver His people when the people called out to Him for deliverance. David's spiritual acumen is seen in his prayers of confession ( 2 Samuel 12:13;  Psalm 51:1 ). Solomon fulfilled the promises made to David after praying for wisdom ( 1 Kings 3:5-9 ) and dedicated the Temple in prayer ( 1 Kings 8:1 ). God worked miracles through the prayers of Elijah and Elisha ( 1 Kings 17:19-22;  1 Kings 18:20-40 ). The writing prophets noted that genuine prayer calls for accompanying moral and social accountability ( Hosea 7:14;  Amos 4:4-5 ). Isaiah's call reflected the intense cleansing and commitment involved in prayer ( Isaiah 6:1 ). Jeremiah's dialogue and intercession frequently voiced reservation and frustration ( Jeremiah 1:1;  Jeremiah 20:7-18 ), teaching honesty in prayer. The Psalms teach variety and honesty in prayer are permissible; they proclaim praise, ask pardon, seek such things as communion (63), protection (57), vindication (107), and healing (6).  Psalm 86:1 provides an excellent pattern for prayer. Daily patterned prayer becomes very important to exiles denied access to the Temple (  Daniel 6:10 ).

New Testament Jesus' example and teaching inspire prayer. Mark emphasized that Jesus prayed in crucial moments, including the disciples' appointment ( Mark 3:13 ), their mission ( Mark 6:30-32 ), and the transfiguration ( Mark 9:2 ). Jesus displayed a regular and intense prayer life ( Matthew 6:5;  Matthew 14:23;  Mark 1:35 ).Luke taught that Jesus was guided by the Holy Spirit ( Luke 3:22;  Luke 4:1 ,Luke 4:1, 4:14 ,Luke 4:14, 4:18;  Luke 10:21;  Acts 10:38 ). John reported that Jesus sometimes prayed aloud for the benefit of those present ( John 11:41-42 ). He also reported Jesus' prayer of intercession for the first disciples and future believers ( John 17:1 ). Both prayers display Jesus' unity with the Father and desire to give Him glory ( John 11:4;  John 17:1 ).

The Lord's Prayer ( Matthew 6:9-13;  Luke 11:2-4 ) is taught to disciples who realize the kingdom's inbreaking, yet await its full coming. Significantly, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray after watching Him pray ( Luke 11:1 ). The prayer also provides a contrast to hypocritical prayers ( Matthew 6:5 ). Although it is permissible to repeat this prayer, it may be well to remember Jesus was emphasizing how to pray, not what to pray. See Lord's Prayer.

Jesus also corrected some abuses and misunderstandings regarding prayer. (1) Prayer is not to be offered to impress others. Disciples should rather seek a storage closet or a shed and pray in private. Jesus did not reject group prayer, but his warning might apply to a believer who prays to impress a congregation ( Matthew 6:5-6 ). (2) Jesus also prohibited long-winded attempts that try to manipulate God. While Jesus prayed for long periods of time ( Luke 6:12;  Mark 1:35 ) and repeated Himself ( Mark 14:36-42 ), He called for people to trust their Father and not their own eloquence or fervor.

Jesus' teaching on persistence in prayer is linked to the inbreaking kingdom ( Luke 11:5-28;  Luke 18:1-8 ). God is not like the reluctant neighbor, even though Christians may have to wait for answers ( Luke 11:13;  Luke 18:6-8 ). The ironies of prayer are evident: God knows our needs, yet we must ask; God is ready to answer, yet we must patiently persist. Children of the kingdom will have their requests heard ( Matthew 6:8;  Matthew 7:7-11;  Matthew 21:22;  John 14:13;  John 15:7 ,John 15:7, 15:16;  John 16:23; compare  1 John 3:22;  1 John 5:14;  James 1:5 ), particularly believers gathered in Jesus' name ( Matthew 18:19 ).

In Hebrew thought, the name was mysteriously linked to the person's character and prerogatives. Thus prayer in Jesus' name is prayer that is seeking His will and submissive to His authority ( John 14:13;  1 John 5:14 ).

The church remembered Jesus' teaching regarding the Spirit, prayer, and the kingdom mission. The disciples prayed awaiting the Holy Spirit's outpouring ( Acts 1:14 ). The early church is characterized by prayer ( Acts 2:42 ). They prayed regarding selection of leaders ( Acts 1:24;  Acts 6:6;  Acts 13:3 ), during persecution ( Acts 4:24-30;  Acts 12:5 ,Acts 12:5, 12:12 ), and in preparing to heal ( Acts 9:40;  Acts 28:8 ). Calling upon God's name—prayer—is the first act and true mark of a believer ( Acts 2:21;  Acts 9:14 ,Acts 9:14, 9:21;  Acts 22:16 ).

Paul's ministry reflected his constant prayer of intercession and thanksgiving ( 1 Timothy 2:1;  Ephesians 1:16;  Ephesians 5:4;  Acts 9:11 ). The Lord spoke to Paul in prayer ( Acts 22:17 ). Prayer is crucial to continuing in the Christian life ( Romans 12:12 ). The indwelling Spirit enables a believer to call God “Abba” ( Romans 8:15 ); that is, the Spirit's work within the believer prompts him or her to address God with the confidence of a child ( Romans 8:14 ). The Spirit must intercede because our prayers are weak; apart from the Spirit Christians pray without discernment. He takes up our petitions with an earnest pleading beyond words ( Romans 8:26-27;  Galatians 4:6 ).

Answered Prayers—Unanswered Petitions Not every petition is granted. Job's demand for answers from God was eclipsed by the awesome privilege of encountering Him ( Job 38-41 ). Modern believers must also cherish communion with the Father more than their petitions.

Jesus, with His soul sorrowful to the point of death, prayed three times that His cup of suffering might pass, but He was nevertheless submissive to God's will ( Matthew 26:38-39 ,Matthew 26:38-39, 26:42 ,Matthew 26:42, 26:45 ). Both the boldness of the petition to alter God's will and the submission to this “hard” path of suffering are significant.

Paul asked three times for deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh.” God's answer to Paul directed him to find comfort in God's sufficient grace. Also God declared that His power is best seen in Paul's weakness ( 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 ). God gave him the problem to hinder his pride. Ironically, Paul claimed that God gave the problem, and yet he called it a messenger of Satan. Paul learned that petitions are sometimes denied in light of an eventual greater good: God's power displayed in Paul's humility.

Faith is a condition for answered petitions ( Mark 11:24 ). Two extremes must be avoided concerning faith. (1) With Jesus' example in mind we must not think that faith will always cause our wishes to be granted. (2) Also we must not go through the motions of prayer without faith. Believers do not receive what they pray for because they pray from selfish motives ( James 4:2-3 ). Prayers are also hindered by corrupted character ( James 4:7 ) or injured relationships ( Matthew 5:23-24 ).

Theological Insights Dialogue is what is essential to prayer. Prayer makes a difference in what happens ( James 4:2 ). Our understanding of prayer will correspond to our understanding of God. When God is seen as desiring to bless ( James 1:5 ) and sovereignly free to respond to persons ( Jonah 3:9 ), then prayer will be seen as dialogue with God. God will respond when we faithfully pursue this dialogue. Prayer will lead to a greater communion with God and a greater understanding of His will.

Randy Hatchett

Smith's Bible Dictionary [9]

Prayer. The object of this article will be to touch briefly on -

i. The doctrine of Scripture as to the nature and efficacy of prayer;

ii. Its directions as to time, place and manner of prayer;

iii. 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."  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.

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  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;  Psalms 5:7;  Psalms 28:2;  Psalms 138:2;  Daniel 6:10.

The regular hours of prayer seem to have been three, ( See  Psalms 55:17 ;  Daniel 6:10 , )

a. "the evening," that is the ninth hour,  Acts 3:1;  Acts 10:3, the hour of the evening sacrifice,  Daniel 9:21;

b. The "morning," that is, the third hour,  Acts 2:15, that of the morning sacrifice;

c. And the sixth hour, or "noonday."

"Grace before meat" would seem to have been a common practice.  Matthew 15:36;  Acts 27:35. The posture of prayer among the Jews seems to have been:

a. Most often standing,  1 Samuel 1:26;  Matthew 6:5;  Mark 11:25;  Luke 18:11,

b. 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;  Psalms 95:8;  Daniel 6:10,

or prostration.  Joshua 7:6;  1 Kings 18:42;  Nehemiah 8:6.

3. 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 precatory 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. Psalms 68.

But of the prayers recorded in the Old Testament, the two most remarkable are

a. Those of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple,  1 Kings 8:23-58, and

b. 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,

a. Based on the Lord's Prayer;

b. But its spirit is also guided by that of his prayer in Gethsemane,

c. 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,  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 , 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.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Exodus 32:11 1 Samuel 1:15 2 Chronicles 32:20 Job 8:5 Psalm 73:28 Ephesians 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 ( Hebrews 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" ( Matthew 7:7,8;  21:22;  Mark 11:24;  John 14:13,14 ), and in the name of Christ (16:23,24; 15:16;  Ephesians 2:18;  5:20;  Colossians 3:17;  1 Peter 2:5 ).

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

Intercessory prayer is enjoined ( Numbers 6:23;  Job 42:8;  Isaiah 62:6;  Psalm 122:6;  1 Timothy 2:1;  James 5:14 ), and there are many instances on record of answers having been given to such prayers, e.g., of Abraham ( Genesis 17:18,20;  18:23-32;  20:7,17,18 ), of Moses for Pharaoh ( Exodus 8:12,13,30,31;  Exodus 9:33 ), for the Israelites ( Exodus 17:11,13;  32:11-14,31-34;  Numbers 21:7,8;  Deuteronomy 9:18,19,25 ), for Miriam ( Numbers 12:13 ), for Aaron ( Deuteronomy 9:20 ), of Samuel ( 1 Samuel 7:5-12 ), of Solomon ( 1 Kings 8;  2 Chronicles 6 ), Elijah ( 1 Kings 17:20-23 ), Elisha ( 2 Kings 4:33-36 ), Isaiah ( 2 Kings 19 ), ( Jeremiah 42:2-10 ), Peter ( Acts 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 ( 1 Kings 8:54;  2 Chronicles 6:13;  Psalm 95:6;  Isaiah 45:23;  Luke 22:41;  Acts 7:60;  9:40;  Ephesians 3:14 , etc.); of bowing and falling prostrate ( Genesis 24:26,52;  Exodus 4:31;  12:27;  Matthew 26:39;  Mark 14:35 , etc.); of spreading out the hands ( 1 Kings 8:22,38,54;  Psalm 28:2;  63:4;  88:9;  1 Timothy 2:8 , etc.); and of standing ( 1 Samuel 1:26;  1 Kings 8:14,55;  2 Chronicles 20:9;  Mark 11:25;  Luke 18:11,13 ).

If we except the "Lord's Prayer" ( Matthew 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 ( Exodus 22:23,27;  1 Kings 3:5;  2 Chronicles 7:14;  Psalm 37:4;  Isaiah 55:6;  Joel 2:32;  Ezekiel 36:37 , etc.), and we have very many testimonies that it has been answered ( Psalm 3:4;  4:1;  6:8;  18:6;  28:6;  30:2;  34:4;  118:5;  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 heir ( Genesis 24:10-20 ).

"Jacob prayed to God, and God inclined the heart of his irritated brother, so that they met in peace and friendship ( Genesis 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 ( Judges 15:18-20 ).

"David prayed, and God defeated the counsel of Ahithophel ( 2 Samuel 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 ( Daniel 2 ::  1623-23 ).

"Nehemiah prayed, and God inclined the heart of the king of Persia to grant him leave of absence to visit and rebuild Jerusalem ( Nehemiah 1:11;  2:1-6 ).

"Esther and Mordecai prayed, and God defeated the purpose of Haman, and saved the Jews from destruction ( Esther 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 ( Acts 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 ( 2 Corinthians 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.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [11]

Is the offering of the emotions and desires of the soul to God, in the name and through the mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is the communion of the heart with God through the aid of the Holy Spirit, and is to the Christian the very life of the soul. Without this filial spirit, no one can be a Christian,  Job 21:15   Psalm 10:4 .

In all ages God has delighted in the prayers of his saints. From the promulgation of the law, the Hebrews did not intermit public worship daily in the tabernacle or the temple. It consisted in offering the evening and morning sacrifices, every day, accompanied with prayers by the priests and Levites in that holy edifice. Every day also the priests offered sacrifices, incense, offerings, and first fruits for individuals; they performed ceremonies for the redemption of the firstborn, or for purification from pollution; in a word, the people came thither from all parts to discharge their vows and to perform their devotions, not only on great and solemn days, but also on ordinary days; but nothing of this was performed without prayer,  1 Chronicles 23:30   Nehemiah 11:17   Luke 1:10 . Compare also  1 Kings 8:22 , and the Psalms of David for temple worship.

Pious men were accustomed to pray thrice in the day, at fixed hours,  Psalm 55:7   Daniel 6:10 . See Hours Social, family, and secret prayer were all habitual with Bible saints; as well as brief ejaculations in the midst of their ordinary business,  Nehemiah 2:4 . No uniform posture in prayer is enjoined in the Bible; standing with the hands outspread,  1 Kings 8.22 , bowing the head,  Genesis 24:26 , kneeling,  Luke 22:41 , and prostration on the ground,  Matthew 26:39 , were all practiced. Prayer should be offered with submission to God's will, fervently, perseveringly, and with a confiding reliance on God in Christ; it should be accompanied by humble confession and hearty thanksgiving, and with supplications for all living men, as well as for our friends and those nearest to us. Habitual prayer to God is duty enjoined upon us by sound reason and by right affections; and he who lives without it thereby reveals the atheism of his heart. God requires all men thus to worship him,  Ezekiel 36:37   Matthew 7:1-11   Philippians 4:6   1 Timothy 2:1-3   James 1:5; and for neglecting this duty there can be no sufficient excuse. It is often said that prayer cannot alter the unchangeable purposes of God; but the great scheme of his providence embraces every prayer that shall be offered, as well as the answer it shall receive. It is objected that prayer cannot increase his knowledge of our wants, nor his readiness to supply them; and that in any case he will do what is for the best. But he deems it best to grant many blessings in answer to prayer, which otherwise he would withhold; "He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee." The words of David will be those of every truly praying man: "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his troubles,"  Psalm 34:6 .

False and formed religion makes a merit of its prayers, as though "much speaking" and "vain repetitions" could atone for heartlessness. Hypocrites also are wont to pray chiefly that they may have praise of men. These sins Christ reproves in  Matthew 6:5-15 , and gives to his disciples the form of the Lord's prayer as a beautiful model. In  Ephesians 6:18   1 Thessalonians 5:17   1 Timothy 2:8 , Paul directs that believers should pray in all places and at all times, lifting up pure hands towards heaven, and blessing God for all things, whether in eating, drinking, or what ever they do; and that every thing be done to the glory of God,  1 Corinthians 10:31 . In a word, our Savior has recommended to us to pray without ceasing,  Luke 18:1   21:36 .

Morrish Bible Dictionary [12]

This has been described as 'the intercourse of a dependent one with God.' It may take the form of communion in one brought nigh, or it may be the making requests for oneself or for others. There are twelve different words used for prayer in the O.T., and eight in the N.T., with various shades of meaning, as there are in English: 'asking, begging, beseeching,' etc. In the synoptic Gospels the word used in connection with Christ is that most commonly employed for "praying," but in John's gospel the word is that generally rendered, 'ask' or, 'demand.' The change is explained by the different aspect in which the Lord is presented in John.

God hears and encourages prayer. A cry to God is the mark of a soul truly turning to Him: "Behold, he prayeth," was said of Saul of Tarsus.  Acts 9:11 . To the saints it is said, "Pray without ceasing;" "ask and ye shall receive." "If we ask anything according to his will he heareth us, and . . . . we know that we have the petitions." "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing ye shall receive." "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." The disciples as left here, representative of Christ and charged with His interests, were to ask in His name; and the same is true in principle as regards believers now.  Mark 11:24;  John 14:13;  John 15:16;  John 16:23,26;  James 1:5-7;  1 John 5:14,15 . Christians are exhorted to make known all their petitions, or requests, to God, and having done so, the peace of God shall keep their hearts and minds.  Philippians 4:6,7 . This is their wondrous privilege: they have addressed God, and in peace they leave it with Him to grant their petitions or not.

The above passages demonstrate that to receive what is prayed for, requests must be in faith, they must be according to the light of God's will, and hence made in the name of the Lord Jesus. While prayer is always to God, it is suggested that requests would naturally be made to the Father in respect of all that tends to the promotion of Christ in believers, as well as in things referring to their discipline in the pathway here. On the other hand prayer would be made to the Lord in relation to that over which He is set as administrator, such as the service of the gospel, the saints, the house of God, etc.

The attitudes in prayer which are recorded are: 'standing,'  1 Samuel 1:26;  Mark 11:25; 'kneeling,'  Daniel 6:10;  Luke 22:41; and 'falling down,'  Deuteronomy 9:25;  Joshua 7:6 .

King James Dictionary [13]

PRA'YER, n. In a general sense, the act of asking for a favor, and particularly with earnestness.

1. In worship, a solemn address to the Supreme Being, consisting of adoration, or an expression of our sense of God's glorious perfections, confession of our sins, supplication for mercy and forgiveness, intercession for blessings on others, and thanksgiving, or an expression of gratitude to God for his mercies and benefits. A prayer however may consist of a single petition, and it may be extemporaneous, written or printed. 2. A formula of church service, or of worship, public or private. 3. Practice of supplication.

As he is famed for mildness, peace and prayer.

4. That part of a memorial or petition to a public body, which specifies the request or thing desired to be done or granted, as distinct from the recital of facts or reasons for the grant. We say, the prayer of the petition is that the petitioner may be discharged from arrest.

Webster's Dictionary [14]

(1): ( v. i.) The act of addressing supplication to a divinity, especially to the true God; the offering of adoration, confession, supplication, and thanksgiving to the Supreme Being; as, public prayer; secret prayer.

(2): ( n.) One who prays; a supplicant.

(3): ( v. i.) The form of words used in praying; a formula of supplication; an expressed petition; especially, a supplication addressed to God; as, a written or extemporaneous prayer; to repeat one's prayers.

(4): ( v. i.) The act of praying, or of asking a favor; earnest request or entreaty; hence, a petition or memorial addressed to a court or a legislative body.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [15]

Prayer. All the noted saints of Scripture were mighty in prayer; but there is no mention of special prayer before the flood. See  Genesis 20:17;  Genesis 32:26;  Numbers 11:2. For list of special prayers see "Index to the Bible."

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [16]

prâr ( δέησις , déēsis , προσευχή , proseuchḗ , ( ἔντευξις , énteuxis  ; for an excellent discussion of the meaning of these see Thayer's Lexicon , p. 126, under the word δέησις , déēsis  ; the chief verbs are εὔχομαι , eúchomai , προσεύχομαι , proseúchomai , and δέομαι , déomai , especially in Luke and Acts; αἰτέω , aitéō , "to ask a favor" distinguished from ἐρωτάω , erōtáō , "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 (  Hebrews 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 ( Psalm 30:2;  2 Corinthians 12:8 ), and on the other "prayers" like that of Hannah ( 1 Samuel 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 ( Ephesians 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' (  Genesis 4:26; compare  Genesis 12:8;  Genesis 21:33 ), prayer is naive, familiar and direct ( Genesis 15:2 ff;   Genesis 17:18;  Genesis 18:23 ff;   Genesis 24:12 ). It is evidently associated with sacrifice ( Genesis 12:8;  Genesis 13:4;  Genesis 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 ( Genesis 28:20 ff). In the pre-exilic history of Israel prayer still retains many of the primitive features of the patriarchal type (  Exodus 3:4;  Numbers 11:11-15;  Judges 6:13 ff;   Judges 11:30 f;   1 Samuel 1:11;  2 Samuel 15:8;  Psalm 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  Matthew 6:5 ff;   Matthew 23:14;  Acts 3:1;  Acts 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 ( Deuteronomy 21:1-9 ) or thank offerings for past mercies ( Deuteronomy 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 ( Deuteronomy 21:5;  Deuteronomy 26:3 ), the intercession of the prophet ( Exodus 32:11-13;  1 Samuel 7:5-13;  1 Samuel 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 - M oses ( Exodus 34:34;  Deuteronomy 34:10 ) and David ( 2 Samuel 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  Ezekiel 2:2;  Jeremiah 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 (  Ezra 7:27;  Ezra 8:23 ), Nehemlab ( Nehemiah 2:4;  Nehemiah 4:4 ,  Nehemiah 4:9 , etc.) and Daniel ( Daniel 6:10 ) prove how large a place prayer came to hold in the individual life; while the utterances recorded in  Ezra 9:6-15;  Nehemiah 1:5-11; 9:5-38; Dan 9:4-19; Isa 63:7 through 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;   Psalm 130:1-8 ), the most heartfelt longing for a living communion with God Himself ( Psalm 42:2;  Psalm 63:1;  Psalm 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 (  Luke 3:21;  Luke 6:12;  Luke 9:16 ,  Luke 9:29;  Luke 22:32 ,  Luke 22:39-46;  Luke 23:34-46;  Matthew 27:46; Jn 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 ( Luke 11:5-9;  Luke 18:1-14 ) and incidental sayings ( Matthew 5:44;  Matthew 6:5-8;  Matthew 7:7-11;  Matthew 9:38;  Matthew 17:21;  Matthew 18:19;  Matthew 21:22;  Matthew 24:20;  Matthew 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 (  Matthew 6:8;  Matthew 7:11 ), subject, indeed, to the father's will ( Matthew 7:11; compare  Matthew 6:10;  Matthew 26:39 ,  Matthew 26:42;  1 John 5:14 ), but secure always of loving attention and response ( Matthew 7:7-11;  Matthew 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 ( Matthew 6:9-13;  Luke 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 ( John 16:23 ,  John 16:24 ,  John 16:26 ). 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 ( John 17:19; compare  Hebrews 4:14-16;  Hebrews 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 ( John 15:7; compare  1 John 3:22 f;   1 John 5:13 f).

In the Acts 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 (  Acts 1:14; compare  Acts 2:1 ); and throughout its early history prayer continued to be its vital breath and native air ( Acts 2:42;  Acts 3:1;  Acts 6:4 ,  Acts 6:6 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 ( Romans 1:9;  Ephesians 1:16;  Philippians 1:9;  1 Thessalonians 1:2 , etc.), and many exhortations to his readers to cultivate the praying habit ( Romans 12:12;  Ephesians 6:18;  Philippians 4:6;  1 Thessalonians 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 ( 1 Corinthians 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 ( Ephesians 6:18;  Judges 1:20 ). The gift of the Spirit, promised by Christ ( John 14:16 ff, etc.), has raised prayer to its highest power by securing for it a divine cooperation (  Romans 8:15 ,  Romans 8:26;  Galatians 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. See Prayers Of Jesus .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [17]

The passire sense of the participle is required by its grammatical form, and is justified by every passage where this form occurs: e.g.sinful passions are inwrought ( Romans 7:5); salvation is inwrought by endurance (  Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Prayer'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.