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Biblical Root of the Word: Pray


Lewis Turner

If most of us were asked to define prayer, probably the majority would say ‘asking God for something’. Unfortunately that
may be the limit of our understanding of prayer

There is much more to prayer and the Hebrew language used in writing the Old Testament in the Bible is a good place to go to teach us about prayer.

In the Bible, in the Old Testament, which was originally written in Hebrew, the word used for prayer is tephillah written תְּפִלָּה. It means
intercession, supplication; In
implication - a hymn. Many of the
Psalms in the Bible are actually prayers.
A closer examination of the word tephillah we find the root word palal
written written:
פָּלַל. It means to judge; by extension to intercede,
pray: entreat, judge(-ment), make pray(-er,-ing), make supplication. From these meanings, it is evident that a
relationship exists that implies a relationship that has communication through

Looking at the meaning of these two Hebrew words, the meaning of both words, tephillah and palal includes the definition: intercession and supplication.[1] From this it is clear that the concept of
intercession in prayer has been around for thousands of years. Perhaps our translation of it in recent years
has not conveyed the full meaning of the word pray that we see in Hebrew. To pray includes intercessory prayer, it also
includes supplication.

To Christ, prayer in the Temple, Synagogue, or Church is very important and so much so that Christ quoted Is
56:7 in Matt 21:13 telling us that “My house shall be called the house of
prayer.” Christ placed great importance
on prayer. Perhaps we should expand our
concept of prayer to include the full Biblical meaning of prayer.

[1] lGesenius Lexicon

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