What Does Prayer
I Mean in Hebrew?
By Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg 45178
March 1, 2021 164
In the English language, prayer is largely defined by the idea of asking. In old English one could say, either to God or to anyone else: "I pray thee to do such and such." The basic concept here is a heart-felt request. The Jewish concept of prayer, however, is best defined by its Hebrew word "tfilah" (N7'DN).
The primary meaning of the verb "lehitpalel"
(299NN), the verb behind the noun, is self- judgement or introspection. Especially in
Jewish Hassidic traditions, tfiliah is understood to be an introspection that results in bonding between the creature and the Creator, as a child would bond with father.
It is not a surprise that when the Jewish Christ was asked by his disciples how they should pray, he taught them what to request, making sure to address their Heavenly King as "Our
Father" (Matthew Shortly before that Jesus warned them to avoid using vain repetitions that characterized pagan approaches to prayer (Matt
In Isaiah, we find a curious text: "These will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in the house of my prayer" D'nnnAw!
'N29N). Note the wording: not "my house of prayer," but "the house of my prayer.' (Isaiah cf. b. Barachot But how is it possible
for God to engage in prayer? And with whom?
The answer lies in understanding that Hebrew prayer is not only a "request-making session."
It is a communal bonding between God and his child. The house of "his prayer" is, therefore, where God himself engages in introspection and, in so doing, bonds deeply with his people.
They in turn reciprocate this action in their own
prayers and bond with God.
Just something interesting I saw as I was looking into that issue from my last post. This obviously isn't a very thorough treatment but it does at least give
some reason to reconsider the assumption that the
English word "pray" has a Hebrew equivalent (or greek even for that matter).