Pray (To) - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Part Of Speech: Verb
Strong's Number: H6419
Original Word: palal

Usage Notes: "to pray, intervene, meditate, judge." Found in both biblical and modern Hebrew, this word occurs 84 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. The word is used 4 times in the intensive verbal form; the remaining 80 times are found in the reflexive or reciprocal form, in which the action generally points back to the subject. In the intensive form palal expresses the idea of "to mediate, to come between two parties," always between human beings. Thus, "if a man sins against a man, God will mediate for him…" (1 Sam. 2:25, rsv). "To mediate" requires "making a judgment," as in Ezek. 16:52: "Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters…." In the remaining 2 references in which the intensive form is used, palal expresses "making a judgment" in Gen. 48:11 and "coming between" in Psa. 106:30. The first occurrence of palal in the Old Testament is in Gen. 20:7, where the reflexive or reciprocal form of the verb expresses the idea of "interceding for, prayer in behalf of": "…He shall pray for thee…." Such intercessory praying is frequent in the Old Testament: Moses "prays" for the people's deliverance from the fiery serpents (Num. 21:7); he "prays" for Aaron Num. (Deut.9:20); and Samuel "intercedes" continually for Israel (1 Sam. 12:23). Prayer is directed not only toward Yahweh but toward pagan idols as well (Isa. 44:17). Sometimes prayer is made to Yahweh that He would act against an enemy: "That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard" (2 Kings 19:20).

Just why this verb form is used to express the act of praying is not completely clear. Since this verb form points back to the subject, in a reflexive sense, perhaps it emphasizes the part which the person praying has in his prayers. Also, since the verb form can have a reciprocal meaning between subject and object, it may emphasize the fact that prayer is basically communication, which always has to be two-way in order to be real.
Usage Number: 2
Part Of Speech: Noun
Strong's Number: H8605
Original Word: tepillâ

Usage Notes: "prayer." This word, which appears 77 times in biblical Hebrew, is the most general Hebrew word for "prayer." It first appears in 1 Kings 8:28: "Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication…." In the eschaton God's house will be a house of "prayer" for all peoples (Isa. 56:7); it will be to this house that all nations will come to worship God. The word can mean both a non-liturgical, non-poetical "prayer" and a liturgical, poetical "prayer." In the latter special meaning tepillâ is used as a psalm title in 5 psalms and as the title of Habakkuk's prayer (Hab. 3:1). In these uses tepillâ means a prayer set to music and sung in the formal worship service. In Psa. 72:20 the word describes all the psalms or "prayers" of Psalms 1-72, only of which is specifically called a "prayer" (Psa. 17:1).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words