What is Prayer?

I think prayer is sometimes a misunderstood word and can be confused with worship (veneration) and meditation (listening).

The Latin root word is precar meaning something lent to be returned later, and from which we also get words such as precious (valuable and undeserved) and precarious (relying upon another).

Prayer is rooted in the concept of grace and dependence.

In French it became prierius which refers to the idea of something being dependent on the good grace of somebody else.

This helps to make more sense of the Hebrew word Tefilah (תפילה) which is usually translated as prayer.

Tefilah is an intimate sharing of heart and soul – communion – reaching deeper and deeper and finding God in that extreme honesty.

Tefilah is derived from the root Pe-Lamed-Lamed and the word l’hitpalel, meaning:

“to judge oneself”!

This word origin provides insight into the purpose of prayer. The most important part of any prayer is the introspection it provides, the moment that we spend looking inside ourselves, seeing our role in the universe and our relationship to God.

Prayer is 2 way communication between yourself and God and it doesn’t need to be vital, important stuff. It can be as banal as most Facebook chatter but it is rooted in the concept that we talk to God because we know that we are utterly dependent upon him for our existence and, just as we talk to humans upon whom we are dependent, we get joy from the communication.


We talk to God with extreme honesty, and sometime that honesty takes time and courage to discover.

We sometimes have very powerful self-protective barriers that can hide the truth from ourselves and these can take considerable time and energy to break down.

God is so often described as TRUTH, it seems redundant to again assert that God is Truth.

Yet that is where God is to be found, in the truth, in the real and the objective core.

So when I prayer, I pray to be enlightened by the truth, even when it is painful, and I rub away diligently at the dirty marks and smudges that hide the truth from me.

I pray in order to judge myself, and in doing so, I am set free by the truth, and there is God.

One thought on “What is Prayer?”

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