Hebrew vs. Greek Prayer
Written by Brad Scott   


Praying or communicating with the gods was not an everyday, consistent event in Greek life. The gods were primarily called upon when something was wrong or someone was in need. Prayers were offered by the individual spontaneously. When celebrations in the great arenas were observed, this would be a time of group participation in communicating with the gods. This would be primarily to help with the success of the spectacles arranged to entertain the participants. Prayers would usually be lengthy and colorful. Leaders in the gatherings would usually offer up these prayers to the gods for the people. Communication with the gods was primarily help and request orientated. The success or failure of prayer was assigned to the gods. If fair weather was requested and it rained, then the gods were displeased. Why they were displeased was impossible to determine in that the gods were fickle and inconsistent. To please the gods was to adore and worship them.


In Hebrew thinking, prayer is both ritual and spontaneous. Prayer was usually communal and in the plural. In Hebrew thinking, prayer is usually blessing Elohiym, thanking Him and speaking in the past tense. Prayer is much like the feasts in that it is also assigned to 'set times'. Prayer is part of discipline, to train one to daily communicate with the Creator. Certain times of the day were consistently set aside for blessings and communication. This was designed to teach them to routinely give YHWH attention. In Hebrew thinking to pray 'continually' was to observe these periods during the day. Hebrew prayer is short, extremely frequent, and observed at the same times each day. This would also ensure that all of Israel was praying together, as each individual saw himself as part of one collective person. Prayers were seen as 'we', 'us', or 'our', rather than 'me' or 'I'. This is part of the reason why the so-called "Lord's prayer" begins with "Our Father . . ." rather than "My Father . . .".

Most Hebrew blessings begin with the same preamble if you will:

"Baruch atah YHWH Elohenu melech haolam"
or "Blessed art thou O YHWH OUR Elohiym, King of the Universe ..."

Much of Hebrew prayer is thankfulness, thanking Him for what He has done. Acknowledging what He has done builds strength and trust for what He will do. Many times in the Tenakh you will see YHWH teaching this concept to His people. For example, in D'varim 20:1 YHWH says, "When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses, and chariots, and a people more than you, be not afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt." YHWH says this many times in the Scriptures. To have confidence in the future is to have a rock solid foundation laid in the past. This is how prayer was focused in Hebrew thinking.

Prayer was also spontaneous and request orientated. It was and is the combination of daily ritual and spontaneity that made up Hebrew praying. Many times today I do not see prayer as a personal activity in corporate settings. Most of the time someone is doing the praying for the masses, and every one is encouraged to agree. Many times the prayer at the end of the service is another sermon couched in prayer-type language. I see the Praise teams singing for everyone, the minister praying for everyone, the Pastor studying the Scriptures for everyone, and distributing the wealth for the few. Greek thinking? Maybe.