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 heart-felt request. The Jewish concept of prayer, however, is best defined by its Hebrew word “tfilia (תפילה).

The primary meaning of the verb “lehitpalel” (להתפלל), the verb behind the noun, is self-judgement or introspection. Especially in Jewish Hassidic traditions, tfilia is understood to be an introspection that results in bonding between the creature and the Creator, as a child would bond with his/her 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” (Matt. 6:9). Shortly before that Jesus warned them to avoid using vain repetitions that characterized pagan approaches to prayer (Matt. 6:7).

In Isaiah we find a curious text: “… these I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in the house of my prayer” (וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי). Note the wording: not “my house of prayer”, but “the house of my prayer.” (Isaiah 56:7; Barachot 7A) 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 Him.

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51 COMMENTS

  1. Great article! But here’s a question: What exactly are examples of vain repetitions in prayer used by pagans?

    • Well Janis, Christ Jesus simply puts it as that the pagans continuously repeat the their words or requests over and over again (remember they pray to idols that do not hear)) hoping they will be heard. This emanates from unbelief, however He is also teaching about faith, that we pray to a Father who hears and speaks.And as believers, we are motivated that our prayers are heard and we ought to believe that.

  2. Thank you. Other than Messiah ever making intercession for us to the father, the concept of the Lord praying – in the basic English sense— never did quite make sense to me. When Yeshua specifically prayed to the Father to remove the cup from Him, etc., I’m assuming that this particular word for prayer was not the one used here? Messiah’s prayer from Gethsemane was a prayer specifically directed and with a an actual request – not just contemplation or meditation, right?

  3. Thank you for this gracious word. As I read I thought of that lovely passage in Isaiah where our god graciously invites us to ” Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow etc”. Isn’t our beloved Lord amazing ?

  4. Would love to do the course unfortunately just to poor to afford. Blessings to all from South Africa. My life at nearly 62 may be a struggle for me and my cerebral palsy daughter. But daily I feel Blessed with God Grace.

  5. Theology has come to the sad state of being, i.e., much of what we do in our various religious institutions are fudged. One of the original names for our SPIRITUAL BEING is CREATOR. 8000 or more years in the original countries, Sumer, Babylon, Kemet, and Canaan, all were ruled by females! When the Indo-European come with their military might, they changed everything from females to males, thus the term He; and the patriarchal power continues to exist. Not only did they change female control to male, they changed everything else to look European!

  6. Hi Dr Eli I felt that Word right in my spirit. I never ever thought about prayer in the way you described it. And as I’m typing the thought of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and God engaging and bonding with us is so powerful and overwhelming. I’m truly blessed by this. P.s. I’m blessed by all your topics but this one is special, personal.

  7. Dr, Eli L.E ,thank you so much for your love for others for you care to share much with others .this is good . may god bless you and your family.God says where two or three people gather in my name i will be in their amidst.from odikor moses in Uganda

  8. The statement “….make them joyful in the house of my prayer” is most intriguing. What would be “the house of my prayer?” I’m thinking if God “bonds” with us in “the house of his prayer,” would it mean that he communes with us whilst dwelling within us? Would it mean that as the temple of God, we are the temple within which he wants to make us joyfull and inhabit our praise? Does it mean we have to be born again in order for God to bond with us? I have to many questions. Indeed an intriguing word.

  9. WOW! So gracefully stated. The Hebrew expressed truly brings so much meaning and life! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Shalom!!

  10. I liked what you said about prayer, basically it is a communication with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus but I enjoy just talking to them and I talk to them as a child talks to his or her parents and I have been able to communicate this way since a child and yes I love my Heavenly Father and Jesus too and that is the result of just talking to them. Sorry I am not one of your students

  11. Comment *powerful.but sometimes when I pray something grips my mouth I stop praying and it frustrate me ,I desire to pray, cause prayerlessness causes me to backslide. I really want to pray but immediate I start praying something grips my mouth.

    • God is not limited to your mount. He can hear the desire of heart too! A person that can not speak can pray to God still!

  12. So is the Lord’s prayer speaking of the new heaven and the new earth? I do see things as eternal (I repented once and it is continual). I am not sure I understand house of my introspection (prayer) unless it is God’s way of saying it is His prayer His judgement (Christ revealed). This actually makes more sense to me than praying the sinner’s prayer which implies I have to know something or change my circumstances to be saved..

  13. Hi Dr Eli I like your answer to Peter Banda and I had the same problem but now am answered that God is not limited to my mouth. If so what about the person that cannot speak altogether, Jabu

  14. I love this saying by St. Francis: “Pray all the time. If necessary, use words.” Praying about everything would be overwhelming to me if I limited my prayers to certain times or thinking/speaking in words to God. It gives me great comfort to know that each of us is unique with a unique relationship with our father in Heaven, and that he knows our thoughts (and feelings and needs and desires) before we pray—even without words.♥

    • Thank you for sharing, Dolores. I’m pretty sure St. Francis said “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” And Max Lucado made the other version. But yes, our Father intimately knows our thoughts and hears our prayers.

  15. I really wish I had the funds to take this course I believe every Christian should learn as much as possible. I do ask that those who receive this blessing to share freely with fellow believers even if the believe differently than you. May Yehovah bless all who attend.

  16. 1. The Lord’s prayer as taught to Jesus to his disciples as reflected in the books of Matth and Luke, seems to stick to “asking” and no mention in the prayer, praying for things we are “Grateful” for in our lives. (2) “As we forgive our DEBTORS”. Do we really and honestly forgive our DEBTORS? or are we just reciting the “Prayer”? (3) “Lead us not into temptation”. Does God ever lead us into temptation? In the book of James, this is denied that God will lead us into temptation. Can I be helped out of this confusion.

    • 1. The Lord’s prayer was probably for reciting after the standard Amidah prayer (in which personal requests were inserted). 2. This would be better translated as “offenses” in this context instead of “debts”. 3. James (Ya’akov) says that people are tempted into evil by lust, not by God. But God does test the faith of his people. Think of Abraham and Isaac, or of Job in all his sorrow.
      Does this clear up any confusion?

  17. Thank you. I have always remembered the words from one of Brother Andrews books ‘pray without ceasing'(may not be the exact words). The lesson here has given me a better understanding. Pagans may use repetition of the same prayer but what of the persistent prayer?

  18. My favorite prayer is the one Yeshua prayed for ME…and you: Please read all of John the 17th chapter. It is humbling and awe inspiring to think our Messiah looked down through the ages and prayed for us to be one as He and the Father are One in love.

    • I have often been struck by verse three. Life eternal comes by knowing the “only true God” (the God of Israel) and the one that he sent, Jesus.

  19. Awesome Word on prayer, Learning new things all the time through these brief teachings. I am contemplating doing the course, ill see if 2 or 3 others want to split the cost as it is 3 users per membership.

  20. This Article has opened my eyes to understanding the Spiritual meaning in the
    Hebrew context of Jewish culture.
    Currently, do not have the money for enrolment but am enjoying picking the
    gleanings at the end of the field.
    Remain in His Presence!

  21. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg,

    The LORD be with you. Thank you so much for these eye opening informatives. I prayed to gain a greater understanding of the Old Testament and I was led to your writings. My children will know the fame of your name. Heaven will smile upon you, Servant of God.

    Yours in Christ,
    Aharon Michoel
    🇺🇸

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