«Prayer and Praying/Origins of Karaite Prayers By Yochanan Zaqantov The Tanakh is a book filled with prayers. It gives us many examples of prayers we ...»
Prayer and Praying/Origins of Karaite Prayers
By Yochanan Zaqantov
The Tanakh is a book filled with prayers. It gives us many examples of prayers we can
model after to talk with YHWH. Yet, it does not give us clear steps in how to pray. That
is left up to the individual. Yet we do have examples of how people prayed then and how
people pray now.
We are going to look at what is pray, prayer and praying. We will also review some of
what is worship, which is covered in my other paper on “Worship in the Tanakh”.
One of the first Hebrew words we will look at is Na.
Na’ (Nun-Aleph) is reference number 4994. It is found in Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon (BDB) on page 609 and in the New Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance (NEHC) on page 781. It is a participle of entreaty or exhortation as defined in the BDB.
We will examine how it is used in the Tanakh.
Bereshit/Genesis 12:11, 13 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, [behold please] (hineh na’ “ )הנֵּ ה־נָ אI know what a beautiful woman you are.” 12 If the Egyptians see you, and ִ think, ‘She is his wife,’ they will kill me and let you live. 13 Please say (im’riy na’ )אמ ִרי־נָ אthat you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that ְִ I may remain alive thanks to you.” Na as used here appears to show him saying “please” or “I pray” as in asking something of someone.
Bereshit/Genesis 24:23 )נָ אtell me,” he said, “whose daughter are you? Is there room in your 23 “Pray (na’ father’s house for us to spend the night?” Again asking not actually pray.
Bereshit/Genesis 27:19 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau, your first-born; I have done as you told me. Pray )קוּם־נָ אsit up and eat of my game, that you may give me your [rise] (qom na’ innermost blessing.” Yaqov is asking Yitchak to sit up.
Bereshit/Genesis 18:4,30 )יֻ קּח־נָ אa little water be brought; bathe your feet and ַ 4 [please] Let (yuqach na’ recline under the tree.
)אל־נָ אadoni be angry if I go on: What if ַ 30 And he said, “Let not (please – al na’ thirty should be found there?” And He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” The Hebrew word Na is not translated here I have shown please here instead. It is a form of politeness in asking like please. You recognize that Avram realizes that here a people will be destroyed.
Bereshit/Genesis 32:10-12, 20 10 Then Jacob said, “O Elohim of my father Abraham and Elohim of my father Isaac, YHWH, who said to me, ‘Return to your native land and I will deal bountifully with you’! 11 I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant: with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 12 ,)נָ אfrom the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; else, I Deliver me, I pray (na’ fear, he may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike.
25 Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. 26 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him. 27 Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” But he answered, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 28 Said the other, “What is your name?” He replied, “Jacob.” 29 Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human,
First Yaqov asks to be delivered from his brother since he is in fear of his life. Later he is asking for the name of the divine messenger he wrestled. Both cases different situations if anything I pray or please is what is being said here. The earlier example is the one used with what appears to be a prayer.
4 We have come,” they told Pharaoh, “to sojourn in this land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, the famine being severe in the land of Canaan. [let live] Pray
Again asking for permission like with please.
3 They answered, “The Elohim of the Hebrews has manifested Himself to us. Let us go, ,)נָּ אa distance of three days into the wilderness to sacrifice to YHWH we pray (na’ Eloheynu, lest He strike us with pestilence or sword.” Moshe is asking permission to leave with the Children of Yisrael.
Shemot/Exodus 33:13, 18
17 And YHWH said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have truly gained My favor and I have singled you out by name.” 18 He said, “Oh, (pray )נָ אlet me behold Your Presence!” 19 And He answered, “I will make all My – na’ goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name YHWH, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show. 20 But,” He said, “you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and live.” Here Moshe is asking YHWH first for him be with Moshe and the people. The second part He is asking for seeing YHWH’s presence.
Here Aharon pleds to Moshe and Moshe pleas to YHWH.
Bamidbar/Numbers 14:17,19 ,)יִ ְג ַדּל־נָ אlet my Adoni’s forbearance be great, as 17 Therefore, I pray (yig’dal na’ You have declared, saying, 18 ‘YHWH! slow to anger and abounding in kindness;
forgiving iniquity and transgression; yet not remitting all punishment, but visiting the iniquity of fathers upon children, upon the third and fourth generations.’ 19 Pardon, I
Moshe pleads for the forgiveness of the people.
Devarim/Deuteronomy 3:25 23 I pleaded with YHWH at that time, saying, 24 “Adoni YHWH, You who let Your servant see the first works of Your greatness and Your mighty hand, You whose powerful deeds no Elohim in heaven or on earth can equal! 25 Let me, I pray (e’berah na’ ,)א ְ בּ ָרה־נָּ אcross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that ְֶ good hill country, and the Lebanon.” 26 But YHWH was wrathful with me on your account and would not listen to me. YHWH said to me, “Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again!
Here we have seen that the word Na’ is used primarily as a pleading or to ask favor of someone whether YHWH or a man. So when you see “I pray” you may be seeing someone asking for their favor in something. Thus this word is not what we are seeking for this study. We also see in this passage that not everything we plead for is give to us.
Next let’s look at Tefillah.
Tefillah (Tav-Fey-Lamed-Hey) and is a feminine Noun from the root (Pey-LamedLamed) which verb is Palal. This is reference number 8605 found in the BDB on page 813 and in the NEHC on page 1355. It means prayer.
This word is not used in torah but is first found in Shemu’el Aleph.
Shemuel Bet/2 Samuel 7:27 27 Because You, YHWH of Hosts, the Elohey of Israel, have revealed to Your servant that You will build a house for him, Your servant has ventured to offer this prayer
29 May Your eyes be open day and night toward this House, toward the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall abide there’; may You heed the prayers (hatefillah )התּפלּהwhich Your servant will offer (yit’pallel )יִ תפּלּלtoward this place.
ְִַָ ְֵַ 37 So, too, if there is a famine in the land, if there is pestilence, blight, mildew, locusts or caterpillars, or if an enemy oppresses them in any of the settlements of the land.
40 so that they may revere You all the days that they live on the land that You gave to our fathers.
41 “Or if a foreigner (hanakeriy) who is not of Your people Israel comes from a distant land for the sake of Your name—42 for they shall hear about Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm—when he comes to pray (vahitepellel )וְ התפּלּלtoward this House, 43 oh, hear in Your heavenly abode and grant all that the ְִֵַ foreigner (hinakeriy) asks You for. Thus all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and revere You, as does Your people Israel; and they will recognize that Your name is attached to this House that I have built.
)תּפלּתםand supplication and uphold their cause.
ְִָָ in heaven their prayer (tefillatem 46 “When they sin against You—for there is no man who does not sin—and You are angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and their captors carry them off to an enemy land, near or far; 47 and then they take it to heart in the land to which they have been carried off, and they repent and make supplication to You in the land of their captors, saying: ‘We have sinned, we have acted perversely, we have acted wickedly,’ 48 and they turn back to You with all their heart and soul, in the land of the enemies who
We see several things in this prayer, first prayer is offered towards land of Yisrael, the city of Yerusalayim, and to the Temple (Beit Hamikdash). Melekh Shlomo prayed kneeling with hands upraised spread towards the sky.
Here Nehemyah offers his prayer to YHWH.
Nehemyah/Nehemiah 11:17 17 Mattaniah son of Micha son of Zabdi son of Asaph was the head; at prayer (latefillah ,)לתּפלּהhe would lead off with praise; and Bakbukiah, one of his brothers, was his ְִַָ second-in-command; and Abda son of Shammua son of Galal son of Jeduthun.
Here we see that prayer was lead off with praise. It was done primarily as part of the temple worship.
Yeshayahu/Isaiah 1:15 15 And when you lift up your hands, I will turn My eyes away from you;
While the text reflects the prayers given in a negative light, the actions support what they would have done. Lift you hands up and praying at length or lift up you hand and say many prayers. Though we see some prayers in tehillim/Psalms, which are very brief.
Yeshayahu/Isaiah 38:1-5 1 In those days Hezekiah fell dangerously ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “Thus said YHWH: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die; you will not get well.” 2 Thereupon Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed )וַ יִּ תפּלּלto YHWH. 3 “Please, YHWH,” he said, “remember how I have ְֵַ (veyit’pallel walked before You sincerely and wholeheartedly, and have done what is pleasing to You.” And Hezekiah wept profusely.
4 Then the word of YHWH came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah: Thus said YHWH,
YHWH is set to punish his people so he warns Yermiyahu not to pray for them. We see palel, which is pray, and we will look at this word later.
YHWH repeats the same statement later to Yermiyahu.
Yonah/Jonah 2:7(8) 8 When my life was ebbing away, I called YHWH to mind; And my prayer (tefillatiy )תּפלּתיcame before You, Into Your holy Temple.
ְִִָ Here Yonah is dying and he says his prayer in his mind. It shows us we need not even move our lips but also think in a situation we can not pray.
)תּפלּתof Your servant and his plea, ְִַ 17 “O Eloheynu, hear now the prayer (tefillat and show Your favor to Your desolate sanctuary, for YHWH’s sake. 18 Incline Your ear, O my Elohim, and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolation and the city to which Your name is attached. Not because of any merit of ours do we lay our plea before You but because of Your abundant mercies. 19 YHWH, hear! YHWH, forgive! YHWH, listen, and act without delay for Your own sake, O my Elohim; for Your name is attached to Your city and Your people!” 20 While I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and laying my supplication before YHWH my Elohim on behalf of the holy mountain of
Here we see Daniel praying and while at prayer he would sometimes have visions. Also, Daniel would pray at the time of the evening offering.
Next let look at the verb root Palal.
Palal (Pey-Lamed-Lamed) and is a verb. This is reference number 6419 found in the BDB on page 813 and in the NEHC on page. It means judge in the Pi’el form of the verb. Other forms of this verb are translated as: Hithpael – pray, prays, prayed, praying.
To understand this the Piel is the Active or stative property as well it can be factive.
Thus, it is like saying that someone put that person in a state of being judged. Whereas, The Hithpael is essential the same word judge but used as: the person put themselves in a state of being judged.
Pi’el Shemu’el Aleph/I Samuel 2:25
Yehe’zqel/Ezekiel 16:52 52 Truly, you must bear the disgrace of serving as your sisters’ advocate (judge pilal’te :)פּלּלתּSince you have sinned more abominably than they, they appear righteous in ְְִַ comparison. So be ashamed and bear your disgrace, because you have made your sisters look righteous.
Here the city of Yerusalayim is portrayed as the judge of her sister yet she is worst than they.
Here Phinehas put himself in the position to be judged and was found to be in the right.
Hithpael Bereshit/Genesis 20:7, 17 7 Therefore, restore the man’s wife—since he is a prophet, he will intercede
It appears that YHWH was angry with Aharon and the people over an incident. So Moshe had to advocate for them. Thus they were in a state of being judged.
Shemu’el aleph/I Samuel 1: 10,12, 26, 27
Here we see again Shemu’el as advocate or interceding for the children of Yisrael.
Shemu’el aleph/I Samuel 8:6