Prayer, Prayer, Prayer, and finally… Prayer

First off, if you don’t know about, I highly recommend it. It’s a wonderful Bible study tool, and I find myself going to it pretty regularly when I’m curious about something in the original Biblical languages, and I’m away from my office with my “professional” tools.

I was preparing a Children’s Worship service today, and one of the lectionary texts was from 1 Timothy 2. Specifically, let me draw your attention to verse 1:

“First all, then, urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks offered on behalf of people…”

I really want to pay attention to the four words used here. As I was reading this in English, I thought it a bit odd that there were four synonyms for prayer used here. It reminded me of the joke from Christian Brad Stine when he talks about praying out loud in a group, and following someone who sounds like they’re praying from a thesaurus: “Dear Lord, we pray for Your guidance, protection, oversight…”

So, WHY are there four words which are basically saying the same thing (in English)? Let’s take a look at what’s under the surface, and see what the differences really are. (Hold onto your hats, a bit of Greek is coming your way…) The four Greek words are: deésis, proseuché, enteuxis, and eucharistia. Let’s take a look at each one.

1) deésis – “prayer”
Here’s what I’m noticing about this word: I’m seeing the word for God (Dei) in the first part of the word. The suffix (-sis) means “the state of” or “the condition of”. So, deésis is “the state or condition of talking to God”. It comes across to me as a pretty primal exclamation – “God! Help!”. (Please note: there’s a specific Greek case for addressing someone directly – the vocative – and it’s used to indicate some emotional urgency. This word isn’t in the vocative case, but it does seem to indicate directly calling on God to me.) Think of deésis this way: it’s prayer that you offer for your own need.

2) proseuché – prayer
This word has a directional prefix (pros-). Generally, it means “toward”, as if you were going toward a specific place. The last part of the word is compound: “eu” is a prefix for “fine, well, good”, and when combined with the last part (cha), gives us “euche”… implying the word “eucharis”, asking for a good grace or good gift. (Still with me?) SO… “proseuché” is to offer a good grace towards something or someone. And of course, used in this context of prayer, that offering goes towards God. It’s most often translated as a request made towards God. Think of proseuché this way: it’s prayer that asks for grace from God.

3) enteuxis – intercession
This words prefix (en) also has a directional idea… of going “in” (it even sounds a bit like it). The second part of the word is related to the word that is used for “target” or “meeting”. When you are planning on meeting with someone, and you’re headed in that direction to make your appointment… that’s this word. So, used in the context of prayer, it’s when you’re bringing someone else’s need before God. Think of enteuxis this way: it’s prayer that you offer on someone else’s behalf.

4) eucharistia – giving thanks
For any readers who might be from a more liturgical background, this word might seem more familiar than the others. It’s where we get the word “Eucharist” from. I’ve already looked at its root in the second word when I talked about a good gift or grace. The suffix here (-ia) also means “the state of”, but it’s a bit more abstract. Two English words that might help shed light on these suffixes are “analysis” and “euphoria”. Someone DOES the process of analysis, but someone EXPERIENCES the state of euphoria. SO… think of eucharistia this way: it’s the prayer you offer when you’re thankful to God.

Hmm… so, an “Ed” paraphrase might be:
“Okay, to start off, prompt people to urgently pray for themselves, to ask for God’s grace, to bring other’s needs to God, and to be thankful in the process.”

All this from a lectionary verse… man, I love my job!

Grace and peace to you, and
Keep Following Jesus – Ed


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