Word Study #94 — Persecution, Tribulation

February 25, 2011

In both of the previous two studies, the concept of “giving thanks” and/or “rejoicing” occasionally referred to persecution, tribulation, suffering, or, as some want to call it, “sacrifice”, on behalf of Jesus and his Kingdom.
None of these four words appear frequently in the New Testament, but their prevalence in “accepted Christian teaching” requires an examination of what really is said in Scripture regarding these subjects.
Contrary to popular assumptions, not one of them is ever presented as having been instigated, caused, or commanded by God, in the New Testament.

Since they represent somewhat different concepts, we will deal with these words in two separate posts. “Persecution” and “tribulation” are used together four times (Mt.13:21, Mk.4:17, Rom.8:35, II Thes.1:4), almost as synonyms, and often assumed to be a normal consequence of faithful living. Persecution and tribulation are not a matter of choice. Both are externally imposed. The only choice is how one will respond.
Jesus described persecution / tribulation as one reason for the falling away of many who had initially been enthusiastic about the Kingdom (Mt.13:21, Mk.4:17), and Paul reminded the converts in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch that the violent opposition they were experiencing was “only normal” (Ac.14:22).

Classically, dioko had more frequently referred to a chase, as in a war or a hunt, or the eager pursuit of an object, person, or goal. This latter is seen also in Rom. 14:19, I Cor.14:1, Phil.3:12,14; I Thes.5:15, II Tim.2:22, Heb.12:14, I Pet.3:11.
It is also used of haste, of the wind driving a ship (Homer), or avid pursuit of an argument (Plato), as well as “to drive away” (Herodotus). Not until the New Testament did the idea of pursuit or legal prosecution acquire the flavor of being abused, driven away, or attacked because of one’s faith commitment, but after that, it appears to be the dominant idea.

Jesus gave careful instructions regarding the response of his disciples to persecution: from “rejoicing” in the confidence of the confirmation of their Kingdom citizenship (Mt.5:10-12, echoed by Paul in Rom.12:14 and I Cor.4:12), to prayer and kindness toward the perpetrators (Mt.5:44), and prudent advice that when it gets too hot in one town (Mt.10:23), it’s time to move! He matter-of-factly warned that persecution would come (Lk.21:12, Mt.23:34), explaining that disciples could expect the same treatment that he himself was encountering (Jn.15:20).

Paul, interestingly, speaks more of his own past record of “persecuting the church” (Ac.22:4, 26:11;  ICor.15:9, Gal.1:13,23; Phil.3:6) than he does of the persecution he personally endured (Gal..5:11, 6:12; II Cor.12:10, II Tim.3:11). And please remember: this “persecution” was not merely social exclusion, financial hardship, or being “talked-about”. Beatings and stonings, prison and death were harsh realities, and not uncommon.
We should not neglect II Tim.3:12, which has often been mis-used, leading some to try to provoke opposition, under the banner of “Everyone that wants to live in a godly manner in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Such people need to be reminded of Peter’s warnings regarding “suffering”, which will be treated in the next post (I Pet.2:19-23, 3:14-18, and 4:15).

Thlipsis, classically “pressure, oppression, affliction” (L/S), “distress brought on by outside circumstances” (Bauer), seems to focus more on the affected person, than on the particular circumstances of the persecution. Only five times does it clearly refer to anything but the price of faithfulness: Jesus used it (Jn.16:21) of a woman’s labor in childbirth, James referred to the desperate condition of widows and orphans (1:27), Paul, of final retribution for the unfaithful (Rom.2:9, II Thes.1:6) and the Corinthians’ complaint (II Cor.8:13) of being “burdened” by the expectation of a relief contribution. Elsewhere, 39 times, the reference is to being hassled – sometimes more, sometimes less severely – as a direct result of faithfulness to Jesus’ Kingdom. The one probable exception is the description of political turmoil in Mt.24 and Mk.13 (similar account in Lk.21). A careful reading of these passages reveals that here it is the earlier classical understanding of thlipsis that is intended, as whole nations and kingdoms are disrupted (Mt.24:6-8 and Mk.13:7-8), providing a context for more specific attacks upon the faithful, and a fertile field for perpetrators of deception. (Remember, when you hear predictions by self-styled “world-enders” in times of political unrest, that Jesus himself warned against that very thing in Mt.24:23-27 and Mk.13:21-23).
Please note also that in no case does thlipsis, translated 17x “affliction” and 21x “tribulation”, refer to a single, historical or future event, but consistently to the conditions under which the faithful need to enter the Kingdom (Ac.14:22), to receive the Word (I Thes.1:6), to support one another (Phil.4:14) with joyful generosity (II Cor.8:2), to endure patiently (Rom.12:12), and to encourage one another’s faithfulness (II Thes.1:4).

Jesus put it very realistically (Jn.16:33): “In the world, you have (present tense, not future) hassles (KJV – tribulations). But take courage! I have conquered (perfect tense!) the world!” Notice that this statement occurs even before either his death or his resurrection!
This is why Paul could write (Rom.5:2,3) “We revel in the hope [confidence] of the glory of God! Not only this, but we even appreciate our hassles [tribulations], knowing that hassles produce endurance …”
Read, and soak up, his confident description in II Cor.1:4-7, of both the comfort and the responsibility conferred by the Lord’s presence in the midst of those hassles. Later in the same letter (4:17), amid stress that would probably have crushed most of us, he can declare, “Our temporary, insignificant hassles are producing for us a fantastically overwhelming, eternal amount of glory!” and in 7:4, “I’m overflowing with joy, in spite of all our hassles!”

Please notice here: in no case does Paul attribute the “hassles / tribulations / afflictions” to “God’s will” (see W.S.#12), or to God’s causative action!
The Lord knows (Rev.2:9) and limits (v.10) them, and “coaches” us through them (II Cor.1:4), refusing to allow them to separate us from his love and care (Rom.8:35). He does not deliberately hassle his own!

Thanks be to God!

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Word Study #93 — Rejoice!

February 18, 2011

Although seldom used today in ordinary conversation, the concept of “rejoicing” is pervasive in the New Testament writings. Traditional translators have used the same English word for four different “word families”, varying primarily in their intensity, except for one, which does not seem to fit with the others at all.

Agalliao, with its noun form agalliasis, appears a total of sixteen times, frequently translated with the modifiers “exceeding” or “exceedingly.” This is in harmony with the classical definition, “to rejoice exceedingly, to glorify, or to exult.” In the LXX, it was often used in connection with a celebration at the inaugural anointing of a king, and in other classical writings, of paying honor to a god.
In the New Testament, it speaks of the joy of those who have become faithful (Ac.2:46, 16:34), and it is usually connected with a recognition of the hand of God at work (Lk.1:44, 1:47, 10:21; Jn.5:35, 8:56; Ac.2:26, Heb.1:9), as well as anticipation of his activity (I Pet.1:6, 8; 4:3; Jude 24, Rev.19:7).

The fifteen total uses of euphraino, and the noun euphrosune, on the other hand, while occasionally connected to God (Ac.2:28 and 14:7; Rom.15:10, Gal.4:27), are usually used on a more mundane level. Classically, these referred to any sort of “festivities, mirth, or merriment”, often including luxurious feasting. This is clearly the situation in two major New Testament accounts, both parables, where it is used of the “rich fool” (Lk.12:19) selfishly planning to celebrate his plenty, and the feasting (and subsequent complaints) at the return of the “prodigal son” (Lk. 15:23,29, 32). It also appears describing the partying (Rev.11:10) of the people committed to their “dwelling on earth”, after the killing of God’s faithful witnesses.

Interestingly, it is also the response advocated, for the faithful, to the fall of Babylon (Rev.18:20)!

The anomaly of the group (7x “boast”, 4x “rejoice”, 22x “glory”) is kauchaomai, with kauchema and kauchesis. In the classical writings, these words virtually always have negative connotations, referring to loud, boisterous boasting or bragging, and in the noun form, to pride or superiority. I would be curious to ask Paul why he used it as he did, unless it was simply to contrast his attitude with that of the more common idea. The negative flavor does appear in the New Testament (Jas.4:16, Rom.2:17,23, and 3:27, I Cor.15:31), but it is not dominant. Paul makes heavy use of these terms in II Corinthians: to leverage the response of the group to relief efforts (7:4,14; 9:2), (“Don’t make me sorry I had bragged about your generosity”); to encourage their obedience to his teaching (10:8,13,15); and (12:1) to illustrate the emptiness of bragging abut one’s “spiritual experiences”. Occasionally, he uses it of satisfaction at having faithfully executed one’s responsibility (II Cor.1:12, 11:16; I Thes.2:19, Gal.6:4, Phil.2:16), but also to remind his readers that it is inappropriate (Eph.2:9) to claim personal credit for what the Lord has done.
Nevertheless, Rom.5:2, Phil.1:26, 3:3; Heb.3:6, and Jas.1:9 suggest that kauchaomai is not always out-of-line, which makes one wonder at the translators’ (and the writers’) choice of words. Similar questions arise where kauchaomai is translated “glory” (see W.S.#74).

By far the most frequently used word is chairo (“rejoice”42x, “be glad”14x, “joy” – as a verb – 5x, and 12x as a greeting or farewell.) Its noun form is chara, “joy”, 53x. Chairo may represent a sort of median between the exuberance of agalliao and the more ordinary enjoyment of euphraino. L/S lists “to take pleasure in, to express joy, laughter, to be glad to hear something, or to delight in doing something.” Bauer adds that a hoti clause may give the reason for the rejoicing, and a participle may describe what one is delighted by. He points out that a prepositional phrase with en, as noted in the previous post, is circumstantial, and not causal. In the imperative or vocative forms, chairo serves as a greeting or farewell.

Chairo and agalliao appear together in Mt.5:12, Lk.1:14, I Pet.4:13, Rev.19:7, intensifying the thought.
Chairo
and euphraino are joined in Ac.2:26 and Rev.11:10, leaning toward celebration.
Actually, the term represents quite a spectrum of responses. It can refer to casual curiosity (Lk.23:3) or even connivance in wrongdoing (Lk.22:5, Mk.14:11). Positive uses range from the simple pleasure of meeting brethren, or receiving good news (Mt.18:3, Lk.13:7, 15:5; Ac.13:48, Rom.12:15, I Cor.7:30, 13:6, 16:7; II Cor.7:7,9,16; Phil.2:28, II Jn.4, III Jn.3), to grateful recognition of the grace of God (Jn.8:56, 14:28, 16:20,22; 20:20; Ac.11:23, Rom.16:19, I Pet.4:13).

Chairo is the only one of the four words that consistently applies specifically to life “in the Lord”, and requires seeing beyond immediate, often unfavorable circumstances.
Mt.5:12 and Lk.6:23 record Jesus’ words regarding the faithful (or “blessed” – W.S.#89) response to persecution. Notice that in each case, he specifies that the abuse is “for the sake of – heneka – the Son of Man” (Lk.) and “for my sake” (heneken emou) (Mt.). Clearly, this must have been a necessary caveat, since Peter (I Pet.4:13-15) later also found it prudent to add a blunt warning that readers be sure that the “persecution” was for faithfulness, and not deserved, for some less noble reason!
Jesus also offered another guideline for his disciples’ rejoicing – it should not be because of the powers granted to them for ministry, but simply because of their inclusion in the Kingdom and its work! A similar theme occurs in Jn.4:36, and Paul picks up the same idea in Phil.1:18 and Col.1:24-25, where he identifies the price paid for Kingdom service as contributing to the Lord’s own efforts, a statement similar to Peter’s noted above.

The faithfulness of fellow disciples (Col.2:8, I Thes.3:4), even when it involves personal cost (Phil.2:17-18), is a cause for celebration. A generally celebratory, joyful demeanor comes with the territory of becoming truly united in one Body (I Cor.12:26), in concern for one another. Concern for the welfare of the faithful is probably also the motive behind Jesus’ saying that he was “glad” he was not there when Lazarus died (Jn.11:15), so that his followers could be fully convinced of his power / identity. Paul’s statement regarding his own weakness in II Cor.13:9 is similar.

“As for the rest, my brothers – be constantly rejoicing in the Lord!” (Phil.3:1)
“Keep on rejoicing in the Lord! Again, I’ll say, keep on rejoicing!” (Phil.4:4)
“Always keep rejoicing!” (I Thes.5:6)
“Continue to love him, whom you have not seen, being faithful toward him … and celebrating with indescribable and glorious joy!” (I Pet.1:8)


Word Study #92 — Giving Thanks

February 11, 2011

You may be surprised – I certainly was! – to discover that Biblically, eucharisteo, “giving thanks”, is strictly a New Testament word! It does not occur in the LXX at all, although the idea is frequently present, and occasionally translated “thanks”, in eulogeo, “bless” (W.S. #89), aineo, “praise” (W.S. #90), and exomologeo, “confess” (W.S. #68), which are also included in references to “prayer” (W.S.#91) and “worship” (W.S.#50);but this primary word for “giving thanks” is nowhere to be found.

In the New Testament, “thanks” is also sometimes used to translate charis (7x, as opposed to 129x “grace”), and homologeo(1x out of 21x), exomologeomai, (2x out of 11x), and anthomologeomai (only a single appearance), which are all related to “confession” in the sense of “acknowledgment” (W.S.#68). Since most of these deviations fit equally well into the discussions of their primary translations, we will confine this study to eucharisteo (verb), eucharistia (noun), and eucharistos (adj.).

Classically, all of these referred to any expression of gratitude – by anyone, to anyone, for anything – or to an agreeable, grateful nature or personality trait. Occasionally, it was also used of the bestowing of a favor, as well as the obligation thereby incurred. The word is not rare in classical literature, which makes one wonder about its absence from the LXX, in view of its frequency in the New Testament. Could that be an artifact of the greater intimacy of the relationship between God and his people, introduced by Jesus’ own example, made possible to his people by his life, death, and resurrection, and symbolized by the destruction of the temple veil? (See Citizens of the Kingdom, chapter 8).

In all but two New Testament instances, the “thanks” are addressed to God: and these two, while not exemplary, offer significant insight. The first is in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Lk.18:11). Notice that although ostensibly (and ostentatiously!) “praying”, the Pharisee’s focus is pros heauton – “toward himself”! – as he “thanks God” for his self-perceived superiority. Jesus does not compliment that!
The other is when the eloquent lawyer, Tertullus, attempts to ingratiate himself to Governor Felix, when presenting the Jewish hierarchy’s case against Paul (Ac.24:3). In all the rest of both examples and admonitions, the giving of thanks is addressed to God – but not as persuasive flattery for a corrupt governor! “Thanks” with such an ulterior motive should be understood as insulting to God!

There are three scenes where Jesus himself is represented as giving thanks: before distributing food to the crowds (Mt.15:36, Mk.8:16, Jn.6:11,23); as he broke the bread at the Last Supper (Mt.26:27, Mk.14:23, Lk.22:7,19; and quoted by Paul in I Cor.11:24); and at Lazarus’ tomb (Jn.11:41). Only in this last instance does he specify the object of his thanksgiving, and his statement is instructive: “Father, I thank you that you listened to me. I knew that you are always listening to me, but I said that because of the crowd standing around …” The giving of thanks can be a powerful teaching tool, as it also was for Paul (Ac.27:35) during the shipwreck.

In his letters, Paul gives thanks to God for the faithfulness of individuals or groups (Phil.1:3, Col.1:3, Phm.4, I Thes.3:9), for the brethren who came to meet him on the way to Rome (Ac.28:15), for the generosity of the relief offering (II Cor.9:11), for the gift of praying in tongues (I Cor.14:16), and even that he had not baptized many in Corinth (I Cor.1:14), which he mentions to defuse the factionalism there.

The object of the giving of thanks is clarified by the use of the prepositions, and the sentence structure, with which it is accompanied. Both of the common prepositions, peri and huper, are used with genitive case objects. The case of its object affects the meaning of any preposition. Peri, “about, or for”, indicates motive, care, or “with regard to”. Paul often writes that he is giving thanks “peri humon” – “about you all”, (his readers), and/or their faithfulness (Rom.1:8. I Cor.1:4, Col.1:3, I Thes.1:2, 3:9; II Thes.1:3).
Huper, on the other hand, indicates “for the sake of, on behalf of, as a representative of.” Here it sometimes seems to include more of our concept of prayer, as it is connected with food (I Cor.10:30), and Paul’s anticipated release from prison (II Cor.1:11), as well as the more general huper humin – “on your behalf” (Eph.1:16), and specific gratitude for the help of Priscilla and Aquila (Rom.16:4). Paul urges Timothy that both “prayers (deesis, proseuchais, enteuxis)” and “thanksgiving (eucharistias)” be made huper “on behalf of all people” – including “rulers and others in authority” – who probably are not doing anything of the kind on their own! (I Tim.2:1).

Distinguishing between prepositions and their objects would avoid many major misunderstandings. Some of the common rhetoric about “giving thanks for everything” is a case in point.
In Eph.5:20, “giving thanks huper panton” is a part of Paul’s description of mutual teaching and celebration in the brotherhood, with everyone contributing! (5:15-20). Since panton, the genitive plural of pas (“all”), is identical in its masculine, feminine, and neuter forms, there is no reason to shift gears and read a neuter “everything” as the object of huper, when Paul has been talking about everyone, which would also be a much more logical object of “for the sake of,” or “on behalf of”.
The similarly translated – but not at all equivalent – admonition in I Thes.5:18, often rendered “Give thanks for everything”, contains neither of those prepositions, but simply en – “in”– which always has a dative (location or atmosphere) object. The grammatical structure is clear: the reference of “this” (“this is the will of God”) is the imperative verb, “give thanks”, and not, as some would have it, “everything that happens” – even events that are clearly evil.

Other objects of thanksgiving are identified by a clause introduced by hoti, “because” – (I Thes.2:13, Rev.11:17), or a participial explanation of something that God has done. This is more frequent in I Cor.15:57, II Cor.2:14, 8:16, 9:15, where charis is used rather than eucharistia.

Significantly, however, more frequent than any of these, are declarations of or admonitions to thankfulness with no expressed object – Col.3:15-17, 2:7; I Cor.14:17-18, Rev.4:9,7:12. The giving of thanks is an expected part of prayer (Phil.4:6, Col.4:2, I Tim.2:1), not as an effort to manipulate God, but rather a mind-set that pervades the entire consciousness of the faithful.
Thankfulness is an ingredient of the “recipe” for continued growth in Kingdom living (Col.2:7), the antidote for complaints against other brethren (Col.3:15), and an alternative to unwholesome conversation (Eph.5:4). It is among the praises offered around the throne of the Lamb (Rev.4:9, 7:12, 11:17)!

“And everything – whatever you all do – in word or deed – (do) everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, (continually) giving thanks to God the Father through him!” (Col.3:17)


Word Study #91 — Pray/Prayer

February 3, 2011

It is important to remember, in undertaking a study of the uses of “pray/prayer” in the New Testament, that in the Elizabethan English of the KJV, “pray” did not necessarily have anything whatever to do with God, but “I pray thee” was merely a polite way of saying “please.” This is seen in fully half of the appearances of deomai, nine of which were traditionally translated “beseech”, primarily in Luke and Acts, and erotao, in which 23x the translators used “ask” (as in, to ask a question, make a request, or issue an invitation), “beseech” 14x, “desire” 6x, and “entreat” once, with the same sense in six of the 14 times where it is rendered “pray.” Consequently, we are dealing here with a concept in which context is critically important.

The actual lexical definitions of the five verbs and four nouns in this group are not so very different from one another. Classically, deomai was used by Homer as “to be in need or want”, by Plato and Herodotus as “to beg a thing from a person,” and by Plutarch and Thucydides as “to beg a favor.” Dei, as a particle, usually intends “It is necessary.”

Erotao is listed as “to ask a question, to beg, or to entreat, to make a request of a person”. Euchomai did refer to “prayer” as commonly understood, but also as “an unrealizable wish, to long for, to vow, or to promise.” Parakaleo, “to summon friends for help, to invite, to exhort, to encourage,” is dealt with in W.S.#53, “The Spirit”, and #138, “comfort”. Only proseuchomai refers exclusively to the prayer of worship.
Among the nouns, only deesis, “entreaty, petition”,and proseuche, “a prayer, or place of prayer” are commonly used. Enteuxis, “conversation, petition, intercession”, appears only once (I Tim.4:5), and euche, “a prayer, vow, wish, or aspiration,” is rendered once “prayer” (Jas.5:15), and twice “vow(Ac.18:18 and 21:23).
Much more helpful in understanding is to address three questions:

Who is doing the praying?

To whom is it addressed?

What is the subject of the prayer or request?

A few examples can serve to illustrate the value of such observations.
Deomai, as noted above, half the time is simply one person making a request of another: Ac.8:34 – the Ethiopian asking Philip to explain what he was reading; Ac.21:39 – Paul requesting the commander to allow him to speak to the crowd; Lk.5:12 and 9:38 – people begging Jesus for healing; or II Cor.5:20 – Paul urging his readers to accept his message. When addressed to God, (Mt.9:38, Lk.22:32, Rom.1:10, Ac.8:22,24; I Thes.3:10), it is usually with a very specific request in mind, although that is not completely clear in Ac.4:31 or 10:2.

Erotao, similarly, is usually one person making a request or asking a question of another: Lk.5:3 – Jesus asking Peter to launch his boat; Lk.14:18,19 – guests begging off from the banquet invitation; Ac.10:48 – Cornelius asking Peter to stay a while; or Ac.23:18 – Paul asking the guard to take his nephew to the commander. However, in John’s gospel, and only there, it is used of Jesus’ communication with the Father (Jn.14:16, 16:26, 17:9, 15, 20). Might this be a testimony to John’s depth of understanding of the mutuality and equality of their relationship?

Euchomai, except for Jas.5:16 where the flavor is more like the requests represented by deomai, leans more toward the “wish” idea, as when (Ac.27:29) the sailors “threw out the anchors and wished for daylight”.
Likewise, parakaleo, except for Jesus’ statement in Mt.26:53, is almost entirely inter-personal: the healed man who asked to go along with Jesus (Mk.5:18), the “Macedonian call” to Paul (Ac.16:9), or Paul encouraging the sailors to take food (Ac.27:34).

Proseuchomai, on the other hand, never represents simply a person-to-person situation. It is always directed to God. Even more significantly, it seldom concerns a specific “prayer-request.” It is also the only one that occurs in the imperative mood. Only three times in the gospels is an object specified: praying for one’s persecutors (Mt.5:44, Lk.6:28), Jesus praying for the children (Mt.9:13), and the admonition to pray that the flight from Jerusalem not be in winter (Mt.24:20, Mk.13:18). The rest of the praying, whether by Jesus or others, 19x, has no object mentioned. Thirteen times, it refers to Jesus’ final night in the Garden
Curiously, proseuchomai does not appear in the writings of John at all, in either his gospel or his epistles – and only twice in the Revelation. I have never encountered any speculation on a reason for that – have you?

Jesus usually seems to have preferred a “solitary place” for praying (Mt.14:23, Mk.1:35, 6:46; Lk.5:16,6:12, 9:28), although on several occasions his disciples were present, and asked to be taught (Mt.6:9, Lk.9:18, 11:1,2). Lk.9:18 is particularly puzzling in this regard: “He was praying privately, and his disciples were with him”. (The traditional version says he was “alone”. Not sure what the “dictation theory” advocates do with that!)
Jesus emphasized that prayer was not the place (if there is one) for showing off one’s piety (Mt.6:5,6,7; Mt.23:14, Mk.12:40, Lk.18:10,11; 20:47); that one must forgive before (or in the process of ) praying (Mk.11:25); and one must pray in faithfulness (Mk.11:24).

In the early church, prayer preceded the commissioning of people for specific assignments (Ac.1:24, 6:6, 13:3, 14:23) and was a frequent corporate experience in the group, led, apparently, by both men and women (I Cor.11:4,5). Paul writes of his prayers on behalf of the churches (Rom.1:9, Eph.1:16, Phil.1:4,1:8; Col.1:3,1:9, 4:12; I Thes.1:2, II Thes.1;11; and also of his own felt need for their prayers on his own behalf (II Cor.1:11, Phil.1:19, Col.4:3, I Thes.5:25, II Thes.3:1, Phm.2), as well as encouraging their prayers for each other (II Cor.9:14, Jas.5:16, Phil.4:6).
Prayers are connected with healings (Ac.9:40, 28:8, Jas.5:14), release from prison (Ac.12:12, 16:23, Phm.22), and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ac.2, and 8:15), as well as taking leave of brethren (Ac.20:36, 21:15).

You may notice that this survey has left a large group of occasions – some already listed concerning Jesus himself, and some reporting about others – where nothing specific is said about the object of the praying: the Transfiguration accounts (Lk.9:29 and parallels), Jesus’ baptism (Lk.3:21), Saul in Damascus (Ac.9:11), Peter in Joppa (Ac.10:9 and 11:15), Cornelius at his home (Ac.10:30), Paul in the temple (Ac.22:17), and Paul’s admonitions in Rom.12:12, Eph.6:18, I Thes.5:17, I Tim.2:8, among others.

One student suggested, “It sounds like just sort of hanging out with the Lord!”

I rather like that. In fact, I think it sums up proseuchomai very well. Perhaps it is often simply making ourselves available, and waiting for instructions.
After all, (Rom.8:26) “We don’t even know how we ought to pray” – but that’s ok – the Holy Spirit can compensate for our ignorance, as long as we are “hanging out” and available.

“By means of all prayer and petition, keep on praying at all times in the Spirit, being constantly alert about it” (Eph.6:18).

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer (proseuche) and petition (deesis), with thanksgiving, your requests must be made known before God.” (Phil.4:6)

Proseuchesthe “Keep on praying [hanging-out with the Lord!], incessantly!” (I Thes.5:17).