Where do prayers come from?

Where does the word “pray” come from, and who are the pray-ers?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary prayer comes from the Old French:


According to Hebrew Word Meanings palal has at its root the word “fall”:  “The word palal literally means to “fall down to the ground in the presence of one in authority pleading a cause””.

Kenneth Bailey (in Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes) doesn’t quite make the connection between the Greek word for meek and prayer. In discussing the Beatitudes he does point out the word prays (praïs)  as the Greek translation of “meek”. So, is this where the word “pray” comes from? Or, put it another way, do the words of prayer come from the meek, the prays? Are they the pray-ers whose prayers and praise are acceptable to God?

The meek, the prays, are, according to Jesus, the poor and humble, the little ones, and they will inherit the earth. The pray-ers will be answered. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.” (Matthew 5:5)

The term meek comes from one of the psalms (Psalm 37:11) where it shows its meaning as “slow to anger” and “gentle with others”. For Aristotle, virtue lies between two extremes. In his Nicomachean Ethics, according to Bailey, “The one who is truly prays (meek) is the one who becomes angry on the right grounds against the right person at the right moment and for the right length of time”.

Is that what prayers do? Is that what prayers are? Is that how prayers are? Is that where prayers come from?

The photo is by Steve Evans: Ethiopia, Innocent Prayers of a Young Child

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