Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb ευχομαι (euchomai) means to wish, but to wish in a verbal way: to express a desire for something specified. It describes the pleas of a weaker person toward a stronger person, and when our ancient ancestors began to believe in gods who needed to be appeased and won over, they began to address their deities like one addressed a wily overlord.
Biblical theology, of course, has nothing to do with wily overlords because the Bible writers didn't believe that the world was governed by a band of warring gods. Instead they believed that the world is governed by a single and unchanging law (Colossians 1:16-17). Since this law is reflected in everything about the universe — from the interactions of minute particles to the goings on of humanity's highly complex society — they figured that this law, or Word of God, itself is as alive and aware as the creation it sustains, and even an attribute of the Creator himself (John 1:1, Hebrews 1:2-3).
The Bible writers understood that the Word of God desires to liberate (Galatians 5:1) and every restriction a person experiences is a result of dissonance with the Word, which in turn comes from ignorance about the Word. That means that to them, prayer was not about trying to talk the deity into something he obviously didn't do out of his own accord, but rather to tune into the Word of God and align with the Word in order to assume the power to rectify whatever restriction might exist.
When a pagan wishes for something he's not getting, he howls indignantly at whatever star or spirit he imagines to be thwarting him. When a wise person wishes for something, he studies creation and meditates on natural law until he knows how to rectify things (Colossians 2:3). Then he does it (John 14:12).
Our verb ευχομαι (euchomai), meaning to verbally express a desire, is used a mere 7 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, but from it derive:
- The noun ευχη (euche), meaning a wish, and specifically a wish verbally expressed or a vow formally proclaimed. In the pagan world, a wish often comes with a bargain (dear god, if you let me win at dice then I'll give you a roasted goat) but people who understand that God doesn't want a roasted goat (Hosea 6:6) and that the law of God works the same for everybody always (Matthew 5:45), don't make vows like that. To them a wish leads to a quest to understand what's going on and how to remedy it (James 5:15). Our noun occurs only three times in the New Testament. In Acts 18:18 Paul shaves his head because he felt like it, but in Acts 21:23 he urges James and the elders to partake in Jewish purification customs simply to show respect. No ritual or rite has any value to itself, and doing something has the same power as not doing it. True power comes from knowing when to partake in a social exercise in order to show respect and strengthen relationships, and when to reject magic and pursue reason and factual knowledge instead.
- Together with the prefix προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the verb προσευχομαι (proseuchomai), meaning to pray. In the classics this verb describes a deliberate address of someone or some deity who has to be pestered out of his favors (Luke 18:5). In the New Testament this verb describes one's communication with the Creator in order to obtain understanding (whether consciously or intuitively: 1 Corinthians 14:14-15) of creation and the subsequent authority to manage it (Psalm 27:11, John 8:32, 1 Corinthians 6:2).
A respect for and love of the living natural law marks the difference between Biblical theology and all other religions, and true wisdom is recognized by its measurable effects (Matthew 11:19, James 5:16). Lengthy prayers that have no effect demonstrate that the prayer is a clueless charlatan who should be avoided (Deuteronomy 18:22, 1 Kings 18:29, Acts 8:21).
Our verb is used 87 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- The noun προσευχη (proseuche), meaning a prayer, or rather a meditation upon the Creator's laws and an endeavor to understand them and deploy them properly. This noun is used 37 times; see full concordance.