Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Towardness of Prayer

The Greek word use most commonly for “pray” in the New Testament is proseuchomai. It is made up of two words. One is euchomai, which means to petition or request and is the expression of a wish or desire. It used only a couple of times in the New Testament as “pray.” In the surrounding cultures, it was used as a word for petitioning deity. It came to be modified by the prefix pros and by the time of the early Church, this new form prevailed.

The second part of proseuchomai, and the one I want to focus on here in regard to prayer, is the prefix, pros. It is a preposition indicating directionality, with the force or sense of “toward.” I am especially captured by it when I think of John 1:1 and how this little word, pros, is used in that context: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Here it is translated as “with.” In the beginning, Jesus (the Word) was with God. But pros indicates something more than that. Jesus was not merely with God, as if they were just sitting side by side. No, Jesus was positioned toward God. There was a purpose, an intent, a focus — they were face to face! Indeed, the Greek word for “face” in Scripture is prosopon, the prefix pros, with the word ops, which comes from a word that means to look at or behold. The phrase “face to face” in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face,” is prosopon pros prosopon, face toward face.

In the beginning, Jesus and the Father were with each other face to face, is as if they were discussing something, conceiving something, planning something. This plan is bound up in the term by which Jesus is referred to here: the Word. A word is something that is spoken. The Greek is logos, from lego, “I say.” What happens a few verses later, John 1:14, is the result of this speaking, this towardness between Jesus and the Father: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Jesus was toward the Father, in intimate fellowship with God, and out of that communion rose the plan for restoring mankind and reconciling all things to Himself, so that one day we, too, will see God prosopon pros prosopon, face to face. It is not that we have no fellowship with God now — we do, with the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. It is rich and wonderful and full of great joy. But one day we shall experience Him in a much greater way.

In the meantime, we have the “towardness” of prayer, proseuchomai. We are with Him, toward Him, pressing into His presence and into His purposes, bringing our requests, our desires, our dreams before His face. He is also with us, toward us, and in that communion, something is conceived, given life. Then, just as the Word was with God and the Word became flesh, when we direct ourselves toward God and share our dream and desire with Him, and He shapes it, mingling with it His own dream and desire for us, there is a word that comes forth into the world. It is an answer, a fulfillment, a manifestation of what has been conceived in that towardness between us and God.