They Cried to the Lord: The Form and Theology of Biblical Prayer

They Cried to the Lord: The Form and Theology of Biblical Prayer

They Cried to the Lord: The Form and Theology of Biblical Prayer

They Cried to the Lord: The Form and Theology of Biblical Prayer


Both compellingly and clearly, Patrick D. Miller introduces biblical prayer in all its varied forms and from different angles: the prayers of Israel's neighbors, the names of God in prayer, prayers for help, the response of God, praise, the prayers of women, confession and penitence, prayers for others, blessing and curse, and Jesus and Paul at prayer.

The perspective throughout is that of faith—and its relation to prayer and theology. The result is a book of importance for church members, students, scholars, and others.

"Some of us theorize about the possibility of doing biblical theology, but Patrick Miller practices it. His inclusion of the New Testament witness on prayer is not just an appendix to his work but a masterful contribution to the subject. His discussion of the continuity between the Testaments is held in fruitful tension with the issue of other perspectives that the new Testament opens up."

- J. Christiaan Beker

"This is an excellent book on faith's center and source of power. Patrick Miller shows the wealth and diversity of forms and effects prayer has and , along the way, introduces the reader to the theology and spirituality of the Old and New Testament traditions. This volume will become a standard work not only for exegetes but also for both practical and systematic theologians, for pastors, and for anyone interested in understanding the foundations of piety."

- Michael Welker

"Patrick Miller's book on biblical prayer is simultaneously scholarly and inspiring. His consummate knowledge of canonical texts and related ancient Near Eastern material combines with his superb theological understanding to produce a landmark study that touches both the mind and the heart of the reader."

- Paul D. Hanson


No single practice more clearly defines a religion than the act of praying. Nor is there any religious practice more apt to take place on the part of those who otherwise are not religious at all. For those of every religious faith, prayer is one of the primary modes of relating the divine and the human, and for those of no faith at all, occasions of deep crisis often evoke a spontaneous cry for help from the lips of those who may not really believe there is anyone to hear or to help.

Prayer does assume, in most of its definitions and most of its practice, a higher power who is in touch with human life. It may arise out of such an assumption as a deep conviction of a person’s life and faith, or it may be a momentary hope for one with little or no religious convictions. In like manner, prayer has been seen as a primary indicator of the practice of piety, but it is not only the pious who turn to God in the moments of deepest distress. Prayer is often a spontaneous outcome of life at its heights and depths whatever the religious grounding of the one who prays. It may be a painful, stuttering, reluctant expression. Or it may be a carefully formal, disciplined, planned communion with the divine.

Prayer is not, however, only a matter of spirituality and the practice of piety. It also has to do with faith, that is, with whom we trust and what we believe. Theologians have long maintained that theology is at least in part an outgrowth of prayer—ut legem credendi statuat lex orandi (so that the rule of worship should establish the rule of faith)— that it is not simply a matter of believing and then praying to God in the light of what one believes. That very belief is shaped by the practice of prayer. So prayer and theology exist in relation to each other in a correcting circle, the one learning from the other and correcting the other. Religious faith seeks not to think one way and to pray another but to come before God in a manner that is consistent with what we believe and profess about God and God’s way and to think about God in a way that is shaped by the experience of actual encounter in prayer. Learning to pray teaches about God.

This book is written, therefore, in the conviction that prayer and faith are interwoven into a single whole. It seeks to demonstrate the inextricable connections between faith and prayer, exploring the char-

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