Is there an example in the Bible of a human ever praying [a prayer] to someone other than one assumed to be God/god (i.e., whether they be a false god or true god)? In other words, is there an example of praying to something/someone who is assumed or acknowledged to be a creature rather than the Creator?

By the English verb "praying," I am referring to a conjugation of the Greek verb προσεύχομαι, and by the English noun "prayer," I am referring to the noun Greek προσευχή. Or, if in the Old Testament, I am referring to a conjugation of the Hebrew verb הִתְפַּלֵּל, or the Hebrew noun תְּפִלָּה.

  • Daniel 3 seems like a candidate... the entire nation was told to pray to Nebuchadnezzar (or his image), and apparently all but the 3 Hebrews did this. But then there's a question of your definition of "god." Was Nebuchadnezzar claiming to be god? One could possibly make the case that the act of prayer itself is an admission of belief that the object of the prayer is a god.
    – Flimzy
    Nov 25 '15 at 22:09
  • Daniel 6 seems like another good candidate.
    – Flimzy
    Nov 25 '15 at 22:14

As far as the Hebrew הִתְפַּלֵּל (hitpallēl) goes, I’m pretty sure1 the only example of prayer clearly directed at people (rather than God/gods) is Isaiah 45:14, which doesn’t come across as "pray" in most translations I’ve looked at, presumably because the idea is troubling.

Thus says the LORD:
“The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,
   and the Sabeans, men of stature,
shall come over to you and be yours;
   they shall follow you;
   they shall come over in chains and bow down to you (אֵלַיִךְ יִֽשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ)
They will plead with you (אֵלַיִךְ יִתְפַּלָּ֔לוּ), saying:
   ‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other,
   no god besides him.’” (ESV)

The phrase "plead with you" uses the verb/stem of interest (hitpallēl) with the preposition אֶל (ʾel = "to", here in its emphatic form), which standardly identifies the object of prayer. The object ("you") is feminine singular and thus probably refers to Jerusalem rather than Israel (which is consistently referred to using masculine pronouns) or (more problematic still) Cyrus. The semantically related verb יִשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ (yištaḥăwwû = "they will bow down") - makes it all the more jarring.

There is another set of occurrences of this same verb + preposition pair (hitpallēl ʾel) that is usually translated differently but involves precisely the same Hebrew construction. This is exemplified by 1 King 8:29 // 2 Chr 6:20:2

that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place (yitpallēl....ʾel–hammāqôm)

Here, as in other similar examples 1, hammāqôm ("this place") refers to the temple. The preposition generally translated "toward" is ʾel, the same word used to denote the recipient of prayer elsewhere.

With regard to the Greek terms, both the noun προσευχὴ and the verb προσεύχομαι are applied exclusively to the religious sphere throughout both the LXX and the NT. This distinguishes the term from εύχομαι, a more common word outside of Jewish literature where it often carries a sense of "to vow".3

1. "Pretty sure" because this is drawn from David Clines’ Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, which comprehensively catalogues the objects of this verb + preposition combination in the entire corpus of known Classical Hebrew.

2. The notation // indicates parallel passages. See also: 1 King 8:30 // 2 Chr 6:21; 1 King 8:35 // 2 Chr 6:26; 1 King 8:42 // 2 Chr 6:32.

3. Heinrich Greeven. "εύχομαι". Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. Geoffrey Bromiley. Eerdmans, 1964.

  • I will take a look at Greek later and update if I find anything.
    – Susan
    Nov 16 '15 at 9:46
  • 1
    There is a "partner" to Isaiah 45:14 in the previous chapter, Isaiah 44:17. In OP's terms, perhaps this constitutes praying to a "god", but in the rhetoric of Isaiah 44, clearly it is a "a creature rather than the Creator" to whom both worship and prayer are directed. These are the only two times in the Hebrew Bible that הִתְפַּלֵּל and הִשְׁתַּחֲוָה come together in the same verse, I believe.
    – Dɑvïd
    Nov 16 '15 at 12:25
  • Thanks, @Davïd. I had discounted 44:17 because of the OP’s wording, but I don’t have a good grip on the context. That last sentence surprises me. There’s something interesting there...
    – Susan
    Nov 16 '15 at 12:36
  • That's quite the stunning scripture.
    – user900
    Nov 16 '15 at 14:38
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 I appreciate your “accept”, but the answer wasn’t really complete previously. Hopefully with this edit it more fully covers the gamut of your interests here.
    – Susan
    Nov 25 '15 at 22:04

1 Samual 28:15

And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams:therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy.

Saul, asking a pitition from Samuel, against the will of God and out of desperation. It is clear, that the dead hear him, and that he is making a pitition to Samuel.

Luke 1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee Mary speaks to an Angel.

Luke 1:18

And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years Zacharias speaking to an angel asking a question and recieving an answer.

He is not speaking to God, or the Creator, he is asking a petition a request from an angel.

1 king 2:19-21 Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand. Then she said, I desire one small petition of thee; I pray thee, say me not nay. And the king said unto her, Ask on, my mother:for I will not say thee nay. And she said, Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah thy brother to wife

Bathshaba making a pitition to Solomon

  • Hello Marc, "asking" (a petition) is not synonymous with "praying." When I ask someone a question, I certainly am not praying to them. It is for this reason that I included the disclaimer that I am looking for scriptures whose original texts (in their respective languages) include specific verbs or nouns: By the English verb "praying," I am referring to a conjugation of the Greek verb προσεύχομαι, and by the English noun "prayer," I am referring to the noun Greek προσευχή. Or, if in the Old Testament, I am referring to a conjugation of the Hebrew verb הִתְפַּלֵּל, or the Hebrew noun תְּפִלָּה.
    – user900
    Nov 15 '15 at 19:35
  • Although that translation of 1 Kings 2:19-21 includes the phrase "I pray thee," "pray" in that clause simply means "ask" or "beg," not actually "pray" as we know it today. That sense of "pray" is antiquated English (such as that which the KJV was written in). It should also be noted that the phrase "I pray thee" in 1 Kings 2:20 is italicized in the KJV, which means the translators added it although there is nothing in the Hebrew that actually translates into English as that.
    – user900
    Nov 15 '15 at 19:40
  • 1
    @H3br3wHamm3r81 it would seem a simple word search would find your answer. psalm 103 asks the Angels to bless the lord. Also psalm 148. Both cases are David sending a pitition to the Angels. Rev 5:8 The elders in heaven offer to God the prayers of the Saints on earth, wouldn't they have Been prayed to others if They were not yet received by God? In any event all prayer is directed to God even if those prayers go through intersesser.
    – Marc
    Nov 16 '15 at 3:24
  • 1
    @Marc The OP is asking about Greek and Hebrew words that are quite common in the Bible, and looking through every instance, particularly in languages that are not native to us, is not a trivial task.
    – Susan
    Nov 16 '15 at 10:23

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