In the Gospels and Acts the Latinism prai·toʹri·on is used with regard to a palace or residence. The tent of an army commander had been known as praetorium and so, in time, the term was applied to the residence of a provincial governor. Thus Pilate interrogated Jesus in the praetorium or “governor’s palace.” (John 18:28, 33; 19:9; see GOVERNOR’S PALACE.) Evidently judgments were rendered and troops were barracked there. (Matt. 27:27; Mark 15:16) At Caesarea, Paul was “kept under guard in the praetorian palace of Herod.”—Acts 23:35.
In view of this usage, some have suggested that prai·toʹri·on at Philippians 1:13 applied to Nero’s palace on Palatine Hill or to a judgment hall where Paul’s case might be heard. However, the Cyclopœdia by M’Clintock and Strong (Vol. VIII, p. 469) points out: “It was not the imperial palace, . . . for this was never called prætorium in Rome; nor was it the judgment-hall, for no such building stood in Rome, and the name prætoria was not until much later applied to the courts of justice.” When first imprisoned in Rome, Paul was “permitted to stay by himself with the soldier guarding him.” (Acts 28:16) So his prison bonds would have become public knowledge in association with Christ among the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard, and especially so if his guard was changed daily. As a consequence, many translators understand prai·toʹri·on at Philippians 1:13 to signify the Praetorian Guard and not some building or judicial body.—RS, NW, AS, TC.
The Textus Receptus includes at Acts 28:16: “the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard.” (AV) This latter officer has been explained by some to have been Afranius Burrus, the prefect of the Praetorian Guard under Nero from 51-62 C.E. Darby even renders it: “the centurion delivered up the prisoners to the prætorian prefect.” However, Darby’s version puts this material in brackets as an instance where there are variations in the manuscripts. Other modern versions omit the phrase altogether since it is not in ancient manuscripts such as the Sinaitic, Alexandrine and Vatican MS. 1209.—RS, AT, NW, JB.
Worshipful address to the true God, or to false gods. Mere speech to God is not necessarily prayer, as seen in the judgment in Eden and in the case of Cain. (Gen. 3:8-13; 4:9-14) Prayer involves devotion, trust, respect and a sense of dependence on the one to whom the prayer is directed. The various Hebrew and Greek words relating to prayer convey such ideas as to ask, make request, petition, entreat, supplicate, plead, beseech, beg, implore favor, seek, inquire of, as well as to praise, thank and bless.
Petitions and supplications, of course, can be made to men, and the original-language words are sometimes so used (Gen. 44:18; 50:17; Acts 25:11), but the English word “prayer,” used in a religious sense, does not apply to such cases. One might “beseech” or “implore” another person to do something, but in so doing he would not view this individual as his God. He would not, for example, silently petition such one, nor do so when the individual was not visibly present, as one does in prayer to God.
THE “HEARER OF PRAYER”
The entire Scriptural record testifies that Jehovah is the One to whom prayer should be directed (Ps. 5:1, 2; Matt. 6:9), that he is the “Hearer of prayer” (Ps. 65:2; 66:19), and has power to act on behalf of the petitioners. (Mark 11:24; Eph. 3:20) To pray to false gods and their idol images is exposed as stupidity, for the idols have neither ability to hear nor to act, and the gods they represent are unworthy of comparison with the true God. (Judg. 10:11-16; Ps. 115:4, 6; Isa. 45:20; 46:1, 2, 6, 7) The contest concerning godship between Baal and Jehovah, held on Mount Carmel, demonstrated the foolishness of prayer to false deities.—1 Ki. 18:21-39; compare Judges 6:28-32.
Though some claim that prayer may properly be addressed to others, such as to God’s Son, the evidence is emphatically to the contrary. True, there are rare instances in which words are addressed to Jesus Christ in heaven. Stephen, when about to die, appealed to Jesus, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59) However, the context reveals a circumstance giving basis for this exceptional expression. Stephen at that very time had a vision of “Jesus standing at God’s right hand,” and therefore evidently felt free to speak this plea to the one whom he recognized as the head of the Christian congregation. (Acts 7:55, 56; Col. 1:18) Similarly, the apostle John, at the conclusion of the Revelation, says, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20) But again the context shows that, in a vision (Rev. 1:10; 4:1, 2), John had been hearing Jesus speak of his future coming and thus John responded with the above expression of his desire for that coming. (Rev. 22:16, 20) In both cases, that of Stephen and of John, the situation differs little from that of the conversation John had with a heavenly person in this Revelation vision. (Rev. 7:13, 14; compare Acts 22:6-22.) There is nothing to indicate that Christian disciples so expressed themselves to the resurrected Jesus under other circumstances. Thus, the apostle Paul writes: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.”—Phil. 4:6.
The article APPROACH TO GOD considers the position of Christ Jesus as the one through whom prayer is directed. Through Jesus’ blood, offered to God in sacrifice, “we have boldness for the way of entry into the holy place,” that is, boldness to approach God’s presence in prayer, approaching “with true hearts in the full assurance of faith.” (Heb. 10:19-22) Jesus Christ is therefore the one and only “way” of reconciliation with God and approach to God in prayer.—John 14:6; 15:16; 16:23, 24; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 2:18; see JESUS CHRIST (His Vital Place in God’s Purpose).
THOSE WHOM GOD HEARS
People “of all flesh” may come to the “Hearer of prayer,” Jehovah God. (Ps. 65:2; Acts 15:17) Even during the period that Israel was God’s “private property,” his covenant people, foreigners could approach Jehovah in prayer by recognizing Israel as God’s appointed instrument and the temple at Jerusalem as his chosen place for sacrifice. (Deut. 9:29; 2 Chron. 6:32, 33; compare Isaiah 19:22.) Later, by Christ’s death, the distinction between Jew and Gentile was forever removed. (Eph. 2:11-16) At the home of the Italian Cornelius, Peter recognized that “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) The determining factor, then, is the heart of the individual and what his heart is moving him to do. (Ps. 119:145; Lam. 3:41) Those who observe God’s commandments and do “the things that are pleasing in his eyes” have the assurance that his “ears” are also open to them.—1 John 3:22; Ps. 10:17; Prov. 15:8; 1 Pet. 3:12.
Conversely, those who disregard God’s Word and law, shedding blood, and practicing other wickedness, do not receive a favorable hearing with God; their prayers are “detestable” to him. (Prov. 15:29; 28:9; Isa. 1:15; Mic. 3:4) The very prayer of such ones can “become a sin.” (Ps. 109:3-7) King Saul, by his presumptuous, rebellious course, lost God’s favor and, “although Saul would inquire of Jehovah, Jehovah never answered him, either by dreams or by the Urim or by the prophets.” (1 Sam. 28:6) Jesus said that hypocritical persons who sought to draw attention to their piety in praying received their “reward in full”—from men, but not from God. (Matt. 6:5) The pious-appearing Pharisees made long prayers, boasted of their superior morality, yet were condemned by God for their hypocritical course. (Mark 12:40; Luke 18:10-14) Though they drew near with their mouths, their hearts were far from God and his Word of truth.—Matt. 15:3-9; compare Isaiah 58:1-9.