Worship God with One-Word Prayer

Worship God with One-Word Prayer June 15, 2023

Prayer is best when we let our words be few—or even a single word. Here are four one-word prayers to help you worship God.

Black and white of a woman praying. "Worship God with One-Word Prayer"
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One-Word Prayers

In the first article of this series, I wrote:

One carefully chosen word can be all it takes to make a whole prayer. For example, think of a time when you were in danger, and you only had a split second to pray. You might have uttered a prayer like, “God!” or “Jesus!”  Prayers like this meant with sincerity aren’t taking the Lord’s name in vain. They are an entire prayer, encapsulated in one word…I will suggest twelve one-word prayers that are all in the original biblical languages…

Each is a word that biblical writers and translators have left untranslated in our English Bibles. Perhaps there’s something about these words in their original forms that help us tap into the divine presence. As you pray these one-word prayers, trust the Spirit to take that single sound you’re making, and translate it into a detailed prayer as it goes before God’s throne.

 

“Hallelujah” or “Allelujah”

This word is found twenty-four times in the Hebrew Bible (primarily in the book of Psalms), and four times in the New Testament (all in the book of Revelation). It is actually a compound word, combining hallel and Jah (or Yah).

Often translated as “praise,” hallel literally means a wild, ecstatic, crazy kind of praise. It’s the kind of whooping and hollering you may give to God while jumping around happily or dancing as David did before the Ark. Hallel is sometimes used to describe someone who acts foolishly–and as our praise should indicate reckless abandon to God, it’s a good description of exuberant worship.  The form hallelu is the second-person imperative masculine plural form of hallel (which is more Hebrew grammar than most people care to know).

Jah or Yah is the shortened form of Yahweh, what many consider to be the Name of God. Because the full name of God was often thought too sacred to be pronounced, it was often abbreviated. The word hallelujah reflects this abbreviation.

So, hallelujah means to make wild praise to Yahweh. When you pray hallelujah as a single-word prayer, you express wild praise. You also ask God to make you a channel of praise–to transform you into a reckless demonstration of His mad glory. What a wonderful prayer to pray!

 

“Hosanna!”

On the day of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the people lined the streets to welcome Him. Waving palm branches and spreading their coats in the road so that His donkey might not set foot on the cobble, they shouted ” “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)!”

Later, after He had cleansed the Temple, “the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ They were indignant, and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise (vv. 15-16)’?”

When you pray the Hebrew word “Hosanna,” you’re really saying, “Save, we pray!”  In the Christian context is a recognition of two things:  First, that Jesus is Lord; and second, that He can save. The people of Jerusalem thought that Jesus, whom they proclaimed as King, would save them from Roman oppression. But God’s salvation is much more than that.

When you pray “Hosanna,” you’re asking for salvation in two ways. You’re asking for spiritual salvation—whatever that means to you. You’re also pleading for God to save you from whatever situation you have in mind. So, you might hold your financial or medical struggle in your mind and simply pray, “Hosanna” over that situation. Or you could rejoice over the eternal salvation that you enjoy by reciting “Hosanna” before the Lord. It is both a word of celebration and petition, depending on your situation.

 

“Koum”

In Mark 5:41, Jesus has entered the home of a young girl who has died. Sending the doubters and mourners away, Jesus gathers the faithful, takes her by the hand, and says to her, Talitha, Koum!” These Aramaic words mean, “Little one, arise!”  Immediately, she opened her eyes and got up.

A friend of mine has a father who was the headmaster of a Christian school in the West Bank. The name of the school was “Talitha Koum.” I can’t think of a better name for a Christian school than, “Little one, arise!”

When you pray this one-word prayer, “Koum,” you’re asking God to help you rise above the mundane or difficult things in life. You’re asking God to take your hand even as Jesus took the child’s hand. You’re praying that something that has been dead inside of you might be brought to new life. Simply repeat this word over and over steadily stretching the word out for the duration of your exhalation. Then draw in a deep breath between each word, and repeat.

 

“Selah”

I know someone in Virginia who owns a beautiful piece of property on rolling wooded hills that slope down to the James River. From his house, he can watch the river roll by and listen to the birds sing. It’s appropriate that he named his estate Selah because this Hebrew word means “Pause and reflect.”

Many Bible scholars believe that the word is a musical notation, while others consider it a call to contemplate the meaning of the preceding words of scripture. Seventy-one times in Psalms and three times in Habakkuk, the word is used to indicate a time of quiet, in the middle of activity. Just as an instrumental score needs musical rests in order to give meaning to the notes, our lives need periods of rest, reflection, and contemplation.

When you pray “Selah,” you are asking God to give you these much-needed times of quiet. You are resting in His silence, between the notes of life. You are pausing to consider, to breathe, to meditate. These Selah moments give meaning to the otherwise jumbled notes of life. Without them, we’d go from movement to movement without taking the time to savor the song.

 

 

Next In the Series…

Join me soon for the next article in this series, “Open Your Soul with One-Word Prayer.”

 

 

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