Biblehub shows the word "prayed" in Acts 7:59 used by the New International Version Bible is derived from the Greek ἐπικαλούμενον (epikaloumenon). This is the same word used in Acts 25:11 for the word "appeal".

Why did the New International Version used the word "pray" in Acts 7:59 when the Greek origin clearly means appeal as shown on Biblehub.

Acts 25:11's I "appeal"

I appeal

ἐπικαλοῦμαι (epikaloumai) Verb - Present Indicative Middle - 1st Person Singular Strong's 1941: (a) To call (name) by a supplementary (additional, alternative) name, (b) mid: To call upon, appeal to, address.

Acts 7:59 Stephen "appealed"

ἐπικαλούμενον (epikaloumenon) Verb - Present Participle Middle - Accusative Masculine Singular Strong's 1941: (a) To call (name) by a supplementary (additional, alternative) name, (b) mid: To call upon, appeal to, address.

How do these translators choices for the word "pray" compare to Jesus use of the word "pray" in Matthew 6:7 "when ye pray (proseuchomai)"?

2 Answers 2


Let's look at the Greek in Acts 7:59

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I would say that "pray" is not the best translation. However, it still makes sense if we consider the context.

Context: Paul on one hand, (Acts 25:11) is making a formal legal appeal to Caesar for his case to be heard. The context is a legal proceeding. Here, the word "appeal" makes sense because it reflects seeking legal recourse.

On the other hand, Stephen, while being stoned to death, is addressing Jesus, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Stephen calling out to Jesus in this moment would make sense as an appeal or request for Jesus' to receive his spirit. This is not referring to a legal action, but simple communication. Calling out to Jesus.

So, what is prayer?

a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship. an earnest hope or wish. [Oxford languages]

  1. a devout petition to God or an object of worship.

  2. a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession. [a]

Prayer is communication with God. [b]

The specific choice of translation depends on the context. And the context shows that Stephen is talking to Jesus. A man he calls Lord. So while I don't believe that it reflects the Greek language the best, it does seem to fit the definition of what it means to pray.

  • The original meaning of the word in question does not support what you stated, "Calling out to God". Commented Apr 13 at 9:25
  • The original word supports "To call upon". I suppose "God" would be trinitarian bias.
    – Jason_
    Commented Apr 13 at 9:30
  • I see you edited your answer. So why do you think NIV chose the word pray to translate (epikaloumenon) to "call upon" or "appeal"? Commented Apr 13 at 9:45

The meaning of ἐπικαλέω (epikaleó) is given by BDAG as:

  1. to call upon a deity for any purpose, to call upon, call out, eg, Rom 10:12, 13, 14, 2 Tim 2:22, Acts 2:22, 7:59, 9:14, 21, 22:16, 1 Cor 1:2, 1 Peter 1:17, etc
  2. to address or characterize someone by a special term, call, give a surname, eg, Matt 10:3, 25, Acts 4:36, 10:5, 18, 32, 11:13, 12:12, 25, 13:1, 15:22, Luke 22:3, Heb 11:16, etc
  3. a request to put to a higher judicial authority for review of a decision in a lower court, appeal, eg, Acts 25:11, 21, 25, 26:32, 28:19.
  4. to invoke an oath, call on someone as a witness, eg, 2 Cor 1:23.

Thus, we have several shades of meaning all surrounding the central idea of calling out to someone.

In the case of meaning #1, in all cases, when the calling out is to a supernatural being, it is only to God and thus can be legitimately called, "praying". Now, V59 should not be divorced from V60 -

(Acts 7:59, 60): While they were stoning him, Stephen called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Falling on his knees, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

There are two things that are significant about this:

  1. That Stephen prayed to “Lord Jesus” at all, implying Jesus was divine
  2. That Stephen asked Jesus to receive his breath/spirit. This is a direct allusion to at least two OT passages:
  • Ps 31:5 - Into Your hands I commit my spirit/breath; You have redeemed me, O LORD, God of truth.
  • Eccl 12:7 - before the dust returns to the ground from which it came and the spirit/breath returns to God who gave it. In both cases, Stephen obviously believed that Jesus was the God who receives his breath/life as he died. This is the reverse of what is recorded in Gen 2:7 where God bequeaths the breath of life to man (Adam).

Thus, Acts 7:59 is a perfect example of Stephen praying to Jesus. See appendix below for more examples. Thus, it appears to have been quite common for NT people to pray to Jesus.

APPENDIX - Prayers to Jesus

There are numerous cases in the NT of People praying directly to Jesus. Here is a sample:

  • John 4:10 - Jesus answered and said to her, "If you had known the gift of God and who it is saying to you, 'Give Me to drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given to you living water."
  • John 14:13, 14 -And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me for anything in My name, I will do it. Acts 1:24, 25 - And they prayed, “Lord, You know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two You have chosen to take up this ministry and apostleship, which Judas abandoned to go to his rightful place.”
  • Acts 7:59, 60 - While they were stoning him, Stephen appealed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Falling on his knees, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
  • Acts 9:5 - “Who are You, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied.
  • 1 Cor 1:2 - To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours
  • 2 Cor 12:8, 9 - Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”
  • 1 Tim 1:12 - I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, that He considered me faithful and appointed me to service.
  • Rev 5 contains numerous prayers of praise to Jesus, eg, V8-10, V11, 12, V13.
  • Rev 22:20 - He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
  • Matt 28:17 - When they saw Him, they worshiped Him [this one for completeness] See also Matt 2:11, 14:33, 28:9, Luke 4:8; 24:52; John 9:38, Rom 10:9, Heb 1:5, 6, Phil 2:10, etc.
  • Are all these calling out/praying have the same sense as praying to God? Can you also clarify for completeness how the same act of worship was rendered to both God and king David? 1 Chronicles 29:20 Commented Apr 13 at 15:05
  • @AlexBalilo - first, 1 Chron 29:20 is in a different language and involves a verb בָּֽרְכוּ = to bless or kneel. Prayer is not mentioned. If you wish to ask about this text, ask another question.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 13 at 21:17
  • Are all these calling out /praying have the same sense as praying to God? Worship is mentioned in your answer, that was why I asked you to clarify how the same act of worship can be rendered to both the king and God. The calling out that appear on your answer doesn't not appear to be the same as the word "pray" that Jesus used in Matthew 6:7. Commented Apr 14 at 3:20
  • @AlexBalilo - of course they are different words, that is why one is calling out and the other praying - but prayer is, among other things, calling out to God. "Lord save me" is as much a prayer as any other.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 14 at 4:40
  • So the examples you cited for the word (pray)ing to Jesus carry no religious supplication. Commented Apr 14 at 5:02

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