“The place of penthos in prayer”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 39

Is there a place for tears in prayer? Is crying a sign of indisciplined emotions? Or is it a sign of spiritual health? 

I bring you a fourth look at the book by Richard Foster, “Prayer: finding the heart’s true home”. Richard talks about the significance of the “Prayer of tears”, or, ‘Penthos’.

What is ‘penthos’?

According to the Mounce’s Expository Dictionary, it means,

“to mourn, grieve, bewail. This word is used in contexts of mourning over disasters or grieving the loss of someone. Mourning is often associated with weeping. While in classical Greek usage, penthos was a passion that a wise person must intentionally avoid, in the NT mourning is encouraged in contexts of sorrow over grievous sin and is acceptable and appropriate in cases of overwhelming disasters.” Mounce, William D., D. Matthew Smith, and Miles V. Van Pelt, eds. MED. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.3. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Not being the most emotionally demonstrative person, I question the appropriateness of tears in prayer. We will take a couple of weeks looking at this, but today let’s survey some biblical examples.

1. Old Testament

Some classic Old Testament crying personalities include Isaiah, “I drench you with my tears O Heshbon and Elealeh.” Isaiah 16:9. Jeremiah, of course, is often called the “weeping prophet” – “O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!” Jeremiah 9:1.

Several Psalmists spent time crying, “Every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” Psalm 6:6. “Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not on your record?” Psalm 56:8. “My tears have been my food day and night.” Psalm 43:3

2. Jesus

Was Jesus a crying person? The writer to the Hebrews tells us he, “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” Hebrews 5:7.

He wept at the tomb of Lazarus, John 11:35.

He taught, “blessed are those who mourn”, Matthew 5:4. He was kind to Mary when she washed his feet with her tears, Luke 7:36-50.

3. Paul

Paul a tough guy. Was he someone who cried? 

He came to Asia “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears”, Acts 20:19. He warned “everyone with tears” Acts 20:31, and when he wrote to the church in Corinth he did so, “out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears”. He rejoiced that they had godly sorrow which led to repentance, 2 Corinthians 7:7-11.


If the Old Testament Prophets and Psalmists, if Jesus and the Apostle Paul were all people who cried in a healthy way, who are we to resist it?

Next time we will go on to look at the potential spiritual benefits to us of praying this “prayer of tears”. 

Between now and then, why not have a look at some of the other examples of spiritual men and women shedding tears. What do you learn about their relationship with God? 


Do you shy away from crying in your prayers? If so, why might that be? What do you think could be a spiritual benefit to you being more in tune emotionally with your sin, the broken heart of God and the sins of this world?

Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm


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“How to be a human preacher”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 104

How do we keep our ‘humanness’ as preachers? You don’t have to be perfect, but you can’t be a hypocrite.

“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Corinthians 11:29 NIV11)
Three tips for today:
  1. Share your sins
  2. Share weaknesses
  3. Don’t beat yourself up
Thank you for listening to this podcast and watching this video. You can find more teaching tips here and on the YouTube teaching tips playlist.
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
Thanks again for listening and watching. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.
God bless,

Being A-Tent-ive

TentAs a child I loved the Beatles song, “We all live in a yellow submarine”. Sounded like a great idea to me at the time. I think I might have actually had a plastic model – one you could play with in the bath. Long gone now. But where do we live? I was set to thinking about this by something I saw this morning.

My morning prayer walk takes me through a local park. Part way through my devotions, a man appeared from nowhere. An angel come to encourage my prayer time? There was no gate into the park here. I was curious. Who was this man? Where had he come from? Where might he be going? He was some distance off and walked away from me, so I did not pursue him. That might of been a bit weird!

Instead, I walked on to the spot where I had first seen him. Lo and behold, there was a tent hidden in a laurel bush. I did not investigate further, but took a picture and turned to find the man out of sight. I’m curious as to who he is, but it occurred to me that we all live in tents. As Paul said,

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–6 NIV11)

Perhaps Paul used this image because he was a tentmaker (Acts 18.3). Perhaps also he had in mind the tabernacle – a temporary structure symbolising God’s dwelling with men, just as our temporary body is a ‘tent’ for the Holy Spirit (Jn 14.17).

My unidentified park tent-dweller has no running water, no electricity and, I’d wager, no heating. It’s getting colder at this time of year and I wonder how much longer he is intending to stay a-tenting. He will feel the cold and the inconvenience. I don’t know if it will make him long for something more comfortable, but I dare say he is aware of what he is missing.

Am I? Am I aware of what I am missing? Aware of what is still to come – what I’m on my way to inherit? Or do the comforts of this world allure too strongly? One of the challenges of the Christian life is to embrace this life in all its fullness, while retaining an eagerness to be prepared for the next life. Perhaps the best way to find the blend of present living with future hope is to read and absorb the Bible. Peter said,

“I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” (2 Peter 1:13–15 NIV11)

He wanted his readers to remember certain things. What are they? Well, let me set you a small task – read 2 Peter and list the issues he wanted remembered. Perhaps this list will keep your tent in order until you lay it aside.

I’ll be through the park again on Thursday. I wonder if the tent will still be there.


How can we recognise false teachers? 2 Corinthians 11.12-15

How do we know when we are in the presence of false teachers? Paul tells the Corinthian church that they have some such among them. What might be the practical application for us?

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Website: www.malcolmcox.org

“Ever Increasing Glory” 2 Corinthians 3.7-18

What is the ministry of the Holy Spirit? How is the New Covenant superior to the Old Covenant? Paul writes to the Corinthians about righteousness and freedom and we learn what that means for our boldness and access to God.

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Don’t forget to subscribe.

Follow me here: @mccx
Website: www.malcolmcox.org