Tarry comes from the Greek word taira, which means to stay. It is used in several Bible verses: Matthew 2:13-14, Mark 1:12-13, Acts 13:18; 20:35; and John 7:40. The definition for tarry in the above verses is to stay somewhere for a longer period of time. The word can also mean to linger or remain.

The word “tarry” is used in the Bible 1314 times. Here we will discuss its meanings, how it compares with other words and what you can use it for.


Tarrying is the deliberate holding out for an anticipated occurrence.  In Genesis 19:2, Lot asked the two visitors to Sodom to “turn in, I implore you, into your servant’s home, and remain all night (tarry), and wash your feet, and ye shall get up early, and go on your ways.”

This is the earliest recorded usage of the phrase in the KJV Bible. There are other instances of the use of the word ‘tarry’ in the old testament, including in the Psalms of David such as in Psalm 27:14.


However, it was Jesus who institutionalized it as a spiritual activity that has been adopted by believers. Many times, we would regularly get notified to attend tarries in church. These tarry events are most likely at night.

The word tarry comes from the Middle English verbs tarien and terien, which mean “to vex, harass, make to pause, delay,” “to worry, exasperate, torment, agitate, and arouse,” and “to tug, taunt, annoy,” respectively.


What Does Tarry Mean in the Bible?

To tarry means to wait in the presence. the presence is not a place, nor a geographical location. It is an atmosphere, a koinonia, a Christian fellowship where there is communion.

Tarrying is waiting on the Lord with fervent prayer, and concentration, without any distraction. Tarrying is a way of presenting to God your heart’s desires to the Father. tarrying is first seen in Matthew 26:38


Tarrying is a word used in the King James translation of the Bible. It has been translated as “stay” and “restrain” in other translations, but I think it can be used to get the correct meaning across through context.

The word will often be used in the sense of allowing time for something to develop or continue in order to achieve your purpose. In other words, you should tarry until the time and purpose God has given you have culminated into action.

Matthew 26:38 AMP

Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow. Stay here and stay awake and keep watch with Me.”-

Matthew 26: 38 AMP

After Jesus took his disciples to Mount Olives at the Garden of Gethsemane before his betrayal and arrest. “…tarry here and watch with me’. To tarry here means to stay awake and pray. That was exactly what Jesus demanded from His disciples but He found them asleep. They were weak, spiritually.

Genesis 21:5 states that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, making him 75 years old at the time he originally received the promise. Sarah was ninety. Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years for God’s promise to materialize.

What Does it Mean to Tarry in Prayer?

To tarry in prayer means spending a whole time (say at night)in prayer. It could be a time of waiting, a point of alone- with-God. A time filled with soul-lifting songs, prayers, impartation. It could be a time spent in church (night tarry) during some programs or personal tarry. Tarrying is the action that helps on wait on the Lord; it strengthens our faith.

Isaiah 41:21 AMP

“Present your case [for idols made by men’s hands],” says the Lord.
“Produce your evidence [of divinity],”Says the king of Jacob.-

Isaiah 41:21 AMP

And God saith put me to remembrance and bring forth your strong reasons and let us reason together. Ahhh! It is only by tarrying can such a scenario comes up. For the wisdom of God can not be found on the streets. The Bible says Abraham waited for 25 years to receive fulfilment after receiving the promise. It is only in the place of tarrying(prayer) can this be achieved.

It was believed that Eliezer would be Abraham’s successor. Abraham could be able to have a child through a boy born to Sarah’s slave, Hagar, according to another theory (Genesis 16:1–2). God disqualified those men in both instances from being Abraham’s heirs, guiding Abraham and Sarah toward the literal, miraculous realization of the promise.

Waiting on God concerns a specific situation, not a person’s entire life. In that sense, it’s crucial to refrain from taking any independent action to achieve your goals. Allowing Him to communicate His will without our bias or interference is what it means to wait on Him. Job was quoted in the Bible saying “..i will wait until my change comes” ( Job 14:14). Wait!

What is the Origin of the Word Tarry?

The New Testament records tarrying during the Passover night when Jesus had the Last Super with His disciples before his betrayal and arrest, as led by Judas Iscariot. That was when he instituted the communion after that he took them to Mount Oloves at the Garden of Gethsemane(Matthew 26:1-45)

Matthew 26:38 KJV

Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.-

Matthew 26:38 KJV

Our attention is particularly drawn to vs 38. ‘…tarry ye here”. The question is, did the disciples keep watch (tarry) with our Lord? No, they did not. We sometimes fail God to perform certain required responsibilities and turn around to blame someone else or even God.

God help us!

What Does the Bible Say About Tarrying for the Holy Ghost?

Tarrying is a spiritual activity. It simply means waiting on God. The Bible supports tarrying for the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. We first saw in Acts of the Apostle before Jesus’ ascension when he commanded His disciples when they assembled. he commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem.

Acts 1:4 KJV

And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me-

Acts 1:4 KJV

Before being exalted, Jesus was unable to grant Christians access to the Holy Spirit.

This might also imply that Christ was elevated to God’s right hand at the time the Spirit was poured forth on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1–4. When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, Peter started giving a sermon to the audience that had gathered around them. Peter also mentions Jesus when delivering the gospel to the assembled people.

All these hath happened because they tarried (…depart not from Jerusalem).  Jesus before His baptism by John, He waited 30 years. During His baptism, the Holy Spirit came on Him. Waiting on God is a spiritual activity every serious believer should do.

For seven to ten days, the disciples awaited the arrival of the Holy Spirit. This is inferred from the fact that the disciples were granted access to the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which occurred 50 days after Passover. After His resurrection, Jesus Christ was only among them for 40 days before being laid to rest for three days.

Together with the other Christ-followers, they were often in the top chamber praying. They all consistently prayed together, together with the ladies, Jesus’ mother Mary, and his brothers.

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