This is part 1 of 3 of “Prayers in the Bible”. This post focuses on Old Testament Prayers; excluding the Psalms because they need their own post. Part 2 next week will focus on New Testament prayers and the final week will be Praying the Psalms.
I tried to keep my commentary to a minimum so that you can let the Holy Spirit lead as you pray these beautiful, God inspired prayers back to Him.
My husband and I have been reading through the book, “Praying the Bible” by Donald Whitney. One of the things he mentions several times is that people don’t pray because they get bored, and they get bored because they say the same old thing about the same old thing. He then encourages believers to pray as they read the scriptures, particularly, the Psalms.
My husband and I have been praying similarly for years by a four-fold method introduced by Strategic Renewal called worship based prayer. This prayer starts with focusing on a scripture and letting it guide how you pray. It follows this pattern, based on the verses read: a heart turned toward praising God, then confession, followed by requests, and ending with our will yielded to God.
I would recommend either resources to supplement using the Bible as a guide for prayer. Sometimes people just need an easy jumping off point with ready made prayers they can pray or pattern their prayers after. There are many prayers found in the Bible that can be used in this way. Let’s explore.
Prayers in the Old Testament
There are many prayers in the Old Testament. I am including prayers from the people of faith under the old covenant that have inspired me in my own prayer life. I think it’s important to see that God was always the same caring father that we see all through out scripture as these people have such a personal relationship with Him.
Jacob and his brother Esau have some bad blood. Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright and his father’s blessing. Jacob is about to meet his brother for the first time in years. His prayer is one born out of great fear and need, but also humility in his reliance on God.
He acknowledges God’s past kindness and begs for mercy and salvation. He remembers the promise of God as he closes the prayer. This prayer always remind me of how dependent we should always be on our Lord.
Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”Genesis 32:9-12 NIV
Hannah was a woman who loved God, loved her husband, but had more love to give. More than anything, she wanted a son. When God grants her this blessing, she prays a beautiful psalm of praise and worship to God.
Her prayer reminds us that God is the giver of all good gifts and that He is worthy of all praise. Use her prayer to praise God inserting your own boasts over what He has done for you.
Then Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
“There is no one holy like the Lord;1 Samuel 2:1-2 NIV
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
You can find Hannah’s entire prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
King Solomon’s Prayer
God told Solomon, King David’s son, in a dream that he could ask for anything. Solomon ask for wisdom, a heart of discernment to know right and wrong. Because of this humility and dependence, God blessed Solomon with wealth and honor. Solomon also prayed a prayer of dedication when the temple was complete in 2 Chronicles 6.
Solomon recognizes God’s faithfulness, kindness, and great wisdom. Once we realize that true wisdom, discernment, and justice are God’s alone, we can cry out to God for a heart that does His will alone and He will grant it. James 1:5 NIV says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”I Kings 3:6-9 NIV
King Hezekiah’s Prayer
Judah was in a bad place. The Assyrian army was barring down on them. Hezekiah had refused to pay tribute to them any longer. The Assyrians were not an idle threat. They were known for ruthless and torturous warfare against anyone who oppossed them. Not only were they physically intimidating, but they were taunting Israel and their God.
Hezekiah’s prayer was born out of desperation and sheer terror of what might become of him and his people. He showed to be a true godly leader by praying on behalf of the nation He led. He showed true submission to the Lord by recognizing Him as the One, True God and and King and as the only one able to deliver them. (And, in case you don’t know, He did.)
And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.
“It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”2 Kings 19:15-19 NIV
Daniel is one of my favorite men of faith in the OT. He was taken, as a young man, captive into Babylon and made to serve in the king’s palace. God blessed him because of his unwavering faith and commitment to obey God over man.
One day as Daniel was studying the prophet Jeremiah, he discovered the promise that the exile would only last 70 years. He began to cry out to God on behalf of all the people of Israel for forgiveness and for the fulfillment of that promise. This is a great prayer to pattern on behalf of a any group: family, church, community, or nation.
I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you.Daniel 9:4-7 NIV
I ordered all of the other prayers chronologically, but I saved this one for last because it is a prayer I identify with and pray often. I need wisdom like Solomon and find myself praising God a lot with Hannah, but so often like Jehoshaphat, I just tell the Lord, “I am confused and have no idea what to do. So, I’m looking to you.”
This is not a prayer for giving up but rather a prayer that looks up to the only one who can intervene, solve, and work miracles. Judah needed a miracle at this time as three countries had come together to wage war on them. King Jehoshaphat turns to God, ascribes Him all power and relies on Him as their only hope.
Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV
Read the entire prayer as well as God’s response in 2 Chronicles 20.
More Prayer Resources
Prayer is such an important spiritual discipline. In my mind, we have never arrived in our prayer life. We can always pray more! I hope some of these resources along with this post help encourage and grow your prayer life as they have mine.