D. Monje, July 2004
A few months ago, I felt that God was calling me
to a deeper prayer life. I decided to meditate on
the prayers of the prophets. Also, I found it helpful
to study out the prayers of Christ. As I dug deeper,
I ended up surveying the whole Bible on the subject
of prayer. One thing is certain: the Bible has more
than enough references to prayer-commands, records,
examples, and allusions to show that God desires to
have a prayerful people. It was both a sobering and
inspiring study for me.
In the following sections, you will find listed the
various prayers mentioned in the different parts of
the Bible. I hope that this summary will encourage
you to also study out prayer in the Bible. This will
surely enrich your walk with God. Here are some helpful
study questions when you look at prayers in the Bible:
1. What caused the person to pray?
2. What was the condition of the person's heart when
3. Why was the prayer answered (or not answered)?
4. What can I learn here about God's character?
5. Is there anything I can change in my prayer life
based on this example?
A. Prayers in the Pentateuch
The books from Genesis to Deuteronomy mention prayers
of many different kinds. Although collectively the
first five books comprise what is called "The
Law", it is not just a cold, legal document.
Principles and patterns of prayer (non-legal in nature)
stand out. Most of the prayers are requests and pleas,
but there are also praises and complaints:
1. Cain's prayer is the first one mentioned in Scripture.
In Ge 4:13-15, he cried out to God as he bore the
consequence of his sin.
2. Abraham has several times of prayer recorded in
his storyline. He prayed for a son in Ge 15:1-9),
and for different people as well: for Ishmael in Ge
17:20 and for Abimelech in Ge 20:17. Another time
he prayed for the city of Sodom (Ge 18:23-33).
3. Hagar is recorded as praying for deliverance (Ge
4. Lot bargained with God regarding his escape plan
in Ge 19:20.
5. Abraham's servant (possibly Eliezer) sought specific
guidance from God in Ge 24:12-52. This is a great
example of specific, pointed prayer.
6. Rebekah cried out to God concerning her pains in
pregnancy (Ge 25:22-23).
7. Jacob, finally facing up to his faults, pleaded
for deliverance from Esau (Ge 32:9-32; 33:1-17).
8. Moses had a whole lot of prayers lifted up to God.
In Exodus, Moses asked for help at the Red Sea (Ex
14:15-16), at the waters of Marah (Ex 15:25), at Horeb
(Ex 17:4-6), and in the battle versus the Amalekites
(Ex 17:8-14). In Numbers 11, he went to God concerning
the grumbling of the Israelites for flesh (Nu 11:11-35)
and in the chapter following in behalf of Miriam's
leprosy (Nu 12:13-15).
Questions for reflection:
1. How does our character affect our prayer life?
2. How did God train Israel to be prayerful? Note:
Aside from these examples, the Israelites are also
mentioned as having "cried unto the Lord"
(Nu 20:16; De 26:7). This means that they had prayed
although the actual words of their prayer were never
recorded. In each case, Israel is presented as helpless
without God, and it is He who is ultimately the Savior
of the nation. Without divine intervention, sure ruin
would have come to Israel.
Suggested topics for study: How Moses spoke with God,
Jacob's "habit" of altar-building; Abraham's
call and prayer life, How God trained Israel to pray
B. Prayers in the History Books
More detailed prayers are given in the history books.
Interwoven within the annals of ancient Israel are
the lucid narratives of men who sought a deep relationship
God. More pronouncedly than the Pentateuch, the History
books portray the connection between a man's leadership
and his prayer life. Also, with David as a chief example,
the History books give greater detail into how God's
people made various requests to God. It is clear that
those who rely on God receive favor. Some of their
prayers are listed below:
1. Joshua prayed a unique, radical prayer for the
sun to stand still (Jos 10:12-14). This chapter displays
God's power over creation in behalf of man.
2. Gideon, before his debut as Israel's leader, asked
for a sign of dew (Jdg 6:36-40). The chapter actually
records more appeals for proof of God's approval.
Gideon's confidence in God's promises needed boosting.
3. Manoah asked for guidance about his child, saying
"teach us how to bring up the boy". This
prayer about raising Samson was heard by God (Jdg
4. Samson begged for strength for one last time, gaining
retribution for his demise (Jdg 16:28-30).
5. Hannah asked for a child after many years of being
barren (1Sa 1:10-17, 19-20).
6. David has a well-recorded prayer life. His prayers
include inquiring whether Keilah would be delivered
into his hands (1Sa 23:10-12), inquiring about Ziklag
(1Sa 30:8), asking whether he should enter Judah after
Saul's death (2Sa 2:1), and asking whether he should
go to war against the Philistines (2Sa 5:19-25). Some
of David's other prayers are found in the Psalms (e.g.
Ps 118:5; 138:3).
7. Solomon prayed for wisdom at the start of his reign
(1Ki 3:1-13). He also prayed at the dedication of
the temple (1Ki 8:23-53; 2Ch 6:14-42).
8. Hezekiah prayed to God for a chance to serve a
longer time (2Ki 20:2+). Hezekiah reminded God of
his faithfulness, both in his personal conduct and
in his righteous deeds, and of his wholehearted devotion
to God. Earlier he had prayed for deliverance from
Sennacherib (2Ki 19:14-20; 2Ch 32:20-23).
9. Elijah's life was built on prayer. Only by asking
God was the widow's son raised (1Ki 17:22). At the
famous challenge of Mt. Carmel, God answered his plea
for fire on his sacrifice(1Ki 18:36-38). Elijah's
prayers also affected the rain (1Ki 17:1; 18:1, 42-45;
10. Elisha is recorded as praying to God to open the
eyes of his servant. He later leads the Syrian army
to submission (2Ki 6:1, 17-20).
11. Jabez implored for prosperity in 1Ch 4:10.
12. Abijah asked for victory over Jeroboam (2Ch 13:14-18).
13. Asa asked for victory over Zerah (2Ch 14:11-15).
14. Jehoshaphat asked for victory over the Canaanites
(2Ch 18:31; 20:6-7)
15. Jehoahaz asked for victory over Hazael (2Ki 13:4)
16. Manasseh asked for deliverance from the king of
Babylon (2Ch 33:13, 19)
17. Ezra prayed to God upon hearing of intermarriage
among the people (Ezr 9:5-6; 10:1)
18. Nehemiah opened his account with prayer (Ne 1:4-11).
The book has several other prayers and references
to prayer (e.g. 2:4).
Aside from the individuals mentioned above, several
groups are mentioned as lifting up prayers to God.
The Reubenites pleaded for deliverance from the Hagrites
(1Ch 5:20). The priests also offered prayer in behalf
of the people in 2 Chr 30:27. Although not as specific
about prayer, the people of Judah are mentioned to
have sought God "with their whole desire"
(2Ch 15:15). Upon returning from the Captivity, the
Jews also offered up prayers to God while fasting
(Ezr 8:21, 23).
Suggested topics for study: Joshua's Radical Prayer,
Nehemiah's prayer life, The Heart of David in prayer,
Ezra's prayer in Ezra 10, Prayer and Faithfulness
C. Prayers in the Prophets & Psalms
The prophets acted as God's spokesmen for many centuries.
For sure it was vital for these men to have a dynamic
walk with the Lord. The instances of prayer mentioned
in the prophets--books from Isaiah to Malachi--are
few but significant. Of course, it would be impossible
for these men to remain in their vocation without
powerful prayer. I am sure that many prayers of the
prophets were left unrecorded. In Isaiah 6 for example,
the prophet has a discourse with God in a vision.
Elsewhere in the book he does not actually pray to
God, but prayer his is mentioned in 2 Ki 20:11. Here
are some of the instances of prayer mentioned in the
1. Jeremiah prayed to God, seeking reassurance for
his "risky" purchase of land (Jer 32:16-25).
This section records an intense conversation between
God and the prophet.
2. Ezekiel bargained for another way to bake bread
(Eze 4:12-15). This had a spiritual significance in
his life as a prophet.
3. Daniel was known for his consistent prayer life
(Da 6:10-11). He prayed for divine revelation and
interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Da 2:19-23)
and also interceded for the people (Da 9:20-23).
4. Jonah found himself praying from inside a big fish
5. Habakkuk questioned God as he complained and lamented
Questions for thought:
1. What was the role of prayer in a prophet's life?
2. What could have been some of the prophets' difficulties
3. What can I learn from the prayers of the prophets?
All the Psalms could be read as "lifting up
hearts before God." In this way, the Psalms present
a valuable treasure trove of prayer. The Psalms represent
the whole range of human emotion and teach us how
to express ourselves to God at different times. That
is why the Psalms are so "relatable" to
us. By reading through the Psalms, meditating on them,
and reciting them aloud, we learn to communicate with
God the way his ancient peoples did.
D. Prayers of the New Testament
The New Testament chronicles a lesser number of prayers
than the Old. Because of the letters however, we are
given richer insight into how the apostles prayed:
their content and manner. Here are some prayers recorded
in the NT, with the prayers of Christ reserved for
1. Zechariah prayed for a son (Lk 1:13).
2. Anna served God with fasting and prayer (Lk 2:37).
3. Paul asked to be delivered from death (2Co 1:9-11).
4. Stephen prayed as he neared death (Ac 7:59-60).
5. Paul and Silas were praying in prison, being heard
by the other inmates (Ac 16:25).
6. Peter prayed for the dead Tabitha (Ac 9:40). Another
time he is went up on the roof to pray (Ac 10:9).
7. Cornelius' piety was shown by his prayers (Ac 10:30).
In Acts, the disciples are seen praying for Peter's
protection (Ac 12:5-17). This shows that there was
an atmosphere of prayer in the church (check out the
role of prayer in Acts 1, 6, and 13). After the gospels
and Acts, the Epistles hold a vast number of prayers
penned by the authors. These give us insight into
how the Apostles prayed. See for example Paul's prayers:
for Ephesians (Eph 1:15-19; 3:14-19), for Philippians
(Php 1:3-5, 9), for Colossians (Col 1:3, 9), for Thessalonians
(1Th 1:2; 3:10, 12-13; 5:23; 2Th 1:11-12; 2:16-17;
3:5, 16), for Onesiphorus (2Ti 1:16, 18), for Philemon
The prayers of Christ deserve special attention. Not
only are they frequent and varied, but they uniquely
open a window into the very heart of God. The prayers
of Jesus are moving and gripping. They teach us how
to approach God humbly yet forcefully.
Here are some passages describing the prayer life
of our Lord:
1. Jesus began his day early with prayer (Mk 1:35).
This reflects discipline and dependence.
2. Jesus sought to have private times with God, especially
in the mountains (Mt 14:23; Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16;
6:12; 9:18, 28-29).
3. Jesus' custom was giving thanksgiving before eating
(Mt 14:19; 15:36; 26:26-27; Mk 6:41; 8:6; 1Co 11:24).
4. Jesus depended on God in times of distress (Jn
12:27; Heb 5:7). He showed this at Gethsemane (Mt
26:36-44; Mk 14:32-35; Lk 22:41-44; Heb 5:7) and on
the cross (Mt 27:46; Lk 23:34, 46).
5. Jesus blessed children (Mt 19:13, 15; Mk 10:16).
6. Jesus prayed for his disciples, just like he told
Peter (Lk 22:31-32). He also prayed for all believers
(Jn 17:1-26). This reflects his big heart for people.
7. Jesus had specific requests to God. He presented
his desires at the grave of Lazarus (Jn 11:41-42).
He also prayed for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit
A study of Jesus' prayer life shows how mortal man
can have a dynamic relationship with God. Jesus' prayers,
whether on a mountain (Mt 14:23; Mk 6:46; Lk 6:12;
9:28) or in the wilderness (Lk 5:16), give us great
insight into true personal worship with God. His example
of prayer was one-of-a kind. It is evident from the
gospels that Jesus believed in prayer, told men to
pray, and prayed a lot himself. Jesus' teachings matched
his own superlative example; I would say he was the
most "prayed up" man ever. His prayers were
frequent, sincere and personal. Jesus understood that
the Father sought worshippers and that our worship
satisfies His loving heart. That is why his prayers
pleased God; they met God's desire. This was the new
spiritual worship that Jesus described to the Samaritan
woman. Because God is Spirit, we must worship in spirit.
As God is, so His worshippers. Anyone who prays more
like Christ is on a good spiritual track.
The Bible has so much about prayer that a whole
lifetime would not be enough to exhaust the learning
and the experience. Praise God that he has given us
every day of our lives to enjoy our relationship with
him. I pray that this summary of prayers in the Bible
will inspire you to grow in your own prayer life.
A close walk with God is a priceless gift.
A growing prayer life is worth the time and effort.
Even the chance to approach God is something we don't
deserve. To have a "good talk" with the
Lord is better than anything in the world. There is
nothing as fulfilling, as enjoyable, or as powerful.