Recently, a couple friends feeling down asked me to pray for them. Later, as I considered my prayer, I felt dissatisfied. I realized my prayer was misdirected—it focused on their experience. Wouldn’t it have served them better, if I had turned their attention to the awesome, faithful, gracious God we love and serve?
Prayers I read in the Bible—in both Old and New Testaments—are passionate and worshipful. They acknowledge God’s faithfulness, his steadfast love, all his virtuous characteristics, before making requests of him. The prayers are powerful, effective, instructive.
I want to praise God like David. I want to honor God in prayer like Daniel. I want to pray over my friends and family like Paul. I want to pour out my heart in prayer like Jesus Christ. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned by looking at prayers in the Bible:
- David’s prayers acknowledge God’s sovereignty and authority over all creation.
“Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head overall.Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. I Chronicles 29: 10-14 (ESV)
- Daniel’s prayers humbly acknowledge his (and Israel’s) transgressions.
“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…” Daniel 9 :4-7 (ESV)
- Jonah’s prayers acknowledge the Lord listens to our prayers.
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry…” Jonah 2: 1-2 (ESV)
- Mary’s prayers acknowledge the God’s mercy.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation…” Luke 1: 46-50 (ESV)
- Jesus’ prayers acknowledge a willingness to submit to God’s will.
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…’” Matthew 6: 9-10 (ESV)
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26: 39 (ESV)
- Paul’s prayers acknowledge our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonshipthrough Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:3-8 (ESV)
Let’s worship God for his character and sovereignty; let’s confess our rebellion and transgressions against his authority; let’s thank him for his compassion, mercy, and kindness to us; let’s surrender our will and our lives to him as an offering of worship; let’s praise God for his great salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of our future with him in glory!