The Prayers of Pray-ers

The Bible is all about God, and that is why the practice of prayer is so pervasive throughout its pages.

In Genesis we see every one of the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—praying with familiarity and directness. Abraham’s doggedly insistent prayer for God’s mercy on the pagan cities of Sodom and Gomorrah is remarkable (Gen 18:23ff). In Exodus, prayer was the way Moses secured the liberation of Israel from Egypt.

“Far be it from me,” said the prophet Samuel to his people, “that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (1 Sam 12:23). To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule—it is a failure to treat God as God. It is a sin against his glory.

Move to the Psalms. Much of it was written by King David and is God’s inspired prayer book. It is filled with appeals to “you who hear prayer” (Ps 65:2). David's son Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem and then dedicated it with a magnificent prayer.

Solomon’s main petition for the temple “was that from it God would hear his people’s prayers.” Indeed, Solomon’s highest prayer was for the gift of prayer itself. Beyond that, he hoped those from other nations would “hear of your great name . . . and pray toward this temple” (1 Kings 8:42). Again we see prayer is simply a recognition of the greatness of God.

The Old Testament book of Job is largely the record of Job’s suffering and pain—worked through with prayer. In the end, God is angry with Job’s callous friends and tells them he will refrain from their punishment only if Job prays for them (Job 42:8).

Prayer permeated the ministry of all the Old Testament prophets. The Jews’ preservation and return from exile in Babylon was essentially carried out through prayer. In Jeremiah, their exile began with a call to pray for the pagan city and their neighbors (Jer. 29:7). Daniel, nearly executed by the Babylonian authorities over his insistence on prayer three times a day, prays a prayer of repentance for his people, asks for their return, and is heard. Later, Nehemiah rebuilds the wall around Jerusalem with a series of great prayers interspersed with wise leadership.

Then we turn the page into the New Testament. And we find Jesus praying. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, healed people with prayers, denounced the corruption of the temple worship (which, he said, should be a “house of prayer”), and insisted that some demons could be cast out only through prayer. He prayed often and regularly with fervent cries and tears (Heb 5:7), and sometimes all night. The Holy Spirit came upon him and anointed him as he was praying (Luke 3:21–22), and he was transfigured with the divine glory as he prayed (Luke 9:29). When he faced his greatest crisis, he did so with prayer. We hear him praying for his disciples and the church on the night before he died (John 17:1–26) and then petitioning God in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, he died praying.

Immediately after their Lord’s death, the disciples prepare for the future by being “constantly in prayer” together (Acts 1:14). All church gatherings are “devoted . . . to prayer” (Acts 2:42; 11:5; 12:5, 12). In the book of Acts, prayer is one of the main signs that the Spirit has come into the heart through faith in Christ. In every chapter but two, people are praying—together. The church moves, grows, adapts, and is made powerful through prayer.

All Christians are expected to have a regular, faithful, fervent, devoted prayer life. The Spirit gives us the confidence and desire to pray to God and enables us to pray even when we don’t know what to say. Christians are taught that prayer should pervade their whole day and whole life—they should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

(The above summary was adapted from Timothy Keller’s book, “Prayer”)

Prayer is so great that wherever you look in the Bible, it is there. Prayer is what we were made for. Prayer is God’s people having a relationship with Him. On Sunday mornings, starting in May, we are going to learn from some of the great pray-ers of Scripture. We are going to go listen in to their prayers.

Why? Because it is my hope (prayer) that we might not only learn from these prayers who God is and how to pray, but even more significantly, their prayers will motivate us to be pray-ers!