Today is National Day of Prayer in the U.S. Every day is a good day to pray, of course; but today is your chance to pray alongside millions of Christians around the country. The National Day of Prayer Task Force is encouraging people to recite this prayer, written by Anne Graham Lotz, at noon today.
If you like Anne Graham Lotz’ prayer, we encourage you to read it today with your family, friends, and community. (If you’re not American, the prayer is still perfectly applicable—there’s just one reference to the United States, and it’d be simple to replace it with a reference to your own country or community.) But the event has me thinking about some of the great prayers of the Bible, so to mark the occasion, I’ve gathered up five of the most interesting, powerful, or otherwise memorable prayers in the Bible.
#5: Hannah’s Prayer for a Son, 1 Samuel 1
Heartbroken by her inability to conceive a child (and tormented by a rival who mocked her for it), Hannah turned to God in prayer so intensely that a priest who saw her thought she was drunk:
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty , if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
As she kept on praying to the Lord, [the high priest] Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” — 1 Samuel 1 (NIV)
God answered Hannah’s prayer, and her son Samuel became one of the great prophets of ancient Israel.
#4: Daniel’s Prayer of Confession, Daniel 9:1-19
God’s people had sinned—and were under His judgment. Rather than blame God, make excuses, or simply despair, the prophet Daniel instead voiced one of the most moving prayers of repentance recorded in the entire Bible:
Ah, Lord—the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant with those who love Him and keep His commands — we have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away from Your commands and ordinances. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, leaders, fathers, and all the people of the land. [….]
All Israel has broken Your law and turned away, refusing to obey You. The promised curse written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, has been poured out on us because we have sinned against Him. He has carried out His words that He spoke against us and against our rulers by bringing on us so great a disaster that nothing like what has been done to Jerusalem has ever been done under all of heaven. Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not appeased the Lord our God by turning from our iniquities and paying attention to Your truth. So the Lord kept the disaster in mind and brought it on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all He has done. But we have not obeyed Him. [….]
Therefore, our God, hear the prayer and the petitions of Your servant. Show Your favor to Your desolate sanctuary for the Lord’s sake. Listen, my God, and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city called by Your name. For we are not presenting our petitions before You based on our righteous acts, but based on Your abundant compassion. Lord, hear! Lord, forgive! Lord, listen and act! My God, for Your own sake, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name. — Daniel 9:1-19 (HCSB)
#3: Habakuk Rejoices, Habakkuk 3
The prophet Habbakkuk’s prayer is both a song of praise and a plea for mercy, and is the perfect picture of a believer recognizing God’s power while earnestly asking for that power to defend God’s children from hardship:
Lord, I have heard your reputation.
I have seen your work.
Over time, revive it.
Over time, make it known.
Though angry, remember compassion. [….]
[God] stops and measures the earth.
He looks and sets out against the nations.
The everlasting mountains collapse;
the eternal hills bow down;
the eternal paths belong to him. [….]
Though the fig tree doesn’t bloom,
and there’s no produce on the vine;
though the olive crop withers,
and the fields don’t provide food;
though the sheep is cut off from the pen,
and there is no cattle in the stalls;
I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will rejoice in the God of my deliverance.
The Lord God is my strength.
He will set my feet like the deer.
He will let me walk upon the heights. — Habakkuk 3 (CEB)
#2: Jehoshaphat Prays for Deliverance: 2 Chronicles 20:5-12
Faced by an overwhelming force of enemies bent on his destruction, the king Jehoshaphat called out to God with a prayer that acknowledges his own powerlessness, and entreats God to intervene. His closing statement “We don’t know what to do, so we’re looking to you” could be the motto of any Christian faced with challenges:
In the new courtyard at the Lord’s temple, Jehoshaphat stood in front of the people. He said, “Lord God of our ancestors, aren’t you the God in heaven? You rule all the kingdoms of the nations. You possess power and might, and no one can oppose you. Didn’t you, our God, force those who were living in this country out of Israel’s way? Didn’t you give this country to the descendants of your friend Abraham to have permanently? His descendants have lived in it and built a holy temple for your name in it. They said, ‘If evil comes in the form of war, flood, plague, or famine, we will stand in front of this temple and in front of you because your name is in this temple. We will cry out to you in our troubles, and you will hear us and save us.’
“The Ammonites, Moabites, and the people of Mount Seir have come here. However, you didn’t let Israel invade them when they came out of Egypt. The Israelites turned away from them and didn’t destroy them. They are now paying us back by coming to force us out of your land that you gave to us. You’re our God. Won’t you judge them? We don’t have the strength to face this large crowd that is attacking us. We don’t know what to do, so we’re looking to you.” — 2 Chronicles 20:5-12 (GW)
#1: The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13
Is there any prayer more simple yet complete than Jesus’ own prayer? Asked to teach his disciples how to pray, Jesus demonstrated how to pray with a model prayer that is characteristically concise and memorable:
You, therefore, pray like this:
‘Our Father in heaven!
May your Name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us the food we need today.
Forgive us what we have done wrong,
as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.
And do not lead us into hard testing,
but keep us safe from the Evil One.
For kingship, power and glory are yours forever.’ — Matthew 6:9-13 (CJB)