Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers

Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers

Most of the primary figures of the OT were people of prayer. A detailed examination of the prayers of all the OT saints is far beyond the scope of this lesson, but we can highlight some valuable lessons to learn as we observe how prayer functioned in the OT.

  1. God’s people pray.
    1. The main OT characters pray (e.g., Job, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, David, Solomon, Elijah, Ezra, Daniel, etc.).
    2. Even the minor characters in the OT pray (e.g., Abraham’s servant, Jabez, Samson’s parents, etc.). People of God, both extraordinary and ordinary, pray.
  2. Prayer must be combined with action. Prayer is no excuse for passivity.
    1. Exod 14:15
    2. Josh 7:6-11
  3. Unbelief and disobedience hinder prayer.
    1. Prov 28:9
    2. Isa 59:1-2
    3. Zech 7:13
    4. Submitting questions to God is not necessarily an act of unbelief (e.g., Jer 14:19; Ezek 9:8, 11:13).
  4. Pray at all times and in all places.
    1. Daniel prayed three times a day (Dan 6:11; cf. Ps 55:17).
    2. Believers can worship God anywhere (cf. John 4:21-24). God fills heaven and earth (Jer 23:24); he’s not a local deity and is not confined to any particular location.
  5. Pray using any reverent position.
    1. The OT mentions a variety of physical positions one might assume while praying: standing, kneeling, flat on one’s belly, etc. Sometimes one’s hands are lifted up or spread out in prayer (cf. Ps 28:2).
    2. No particular posture is required. By the way, nothing in the Bible says that one must close his eyes or bow his head during prayer.

  1. Pray with fasting.
    1. Fasting is associated with prayer from earliest times. The Israelites fasted on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). Later, four other annual fasts were observed (Zech 8:19) and perhaps a fifth (Esther 9:31).
    2. Fasting was especially associated with grief and penitence and with seeking God’s guidance. But abstinence from sin was more important than abstinence from food, just as a broken heart was more important than torn clothes (cf. Isa 58; .Joel 1:14; 2:12, 15).[1]
  2. Pray for miracles.
    1. The OT contains numerous remarkable miracles that God performed in answer to prayer.
    2. Examples:
      1. Joshua’s long day (Josh 10:12-14)
      2. Hezekiah’s deliverance from Sennacherib (2 Kings 19) and his prayer for an extension of his life (2 Kings 20).
      3. Elijah on Mt Carmel with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18)
      4. Elisha with the Syrians (2 Kings 6:17)
  3. Prayer may include vows, oaths, invocations, benedictions, and curses/imprecations.
    1. Vows (Deut 23:21-23; 1 Sam 1:11; Ecc 5:2-7): A vow is a voluntary promise to God in return for certain benefits one hopes to receive from God. No one need make a vow, but once made, keeping the vow was one’s sacred and binding duty. Thus, one should not make a vow lightly or flippantly.
    2. Oaths (2 Chron 15:14-15): An oath is a solemn appeal to God, often prefaced with an expression like “As the Lord lives,…” or “The Lord do so to me and more also, if…” An oath calls down a curse upon oneself if he fails to keep a promise.
    3. Invocations (Num 10:35-36; Judg 5:31; Ruth 2:12; 1 Sam 24:12): An invocation calls upon the Lord to do something or invokes God’s name in expressing a desire.
    4. Benedictions (Gen 9:26-29; Num 6:24-26): A benediction is an expression of a desired blessing from God.
    5. Curses/imprecations (Deut 27:15f; Josh 6:26; Mal 1:14): An imprecatory prayer asks God to uphold the terms of his covenant by punishing the disobedience of a transgressor. The aim is not personal vengeance but the vindication of God’s name based on a zeal for God’s righteousness and justice. Cf. Proverbs 8:13 and 2 Chron 19:2. It seems doubtful that imprecatory prayers are appropriate for the church age.


[1]Howard Peskett, “Prayer in the OT Outside the Psalms,” in Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World, ed. D. A. Carson, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2000), 25. Much of the material in this lesson follows this article.


Lessons in this Course
Table of Contents
Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?
Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer
Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name
Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray
Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15
Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God
Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer
Praying Lesson 10: Learning from Paul’s Prayers
Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers
Praying Lesson 12: Prayer as an Expression of Spirituality
Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms
Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer
Praying Lesson 15: Prayer and Fasting

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