As a book, the Bible is teeming with prayers. In fact, the whole Bible ends with a word that closes any proper Christian prayer — “Amen” (Rev. 22:21). Throughout the ages, Christians have enriched their own prayers with images and phrases drawn from the scripture. Not only that, they’ve also lifted up prayers from the word of God and prayed by repeating the text word for word.
Since there are so many prayers in the Bible, it’s no wonder that some of them stand out as more familiar and powerful than others. The Lord’s Prayer is the center of a Christ-oriented life while King Hezekiah’s prayer is not well known at all (2 Kings 20:3).
I have put together a list of powerful prayers from the Bible based on the context in which these prayers were uttered, how the subsequent generations used these texts, and how in our times Christians employ them. You can use them by memorizing and praying verbatim or by arranging your own prayers from the patterns you discern in these texts. If none of it appeals to you, then surely you might benefit from using images, metaphors, or themes from these powerful biblical prayers. That would soak your prayers in the word of God.
Before I list these prayers, I have to mention that this post is based on John E. McFadyen’s classic work on prayers called The Prayers of the Bible. McFadyen classifies prayers as petition, intercession, thanksgiving, confession, vow, and complaints. Among the New Testament prayers, he mentions praise, benedictions, and doxologies.
The Lord’s Prayer (1)
This is the prayer Jesus Christ taught to his disciples when they asked him about prayer. It is simple, unadorned, and strikingly content in the sense that it does not ask for many things. This is also the first prayer I memorized after becoming a Christian and hearing it so many times in churches.
Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (2)
This is a prayer of anguish. Christ is wrestling like any human being with the Father’s will, and finally as the true temple, he surrenders himself to the Spirit’s leading (Mark 14:36; Matt. 26:42).
Praising the Lord’s holiness (3)
This is a prayer of praise, but it is found in the Old and New Testaments (Rev. 4:8). It recognizes and elevates the glory of God and stresses the Creator’s eternity.
Royal Benediction (4)
This is a benediction taught by the apostle Timothy (1 Tim. 1:17). It mentions God as the King and lists several of his attributes. I always felt that this prayer was elegant, stressing the importance of who we’re dealing with: the eternal, immortal, invisible God. The whole prayer has some kind of austere beauty to it.
The Apostle Paul’s Benediction (5)
This benediction emphasizes God’s love and the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is powerful because in just one verse we have been reminded of God’s grace, love, and our need for the Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14).
Prayer for Mercy (6)
This is a prayer for mercy by a disturbed soul (Ps. 123:1—3). The imagery it uses suggests a hierarchy between Creator and creature yet an intimacy and familiarity too.
Prayer of Jabez (7)
Jabez was a descendant of Judah, whose very earthly and unpretentious prayer came down to us in the scripture. The Bible says God granted Jabez what he wanted. It is powerful because what Jabez wants is what most of humans would want (1 Chron. 4:10).
Jesus’ prayer for Roman soldiers (8)
One of my favorite prayers if not the favorite one in the whole scripture. Just its context is enough to show how much power and love it would require to utter these words. Here Christ prays for the soldiers who nail him to the cross (Luke 23:34).
High Priestly Prayer of Jesus (9)
The longest prayer of Jesus is for his disciples and for unity (John 17:1–26). Its language is elevated and the theology dense, so it may take some time to fully appreciate what the Lord prays for and why it matters. But make no mistake; this is the legacy of Christ in prayer that teaches us but also calls us.
Prayer of a dying thief (10)
This is the prayer of a thief who was crucified with Christ (Luke 23:42). The fact that before death he turned towards God and the Lord granted him what he asked for makes it a very powerful prayer. In a sense, we all ask God to remember us and hope that he will grant us our prayers too.
I’m sure there are many more powerful prayers you can find in the Bible.
No matter which one of them you prefer, the next action is to pick a prayer that appeals to you and dwell on its words. By applying the steps listed below, you will deepen your understanding of your chosen prayer and be able to use it for spiritual purposes in much more effective ways.
Step 1: Read
Take the prayer you chose and read it slowly, paying attention to its words. Think about their meanings and imagine the context of the prayer.
Step 2: Analyze
This is the stage you dig deep. Find a commentary on the prayer and learn more about it. Read about its images and the connotation of its words used in its original language.
Step 3: Meditate
After Step 2, it’s time to personalize and invest your emotions into the prayer. There are many ways of meditating, but I found this one most fitting to my spiritual needs.
Make sure the place you will meditate is quiet. Lie down and take several deep breaths. Then recall the prayer. Slowly whisper its chunks or the words of the prayer that linger in your mind, pausing a few seconds in between. Pay attention to the associations that these words may bring to your mind. Do this meditation several times for a week or two, and then try to memorize either the prayer or its important parts.
By doing this you will internalize the prayer you chose, and its images, words, and metaphors will fuel your spiritual life.
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