Praying the prayers of those who have gone before us can be an amazing way to strengthen our own prayer lives. As we look to the great heroes of the faith, it is easy to feel intimidated by their displays of faith. Esther going before the king despite the threat of death, Mary saying yes and trusting in God to do the impossible, the women who came after Jesus, begging Him for miracles and believe in His power, they all stand apart as larger than life example of obedience to God. Examples that we could never possibly live up to.
But looking at their prayers reignites my faith and fills me with hope. The prayers of these incredible women of the Old Testament give us insight into their spiritual lives and demonstrate the hope that they carried with them.
Closely examining their prayers, asking God to give me faith to follow in their footsteps, and taking their words and praying them myself strengthens my own walk with the Lord and makes the examples He’s given me seem a little more attainable.
These 5 women of the Old Testament all prayed prayers that we should carefully study and implement in our own lives.
1. Miriam, Sister of Moses:
Miriam, the little girl who followed her infant brother Moses as he journeyed down the Nile, grew to be a woman of remarkable faith.
For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in he midst of the sea. Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” -Exodus 15:19-21
Miriam had been through many trials in her life. Born into slavery and being in the family that, while working to free God’s people from said slavery caused them to suffer more for a short time was no doubt a heavy load to carry. But instead of lamenting over the trials, she sought out the areas of joy. When God destroyed their oppressors with the Red Sea but allowed them to walk on dry ground, she responded by leading the others in thanksgiving to the Lord for His great triumph. Like Miriam, may we recognize that each and every triumph is the Lord’s and respond by leading others in thanksgiving.
2. Deborah, the Judge
Deborah is the first female leader recorded in the Bible. She stood as the prophet and judge of her day, telling the people what the Lord would have them do and ensuring that followed His commandments. When Deborah shared the Lord’s instruction that His people battle their oppressors, the men were too scared to go without Deborah, the Lord’s prophet, with them. When the victory was won, Deborah and the leader of the military broke into song, telling the goodness of God.
On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!
“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I, even I, will sing to the Lord;
I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.
“When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water.
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
before the Lord, the God of Israel.
“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.
God chose new leaders
when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.
My heart is with Israel’s princes,
with the willing volunteers among the people.
Praise the Lord!
“So may all your enemies perish, Lord!
But may all who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.” – Judges 5:1-9, 31, ESV
They sang of God’s goodness through time and told the full story of what God had accomplished. They sang of His goodness and told in detail what He had done, seeing Him at work in each and every seemingly mundane detail. May we, like Deborah, see God at work in all things, great and small, around us today.
3. Hannah, Mother of Samuel
Hannah is one of my favorite women in the Bible. She spent her prayers and tears at the feet of the Lord begging for Him to grant her a child.
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” – 1 Samuel 1:10-16, ESV
Praying like Hannah means pouring yourself, unashamedly before the feet of God. She boldly brought her requests to God and offered them back up, as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him. Hannah prayed and told God that any child He gave her would be offered back up as a servant to Him. She did not turn to the thing of this world to comfort her but laid out her grief in prayer, desperately pouring out her heart. Like Hannah, may we turn first to God and offer up everything to Him.
4. Esther, Queen of Persia
Esther was called to go before her husband, the king, uninvited, to try and save the Jewish people from genocide. Unbeknownst to her husband, she was one of the people he had condemned to death. Appearing before him to plead her case meant that she could be executed immediately for appearing without his invitation.
Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai,“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” – Esther 4:15-16, ESV
Esther’s prayer life inspired me, not because I can read a recording of any of her actual prayers, but because she recognized that she needed others praying for her. Fasting is always associated with prayer. Before Esther undertook the work the Lord had for her, she asked the entire city to fast and pray on her before for 3 days. May we, like Esther, recognize that we need the strength that comes from the prayers of others to do the work the Lord has for us.
Like Miriam, Hagar was dealt a rough hand in life. A slave, she had very little say in where her life was going. She obediently bore Abraham’s son but when his wife, Sarah, had her own child, she ordered that Hagar and her young son be sent away to fend for themselves.
When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. -Genesis 21: 15-19, ESV
Hagar’s prayer was simply a prayer of desperate tears. She was beaten down and without hope. But even in her lost heart, God heard her cries and the cries of her son. Against the odds, God provided a way for her and her son to survive and made her offspring into an enduring nation. Even without words, she still managed to lift her broken voice to the Lord in despair. May we, like Hagar, lift our voices even when our pain is too deep for words.
Whether you are offering up bold prayers of thanksgiving like Miriam, petitions like Hannah, or simply offering your broken sobs like Hagar, He hears you.Whether you are offering up bold prayers of thanksgiving like Miriam, petitions like Hannah, or simply offering your broken sobs like Hagar, He hears you. Click To Tweet
Prayer is an intimate, private conversation you share with your God. Your words, they don’t need to be perfect. You did not need eloquence and you certainly don’t need an audience. Because when it is quiet, your audience of One, the One who knows each hair on your head and moment, unrecognized by anyone else, when your heartbeat it first beat and filled your veins with life-sustaining blood, knows you are there.
He doesn’t need dramatic words because He is the Word. And even when we are too broken to pray, He is interceding with us in groans deeper than can be articulated.
These women show us in their prayer that prayer isn’t just to acquaint God with what’s happening in our lives. Prayer reminds us that God is desperately involved in each moment of our existence. May the prayers of these women from the Old Testament encourage you to open your eyes wider to see God at work in your life and world.