We always say we 'pray'. What have Prophets taught us about praying and listening to God? Click on each prophet to find out!
Abraham (ʾIbrāhīm) - "God Himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice." (Genesis 22:8)
Abraham (PBUH) was a prophet of prayer. His son Ishmael's name means 'God listens' in Hebrew. God called Abraham to be the 'Father of many nations', yet this sacred call came with a test of faith: first a call to go out into an unknown country, then a call to wait patiently for the fulfilment of God's promise of a son, then a call to sacrifice his own son!
In numerous occasions, Abraham could not understand God's plan, but
in his heart he knew by faith God's love for His people and prayed according to God's heart. The Torah gives a detailed story of Abraham's remarkable intercessory prayer for the people of Sodom (Genesis 18). He
appealed again and again to God's own mercy while exalting God's holiness. His prayers were
a fine combination of humility and boldness.
Another remarkable story was when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his beloved son! Abraham knew he himself could not offer anything to God but
it was God who would ultimately provide the lamb for the sacrifice (Genesis 22). His peace and assurance in God's provision in the most desperate needs stemmed from his daily walk with God and understanding of God's promises.
Through Abraham's life, we can see God delights in us when we pray earnestly to him with faith and confidence. Yet this confidence is not in our own strength but in God's mercy and gracious character. Such prayers deeply influenced not only Abraham's own life but millions of others as a result. We are a part of God's everlasting covenant with Abraham today!
Jacob (Yaʿqūb) - "I will not let you go until you bless me" (Genesis 32:26)
Prophet Jacob (PBUH) was the grandson of Father Abraham. But his life was full of struggles, conflicts, fear as he tried to handle his own life without God. Yet he had always held onto the blessings and promises of God in the end in the midst of his brokenness.
He had many encounters with God. God reached out to Jacob during the most difficult time of his life and revealed to him that God was with him. Jacob asked God directly, "
Bless me." He was so sure that his only hope in life is in God's blessing, not his own effort to obtain win favour.
And God not only blessed him, but also extended His promises to Abraham through Jacob and reestablished His everlasting covenant with him. (Genesis chapters 25-35).
admitting our brokenness to God and holding onto his faithfulness, we enter into an eternal relationship with Him, full of His blessings and promises for our lives.
Moses (Mūsā) - "Teach me your ways so I may know you and find favour with you." (Exodus 33:13)
The calling God gave Prophet Moses (PBUH) was full of challenges. Moses spoke to God with full honesty of fears and questions. And God showed his power and answers to Moses in His timing. Moses had a very close relationship with God, speaking to Him face to face (Deuteronomy 34:10) even like a 'friend' (Exodus 33:11). In fact, Moses would not have handled the life he was called to if he had not been a man of prayer.
God gave the Law to His people through Moses, yet Moses did not see his relationship with God as a list of rules or 'Dos and Don'ts'. Moses chose to walk with God through
a constant dialogue of admiration of God's greatness and petition for God's mercy. God responded with intimacy and answers to his prayers. The more specific Moses' prayers, the more specific God's answers (Exodus 32-33).
When God's people rebelled against God, Moses prayed to God for mercy and sought the favour of the LORD his God by
appealing to God's promises, mercy and faithfulness in the past. Moses knew God's compassion for the sinful people. The story of Moses shows us how we can approach God and ask for mercy for ourselves and others with boldness.
David (Dāwūd) - "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10)
David (PBUH) was the king anointed by God. The Scriptures tell us David was a prophet after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). With him prayer was a habit, for we hear him say, "Evening and morning and at noon will I pray and cry aloud" (Psalm 55:17). David even believed if God did not listen to his prayers, he would be like a dead person (Psalm 28). This was how desperate his heart was for God.
In praying, David
poured out his own heart to God, lifting all his fears, anger, sorrow, shame, frustration and desires to God. David was confident God listened to his prayers and spoke to him through His power (Psalm 29).
Yet David's confidence was not based on his own good works. He was fully aware of his sins in his heart. "I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight" (Psalm 51:3-4) He knew his only hope was to hold onto God's mercy. And he knew God would do it. This was why David could pray with confidence, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a stadfast spirit in me" (Psalm 51:10).
Many of the Psalms David wrote also show us what it means to wait upon God in times of uncertainty, suffering and injustices: "
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him" (Psalm 37:7).
Through many of David's Psalms, we learn how to connect our hearts and mind to God's.
Jesus (Isa) - "Those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24)
Jesus the Messiah (His peace be upon you) not only prayed frequently and powerfully, his teachings also showed us a lot about how to pray. In a famous story of Jesus' reaching out to a Samaritan woman (John 4), Jesus taught the kind of worship and prayer God wants from us is not one that is done in certain traditions or facing a particular direction, but one that is
'in Spirit and in Truth' (John 4:24). God is a spirit and He sees through all the thoughts in our hearts. Our spirit is the core of who we are. It is the center of our volition and our emotions. Bring it all to God.
One of the most surprising teachings of Jesus was the commandment to pray for our enemies. Jesus said,
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44). This is certainly not something we can do without the help of God's Spirit!
Jesus also taught us to pray in private and not to treat prayer like a show for others to see or use empty phrases repeatedly (Matthew 6). Jesus warned us not to be people who pay lip service to God but their hearts are far from God (Mark 7:6). We can be assured the power of prayer lies in the God who listens and answers to our prayers. '
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you' (Matthew 7:7).
Finally, Jesus taught us to
seek God's kingdom and His will be done (Luke 11:1), a prayer which he himself had prayed even in the most painful situation so we can follow his example. We may all have our plans for our lives, but when we pray, ask God's plan to be done in our lives and in this world.