13.1.1 Prayers in the Old Testament

The first biblical references to prayer can be found in Genesis 4: 26: "Then men began to call on the name of the Lord." This demonstrates a fundamental characteristic that has been intrinsic to prayer ever since: human beings turn to God and call upon Him in the firm belief that God hears them.


Psalm 95: 6 admonishes: "Oh come, let us worship". Examples of worship of God can be found in many hymns and psalms of the Old Testament, an example of which is the hymn of Moses: "For I proclaim the name of the Lord: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He" (Deuteronomy 32: 3-4).


The psalmist admonishes: "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever" (Psalm 106: 1). This prayer expresses thanks to the eternal God through honour and praise.


"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit" (Psalm 51: 10-12). Such petitions in particular–in addition to those pertaining to earthly life–attest to that which is of importance to believing supplicants.


"Moses prayed for the people" (Numbers 21: 7) when God sent poisonous serpents in response to the murmuring of the Israelites. Compassion and love for one's neighbour come to expression in intercession.


The book of Psalms reflects the spiritual wealth of Old Testament prayer. It already points in the direction of New Testament prayer. An example is Hanna's prayer: when she brought her petition for a son to God, Holy Scripture says that she "poured out [her] soul before the Lord" (1 Samuel 1: 15). Her prayer of thanks after God graciously granted her plea is an example of profound praise of God, which is very closely related in content to the praise of Mary in the Magnificat (1 Samuel 2: 1-10; Luke 1: 26-55).