Lesson One: Old Testament Prayers

Lesson One: Old Testament Prayers

There was a temptation to title this lesson "Old Testament Saints' Prayers," but that would not have accurately portrayed the people who prayed.  Throughout the Old Testament we can read about sinners and saints, who shared a common humanity.  In the New Testament the prophet Elijah is set forth as an example for us to follow.  James wrote, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours...."  James 5:17.  In our study keep in mind that Elijah and the others, like us, had their strengths and weaknesses, moments of triumph and travail.  We'll begin this lesson with Elijah.


Elijah, the Fiery Prophet

James, the Lord's brother, expressed a foundational truth about prayer, saying, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."  Then he continued, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit."  James 5:16-18.

Before examining the prayers of the prophet notice the posture or position of the prophet.  In 1 Kings 17:1 he uses a phrase about himself.  It is "before whom I stand."  Later in 1 Kings 18:15 Elijah says, "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand...."  The man of God lived his life as in the conscious presence of the Lord God of Israel.  This is important in understanding something of the prophet.

Now let's consider four prayers of Elijah.



Read 1 Kings 17:1-7.

From James we learn that it didn't rain in Israel for three and a half years.  The land of Israel is semi-arid at best, and a drought for that duration would present severe hardship to the nation.  Elijah went and hid from king Ahab and Jezebel at the Brook Cherith, where he was fed by ravens and drank from the brook.  It is interesting that ravens were birds that God used to bring food to Elijah.  Ravens are voracious eaters and robber birds.  Here the prophet has direct confirmation that the Lord is Master of creation.



Read 1 Kings 17:8-24.

Some time later the brook dried up, and God commanded Elijah to go to a widow at Zarephath.  When he arrived at the gate of the city, he saw a woman gathering sticks.  He asked her for a little water in a cup, and a piece of bread.  She replied that she didn't have any bread.  In fact all that she had was a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar.  She had expected to make a small cake for herself and her son.  The poor widow looked upon that small cake as their last meal.  Elijah told her to make a small cake for him first, and that God would miraculously provide flour and oil for both of them until He sent the rain.  "The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to Elijah."  1 Kings 17:16.

Elijah also taught the widow that the Lord who sustains life is indeed the Lord of life.  Her son became sick and died.  At the death of her son the widow despaired, thinking that the boy died because of her sin.  The prophet carried her son up to his room, and laid him on his bed.  "And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, 'O Lord my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him.'  Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived."  1 Kings 17:21, 22.  The prophet returned the boy to his mother alive.



Read 1 Kings 18:20-40.

The children of Israel gathered on Mount Carmel together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah.  He called upon the people for a definite commitment: to follow God or to follow Baal.  No response.  Next Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal with a challenge.  Each side was to sacrifice a bull on an altar of wood.  "Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God."  1 Kings 18:24.  Baal's prophets cried out all day long, but to no avail.  In the evening when it came time for Elijah to pray, he built an altar with twelve stones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  He cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood.  Next he had four pots with water poured out on the bull and the wood.  This was done three times.  Elijah prayed, and "then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench."  1 Kings 18:38.  That day the Lord revealed that He is the God who answers by fire.  The prophets of Baal were executed.



Read 1 Kings 18:41-46

Elijah told Ahab to eat and drink, because there was the sound of abundance of rain.  When he said that the land was still dry as dust.  The prophet went to the top of Mount Carmel, bowed down to the ground, put his face between his knees, and prayed for rain.  He told his servant to go up and look toward the sea.  The servant went up and reported that he saw nothing.  Elijah sent him back seven times.  Finally he saw a cloud as small as a man's hand rise out of the sea.  And the Bible says, "There was a heavy rain."  The drought was ended.



Read 1 Kings 19:1-18.

Following all of these miraculous answers to prayer we get to see something of the human side of this man of God.  First, when Jezebel heard about the slaughter of the prophets, she sent a messenger to Elijah, threatening to take his life.  Elijah fled to Beersheba.  We read that he "ran for his life."  It's amazing that he could stand up to all of the heathen prophets, but ran from one woman.  Next he despaired, praying that he might die.  God sent an angel to minister to the prophet, providing food and water on two occasions.  Elijah continued forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments.  He felt very lonely.  He thought that he alone had a zeal for God.  Elijah did not realize that seven thousand in Israel had never bowed the knee to Baal.

You'll remember at the beginning of this lesson we learned that Elijah identified himself as one who stood before the Lord.  The presence of God was very real to him.  Now in 1 Kings 19:11 God has a word for the frightened, tired, and discouraged prophet.  "Go out, and stand ... before the Lord."

When you experience discouragement or heartache, there is a place to go.  Go and stand before the Lord.  He answers prayer.


Moses, the Mighty Intercessor

Moses' life can be divided into three 40 year periods.  During the first 40 years he lived the privileged life of a prince in Egypt.  That period of his life ended when he killed an Egyptian, who was beating a Jew.  Even though Moses buried the body in the sand, his violent act became known.  He fled from Egypt to the land of Midian, where he spent the next 40 years, tending sheep in seclusion in the desert.  The last period of Moses' life began with God's call to him from a burning bush, and ended with Moses back in the wilderness, leading the children of Israel.  You can read about this in Exodus and Numbers.

When Moses, the murderer, ran from Egypt to the back side of the desert, most people would have written him off as useless to the Hebrews.  But God was grooming Moses for his ministry all those years.  When God told Moses that he had been chosen to deliver His people from Pharoah and Egyptian bondage, Moses replied, "Who am I...?"  Exodus 3:11.  The outstanding characteristic of Moses, that set his apart from all other men was his humility.  We read in Numbers 12:3 that "the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth."

But, like us, he had his problems and weaknesses.  He had been fearful of Pharoah, so he was not exempt from the fear of men.  While in the wilderness the murmuring of the children of Israel was at times overwhelming.  In the end this mild-mannered man of God could take no more.  In anger he struck a rock twice at Meribah, and was told by the Lord that as a result he would not lead the people of Israel into Canaan.  Numbers 20:1-13.

Nevertheless, Moses was indeed a mighty intercessor.



Pharoah was hardhearted when approached by Moses and Aaron.  He refused to let the children of Israel go.  In Exodus 6:28-12:42 we read of the 10 plagues that God brought upon Egypt.  The second plague came in the form of frogs that covered the land of Egypt.  "Then Pharoah called for Moses and Aaron, and said, 'Entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people....'"  Exodus 8:8.  "Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharoah.  And Moses cried out to the Lord concerning the frogs which He had brought against Pharoah.  So the Lord did according to the word of Moses...."  Exodus 8:12, 13.  As the fourth plague the Lord sent swarms of flies among the Egyptians.  "So Pharoah said, 'I will let you go....  Intercede for me."  Exodus 8:28.  "So Moses went out from Pharoah and entreated the Lord.  And the Lord did according to the words of Moses...."  Exodus 8:30, 31.  On two other occasions Pharoah asked Moses to intercede that the plagues might be removed.  Moses prayed, and God lifted the plagues.  Read Exodus 9:28-33 and 10:16-19.

Meek and mighty Moses even prayed for a hardhearted, stiff-necked Pharoah, who had laid heavy burdens upon the chosen people of God.  And the Lord answered his prayers of intercession.



Moses received the Ten Commandments from God at Mount Sinai.  "Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, 'Come, make us gods that shall go before us....'"  Exodus 32:1.  And they made an idol, a gold calf.  The Lord was sore displeased with the people, and said to Moses, "Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them.  And I will make of you a great nation."  Exodus 32:10.  Moses pleaded with God to spare the people, "so the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people."

In the book of Deuteronomy Moses addressed the children of Israel at the end of their wandering in the wilderness.  He reviewed the above mentioned incident, and described what happened in greater detail.  Read Deuteronomy 9:8-19.  In Deuteronomy 9:25 we learn how persistent Moses was in his intercession for Israel.  "Thus I prostrated myself before the Lord; forty days and forty nights I kept prostrating myself, because the Lord had said He would destroy you."  Underline in your mind at least three little words that God said to Moses when they were together in the mountain---"Let Me alone."  Take another look at Exodus 32:10 and Deuteronomy 9:14.  Moses, the mighty intercessor, was persistent in his prayers for the people.  Now read the parable that Jesus taught about the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.  Persistence in prayer gets results.

After three days in the wilderness the children of Israel came to Marah, where the water was bitter and not suitable for drinking.  "And the people complained against Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?'  So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree.  When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet."  Exodus 15:22-25.

The people complained again in Numbers 11:1.  "Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.  So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp."  The following verse says, "Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched."

In the next chapter, Numbers 12, we find Miriam and Aaron finding fault with Moses' Ethiopian wife.  God was angry with them, and Miriam became a leper.  Aaron acknowledged their sin to Moses, and pleaded with him on behalf of Miriam.  "So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, 'Please heal her, O God, I pray!'  Then the Lord said to Moses, 'If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days?  Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.'"  Numbers 12:13, 14.  God healed Miriam as He said.

Thus far in our study we have considered two great men of God: Elijah, and Moses.  Elijah never died, but was taken to heaven by a whirlwind.  Read 2 Kings 3:11.  Moses on the other hand did die on Mount Nebo, overlooking Canaan, the land of promise.  No one knows where God buried him.  Deuteronomy 34:5, 6.  In Matthew 17:3 we find both Moses and Elijah with the Lord Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.  Also we find two men mentioned in Revelation 11:6, who bear a striking resemblance to Moses and Elijah.


Others Who Prayed

Many prayers are recorded in the Old Testament.  The names of ten people who prayed are listed below with a Scripture reference.  There is also a list of answers to prayer.  Identify the correct answer to prayer with the individual who prayed.  The correct answers are found at the end of the lesson.

  1. Jonah
    (Jonah 2:1-10).
  2. Samson
    (Judges 15:9-20).
  3. Solomon
    (1 Kings 3:4-15).
  4. Hezekiah
    (2 Kings 20:1-6).
  5. Elisha
    (2 Kings 6:8-23).
  6. David
    (Psalm 51).
  7. Daniel
    (Daniel 10).
  8. Abraham
    (Genesis 20).
  9. Asa
    (2 Chronicles 14).
  10. Hannah
    (1 Samuel 1:1-2:11).
  • Spiritual warfare
    in the heavenlies.
  • Life extended
    fifteen years.
  • Forgiveness and
  • A son.
  • Healing in the house
    of a heathen king.
  • Victory over
    a larger army.
  • Deliverance
    on dry ground.
  • Eyes opened
    and blinded.
  • Wisdom.
  • Water.

QUIZ ANSWERS (Pop Up Window)


Remember that God is great, and nothing is too hard for Him.  He is good, and will do the right thing.  He is love, which has been demonstrated at the cross of Calvary.  And He is faithful.  He answers prayer.  You can trust Him.


Lesson Two: The Disciples' Prayer



All About God

Scripture taken from the
New King James Version.
Copyright ©
1979, 1980, 1982
by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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