The OT records many prayers offered to God by his people. A survey of them helps us to discern a number of basic prayer principles which infuse this most intimate of experiences with God.
- Although rituals are often associated with OT prayer, the Bible makes a clear distinction between empty formality and true heart worship. There is such a thing as meaningless prayer.
- Access to God in prayer is an outcome of covenant relationship. The OT saint comes to God with confidence because God has chosen to commit himself to a relationship with his people. Prayer then is an outgrowth of personal relationship and an expression of personal relationship.
- Appeals in prayer are based either on promises already made in God’s word, or on the revealed character of the Lord. The basis for confidence in prayer is not what the believer has done or will do, but instead rests on the foundation of who God himself is.
- God hears every kind of petition. Prayers offered for the nation and those that are the heart cries of burdened individuals are alike the concern of Israel’s God. The certainty that God truly does care is an important dimension in true prayer.
- OT prayer recognizes God as One who is not limited or bound by circumstances. No matter how grim the situation, God can intervene, through natural processes or by setting aside “natural law.” Because God’s power is unlimited, the believer can have unlimited confidence in him.
- God is sovereign. No believer has the right to command him, or the wisdom to counsel him. Prayer in the OT is not an effort to manipulate or an attempt to tell God what he must do. Instead, prayer is an expression of the believer’s submission to God and his confidence that God’s purposes and plans are best.
- The believer can be totally honest with God in prayer. There is no need to pretend – to mask emotions.
- OT prayer is intimately lined with thanksgiving and praise. These are offered when prayers are answered, but also often accompany the prayers themselves. For thanksgiving is appropriate in the unique relationship we have with the Lord, which permits us to talk with him.