8 Honest, Powerful Prayers in the Bible

The simplest definition of prayer is talking to God. While that’s certainly true, prayer is also a unique place where we experience the breadth and depth of the Christian life.

Still, prayer isn’t easy—even though it’s one of the most vital parts of our relationship with God. Thankfully, God didn’t leave us without guides to help us learn to pray. Throughout his Word, we see many examples of powerful, honest prayers that we can use as models—or even repeat word for word.

The most famous example—for good reason—is the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:5–15, Luke 11:1–4), in which Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. Yet Scripture records many prayers offered in diverse settings by many people. 

The following passages include only excerpts of the prayers uttered throughout Scripture, yet they demonstrate the depth of heartache and joy that can exist in our communication with God.

1. Jesus’ high priestly prayer—John 17

All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:10–11)

2. Moses and Miriam’s song of victory—Exodus 15:1–21

I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; 

the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. 

The Lord is my strength and my song, 

and he has become my salvation; 

this is my God, and I will praise him, 

my father’s God, and I will exalt him. (Exod 15:1–2)

3. Hannah’s prayer of praise—1 Samuel 2:1–10

The Lord makes poor and makes rich; 

he brings low and he exalts. 

He raises up the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the ash heap

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor. 

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, 

and on them he has set the world. (1 Sam 2:7–8)

4. Asaph’s psalm of despair—Psalm 77

I cry aloud to God, 

aloud to God, and he will hear me. 

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; 

in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; 

my soul refuses to be comforted. (Ps 77:1–2)

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5. David’s prayer of repentance—Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, 

according to your steadfast love; 

according to your abundant mercy 

blot out my transgressions. 

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, 

and cleanse me from my sin! (Ps 51:1–2)

6. Solomon’s prayer of dedication—2 Chronicles 6:14–42

O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. (2 Chr 6:14–15)

7. The Pharisee’s and tax collector’s prayers—Luke 18:9–14

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:11–13)

8. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church—Ephesians 1:15–23

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him . . . (Eph 1:16–17)


Want to explore the topic of prayer in greater depth? Browse our one-week sale on prayer resources to find guidance from authors such as Timothy Keller, Edward M. Bounds, and Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

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  1. Mike Anderson says

    Great examples of prayer! There is truly nothing that is outside the realm of prayer – Thanks!

  2. Lynn Kauppi says

    “The simplest definition of prayer is talking to God.” What about listening to God? The only book in the sale that mentions this concept seems to be Ignatius of Loyola. Why do we always emphasize our chatter to God instead of shutting up and listening? Plenty of resources on just that. If you’re not publishing them, you should be.