“Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.” Joshua 10:12-13
What was Joshua Praying for?
Joshua was pursuing a coalition of enemy kings who had attacked their Gibeonite allies which were under their protection. Because he didn’t want the enemy to get away and have to fight them again, Joshua prayed so that he could continue pursuing his enemies.
Background information about Joshua
Joshua left Egypt with Moses and the rest of the Israelites. Slowly, over the years, Joshua rose to become Moses’ minister. Joshua and Caleb were the only two out of twelve men who had spied out the Promised Land. They believed that God could deliver the land to them, but the others didn’t believe. Because only two out of the twelve spies believed that the Lord could deliver the Promised Land to Israelites, they all had to wait forty years to enter the land of Promise and begin the conquest of the land that would one day be theirs. By the time this battle had come, Joshua was a hardened man of war and intent on finishing the conquest he had begun years earlier. Joshua had waited forty years to enter the Promised Land. He had fought numerous battles against walled cities like Jericho. He had battled giants like Og of Sihon, and constantly being outnumbered and outmatched, yet God still gave them victory. By this time in his life, Joshua was too eager to conquer the land to let the enemy slip away. Its one thing to declare war against an enemy and attack but when one is attacked by and enemy, there is a righteous anger and spirit of revenge that comes over a person when they strike back. This is what happened when Joshua prayed this prayer.
Key Elements of Joshua’s Prayer
1. Joshua understood what God’s desires for his people were at that time. It was at this particular time that God promised the Israelites they would inherit the land of Canaan and that he would drive out the people who currently lived there. The promise had been made to Abraham almost five hundred years earlier (See Genesis 15:13-21) and to Moses more than forty years earlier. (Exodus 3:8) It was again confirmed to Joshua,–as seen in Joshua 1:1-7. Now the time was at hand and God instructed Joshua to conquer the land and not to leave anyone alive. This was a harsh thing to do and other Jewish leaders like Saul could not bring themselves to do it and would be punished for it, (1 Samuel 15) but Joshua had set in his heart to do everything that the Lord had told him to do. He also did not want to have to fight the same enemy again later. This is why he asked for God’s help to finish what he had started. By praying this prayer, Joshua was practically guaranteed success, even though it seemed near impossible because it was directly in line with what God needed to be done.
2. Joshua believed God could answer his prayer, even though it seemed impossible. We should understand that even though something may seem impossible for God to perform and beyond the realms of natural science, if it is in line with God’s promise and we need it done to complete God’s will it indeed becomes possible for God to do. As humans, we sometimes limit God’s abilities in that we think that he can’t perform or is in the realm of our limited understanding of nature and science. What we have to understand is that God created the science that we understand and can supersede anytime he pleases. God caused the earth to rotate on its axis and he can cause it to stop at any time with no ill effects. It was God who mandated the earth to revolve around the sun and the moon around the earth, so he can cause any of these things to cease at his divine pleasure. The scriptures consistently tell us that nothing is impossible with God:
“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26
“Jesus said unto him,’ If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.’” Mark 9:23
“For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37
We should never limit God because he does not limit himself. God loves to confound those who believe that there are things that he cannot do. Why? To show that he indeed is God.
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”1 Corinthians 1:27-29
By the time God was finished answering Joshua’s prayers, the writer says that there had never been a day like it before, not until this day.. This means that it superseded all the prayers of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and even Moses. Joshua dared to pray the greatest prayer ever and God met and answered him according to his faith. As the scriptures says:
“Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.” Matthew 9:29
If we dare to stretch our faith and pray great prayers, then God will dare to answer them. I can personally testify to God’s power in this way. When I was sick in the hospital and began bleeding and losing so much blood from ulcerative colitis, the alarms on the monitor sounded and the nurse came running into the room because she thought I was dying. She took my blood pressure and said that it was physically impossible for me to be alive because the pressure was so low that there was no natural way that my heart could be still pumping blood throughout my body. I looked at the nurse and smiled because I felt the warm anointing presence of God all over me and knew God had gone beyond science to keep me alive. I can tell you there is nothing impossible with God if you only believe.
Result of the Prayer
As a result of his prayer, the sun remained in the same place for the entire day and the Israelites were able to defeat the armies that had come out to fight against them. Joshua had also captured and killed the five kings who were the leaders of the enemy armies. Because of this great victory the children of Israel removed a major obstacle to achieving their goal of conquering the Promised Land and fulfilling their destiny. Joshua 10:14 gives us more information about the impressive results of Joshua’s prayer:
“And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.” Joshua 10:14
One of the reasons why this prayer was selected as one of the ten greatest prayers of the Bible is because it was said that there was never a day before or after when God listened to one man’s prayer and fought for him. This shows the power that just one praying person can have. It also validates the power in James 5:16 statement: “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Never underestimate the power that one righteous person has with God!
If you ever feel at a loss for what to pray, there’s no better guidebook for petitions to our Heavenly Father than the very book He wrote—the Bible. Almost every book in there contains a plea or request, and page after page points to another reason we need a Savior. So, when you feel like you just don’t have words, turn first to the Word.
Although we could list hundreds of prayers, we plucked out five of our favorites to show just how filled to the brim the Bible is with ways to call upon our great God.
Table of contents
The Prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10)
When the author of Chronicles dutifully provides us with a list of Judah’s descendants, he can’t help but stop himself. Right in the midst of all these names, he comes to Jabez, a man he wants us to notice, a man of true honor. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve caused pain or if you’ve ever wanted to believe that God can do more than you can ask or imagine, this prayer is for you:
“Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.”
The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13)
This prayer is the true classic. Most of us have said this prayer and could likely recite it right now. But there’s much more to this model that Jesus gave us than rote recitation. This is a prayer with real power: God’s kingdom coming, God’s will being done, all that we need for the day. It’s truly power packed. So, take a closer look at what it teaches:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
Jonah’s Prayer for Salvation (Jonah 2:2–9)
We may never be swallowed by a great fish, but we can still experience the shame and regret that Jonah felt after he ran from God. The prophet’s plea to the Father provides a poignant scaffolding for our own prayers of repentance. And remember that God heard and answered this humble, honest prayer:
“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
David’s Prayer for Deliverance (Psalm 3)
This one was a tough choice because the Psalms are stuffed full of cries and petitions. If you ever want a primer for prayer, you can’t go wrong with this wisdom book. But we chose Psalm 3 because it provides a concise portrait of crying out to God in the midst of great stress. David’s words are no less relevant to our modern workplace and lifestyle as they were to his battles:
Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.
Hannah’s Prayer of Praise (1 Samuel 2:1–10)
When Hannah received the child she begged God for, her first instinct is to praise the One who provided. She wants to thank Him for His greatness and His deliverance. Too often we pray before receiving, but then forget to pray after God answers. Let this prayer guide you in thanks:
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
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.
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
The Bible is our source of instruction for living. When you cannot find the words to pray, turn to these Scriptures for guidance and experience the power of God’s Word.
If you pray the Lord’s Prayer, you already pray at least one of the prayers found in the Bible. But there are many that can provide help when you’re not sure what to pray.
1. A Prayer of Surrender
When my friend entered hospice care, I wasn’t sure whether I should pray for miraculous healing or a smooth transition into heaven. I told God about my mixed feelings and expressed my desire that my friend be healed, adding the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane:
“Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39, ESV)
2. A Prayer for Strength, Faith and Love
Sometimes when I am asked to pray for someone without knowing details, I will pray Ephesians (changing the pronouns from “you” to “him” or “her,” or inserting the person’s name):
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV)
3. A Prayer for Enlightenment
Similarly, I often pray Paul’s prayer for enlightenment in Colossians (again altering the pronouns):
We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. (Colossians 1:9-12, NLT)
4. A Prayer for Understanding and Favor
Moses’ prayer for guidance and favor often helps me, too:
If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. (Exodus 33:13, NLT)
5. A Prayer for Blessing
I will often pray Aaron’s blessing for my wife, children and grandchildren, as well as for family and friends as we part from each other:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26, ESV)
6. A Prayer for Influence and Protection
Jabez’s prayer for influence, publicized and popularized in a bestselling book a few years ago, is also a frequent prayer of mine:
Oh, that You would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain! (1 Chronicles 4:10, NLT).
7. A Prayer of Repentance
David’s prayer of repentance after his shameful treatment of Uriah and Bathsheba, found in Psalm 51, is a helpful prayer of confession and repentance from beginning to end, but especially the middle verses):
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow…
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you. (Psalm 51:7, 10-12, NLT)
8. A Prayer for Revival
Habakkuk’s prayer for revival is a fitting prayer for any family, community, church, or nation:
God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about You,
and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees.
Do among us what You did among them.
Work among us as you worked among them. (Habakkuk 3:2, The Message)
9. A Prayer for Mercy
The prayer of the tax collector in Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is an appropriate prayer anywhere, anytime:
God, be merciful to me, a sinner. (Luke 18:13, ESV)
10. A Prayer for Boldness
When the first Christians prayed, they apparently didn’t ask for prosperity or ease, but for boldness and power–a good prayer for us today:
Give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching Your word. Stretch out Your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30, NLT)
These and many other Bible prayers make it easier to pray according to God’s will. They can help you express yourself when words fail. And they can simultaneously enrich your knowledge of the Bible, confidence in prayer and sensitivity to the Spirit of God as you pray.
How is it that David is called a man after God’s own heart? How is it that when God is talking to David’s son, Solomon, he says; “Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked,
in integrity of heart and in uprightness…then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever as I promised David your father.” (I Kings 9:4-5) Then again, when God was reprimanding King Jeroboam, he said; “…and yet you have not been as My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart; to do only what was right in My eyes.” (I Kings 14:8)
David is the man who used his power to seduce a woman named Bathsheba while her husband was at war on King David’s behalf. When she was found to be with his child, David arranged for her husband Uriah to be killed in battle to cover up the matter. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Is this a man after God’s own heart?
God looks at the heart
Yes, God says that he is. When God was directing Samuel the prophet to anoint a new king over Israel after he had rejected Saul, he told Samuel; “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7) So despite his sin, God loved David’s heart. I believe that we have a glimpse into that heart which God so treasured when we read Psalm 51, which is a prayer of repentance. That psalm is truly one of the great prayers of the Bible.
After David’s sin, the Lord sent him Nathan the prophet to confront him. (See II Samuel 12). Instead of denial or excuses, David comes clean; “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13) But if that was all we were told about the incident we would have no idea about the depth of the repentance that David felt. Fortunately we have Psalm 51 which is a soul poured out before the Lord with great transparency and brokenness of spirit.
Psalm 51 is marked by true characteristics of repentance such as:
- Appeal to the mercy of God
- Understanding of the severity of sinning against God
- No excuses or justification
- Desire to reform
- Recognition that forgiveness is not deserved but by grace alone
In verse 2 David asks God to do three things. First he asks that his sin be blotted out which speaks of human records which can be erased. Then he asks to be washed thoroughly which compares forgiveness to the washing of clothes and clothes were often seen as an extension of the person. Finally he asks to be cleansed from his sin and this refers to liturgical ceremonial law. David wished to be separated from his sin in every way possible. He is not clinging to it with secret affection for it. No, he is rejecting his sin to the uttermost.
In his prayer, David acknowledges his sin “nature” and he holds out no hope that on his own he will be able to avoid sin in the future. He doesn’t do this as an excuse, “Gee, I’m only human” but as an expression of his brokenness and his need for God’s help and delivering power. David puts the burden of redemption on God: “purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (verse 7) He is willing and desirous to submit to this deep cleansing of his innermost being.
Beyond being forgiven and cleansed, David wants restoration. This is something we should all seek. He does not want to be stuck in the guilt of his sin as he moves into the future. David says; “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” (Verse 12) David wants to repent and be done with it. Knowing God has removed his sin from him, David wants to experience joy again.
This is a wonderful hallmark of forgiveness from the Lord. If we truly repent, he removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. (See Psalm 103:12) We are free to move forward as if the sin never existed at all. What joy and freedom!
That release from guilt is what makes David able to promise something back to the Lord. After the joy of God’s salvation is restored, David says; “then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” (Verse 13) This is very interesting. How is it that this restoration of joy will enable David to communicate God’s ways to sinners so that they will be converted?
Freedom to be honest about sin
Have you ever noticed that those who have truly repented and received complete forgiveness are usually open and forthright about their past sin? I have heard such men and woman stand up and publicly tell the stories of their lives as alcoholics, adulterers, thieves, drug traffickers and more. I have heard the remarkable testimony of David Berkowitz, the notorious “Son of Sam” serial killer who terrorized New York in the 1970s. The transforming power and grace of Jesus Christ touched his life and he tells his story without hesitation.
When people listen to stories of God’s great grace they often feel that their own case is not hopeless and their own sin not unforgivable. They see joy on the face of the former sinner and they want that same joy. God is there to offer it.
As you read and re-read Psalm 51, what do you find you identify with the most? Is there a hidden sin that you need to repent of with the same heart David had? Do you find you haven’t been completely honest with God? Are you willing to accept the deep cleansing David desired? Do you need to have the joy of God’s salvation restored to you? Do you desire to have your testimony of God’s grace touch the lives of others?
David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 is one of the great prayers of the Bible. After you read it, it isn’t so hard anymore to understand why David was a man after God’s own heart. You and I can hold that same title; we can be men and women after God’s own heart. Repentance is the entryway. Come, enter in.
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