10 Powerful Prayers from Leaders throughout History

10 Powerful Prayers from Leaders throughout History

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” – Søren Kierkegaard

All throughout history, people have turned to prayer to deal with tests and hardships. Men and women from all walks of life have found comfort, strength and guidance by lifting up their concerns to God.

Here is a collection of 10 prayers that reach for something more. Each reflects a deep desire to not only receive God’s blessings, but to become a blessing to others. And every one of them reminds us that God will make us able and ready to do that. 

Let’s allow these prayers to inspire us to grow in our faith and to live more like Christ.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/FotoDuets

Old drawing of George Washington praying at Valley Forge

1. George Washington

1st President of the United States

Washington included this prayer in a letter to the states. It reveals his desire for the new nation’s people to be knit together by a love for God and for each other. That ideal still applies today to our families, our communities, and beyond, wherever we live.

“I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the state over which you preside, in His holy protection, that He would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field, and finally, that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.”

2. César E. Chávez

Civil Rights Activist

As a leader of the American agricultural labor movement, Chavez had been treated unjustly, and saw others treated unjustly. But as he sought to bring about change, he wanted to stay aligned with God. This prayer suggests that making our world better begins with making sure our own hearts are right.

“Show me the suffering of the most miserable so I will know my people’s plight. Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person. Help me take responsibility for my own life, so that I can be free at last. Grant me courage to serve others, for in service there is true life. Give me honesty and patience, so that the Spirit will be alive among us. Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle. Let us remember those who have died for justice, for they have given us life. Help us love even those who hate us, so we can change the world. Amen.”

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/mikroman6

Black and white photo of Martin Luther King Jr. waving to a crowd.

3. Martin Luther King Jr.

Pastor and Civil Rights Leader

During the turbulent American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, Martin Luther King Jr. called for peace. This prayer reminded people to join together to listen for God’s leading, and then to follow it through. Even in times when it seems we are divided, Dr. King said, we can find deeper bonds that connect us. 

“O God…we thank Thee for Thy Church, founded upon Thy Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon Thee… Help us to realize that man was created to shine like the stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God’s children, Black, White, Red, and Yellow, will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.”

4. Mother Teresa

Nun and Missionary

This simple prayer is filled with Mother Teresa’s heart for providing for the needs of others. She compels those who love God to show His compassion to those who are in need and helpless. By being willing to be God’s hands and feet, we will share His healing touch with the world.

“Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands this day their daily bread, and by our understanding love, give peace and joy.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Drawing of Abraham Lincoln

5. Abraham Lincoln

16th President of the United States

Lincoln was President during the American Civil War and felt anguish at the destruction the country was experiencing. Yet, the words of this prayer contain a sense of determination and hope for the future. President Lincoln offers a plea for people to seek God’s truth to base their lives upon and His purpose to move forward.

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continues… until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid another drawn with the sword… so still it must be said that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and for his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

6. Elisabeth Elliot

Missionary

Elisabeth Elliot clearly understood that she couldn’t fulfill God’s unique call on her life in her own strength. So, she lays her whole self – body, mind and spirit – down before Him. This prayer asks for God’s grace on her to live righteously; we’d be wise to follow her example.

“Loving Lord and heavenly Father, I offer up today all that I am, all that I have, all that I do, and all that I suffer, to be Yours today and Yours forever. Give me grace, Lord, to do all that I know of Your holy will. Purify my heart, sanctify my thinking, correct my desires. Teach me, in all of today’s work and trouble and joy, to respond with honest praise, simple trust, and instant obedience, that my life may be in truth a living sacrifice, by the power of Your Holy Spirit and in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, my Master and my all. Amen.”

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Wilshire Images

American soldiers on a boat approaching Normandy beach during WWII

7. Msgr. James H. O’Neill

Army Chaplain

Ordered by General Patton to compose a prayer for servicemen just before the invasion of Normandy, Msgr. O’Neill zeroed in first on the weather issues that had been plaguing the Allies. Then, he asked for God’s strength and grace to be on the young men heading into battle. We also can lean on God to navigate us through our hard and fearful situations, knowing that He is in control.

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”

8. Reinhold Niebuhr

Theologian, Professor

This prayer has become widely known for its use in Alcoholics Anonymous, but it should resonate with all believers. Niebuhr’s words reflect a decision to put trust in God’s plan – a choice that needs to be made daily. The more we can submit to His authority and see life through His lens, the more of His joy we’ll have each moment.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.”

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Vernon Lewis Gallery/Stocktrek Images

Fanny Crosby

9. Fanny Crosby

Poet, Composer

“All Glory Be Thine” is one of the many songs Fanny Crosby wrote, but the lyrics are really a prayer of worship. The words not only declare God’s sovereignty, but Crosby’s sense of awe about Him as well. She calls us to lift our eyes to see the wonder of our Lord. 

“Thou only art holy, Thou only the Lord; Truth, mercy and judgment shine forth in Thy Word. Thou rulest and reignest all others above; Thy throne is eternal, Thy scepter is love. Thou only art holy; In Thee is our trust; Thy laws are unchanging, Thy statutes are just. All nations and people before Thee shall fall; The Father, Redeemer and Savior of all”

10. Prayer of A Naval Serviceman

US Navy

Written for use by members of the American navy, this prayer is a personal dedication to a righteous life. The sentiment, that everything we do matters to God, is challenging and also encouraging. We can express obedience through our attitude and our thoughts, as well as our actions.

“All mighty Father,

whose way is in the sea

and whose paths are in the great waters

whose command is over all and whose love never faileth:

Let me be aware of Thy presence

and obedient to Thy will.

Keep me true to my best self,

guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and in deed,

and helping me so to live

that I can stand unashamed and unafraid before my shipmates,

my loved ones, and Thee.

Protect those in whose love I live.

Give me the will to do the work of a man

and to accept my share of responsibilities

with a strong heart and a cheerful mind.

Make me considerate of those entrusted to my leadership

and faithful to the duties my country has entrusted to me.

Let my uniform remind me daily

of the traditions of the Service of which I am a part.

If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith;

If I am tempted, make me strong to resist;

if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.

Guide me with the light of truth and keep before me the life of Him

by whose example and help I trust

to obtain the answer to my prayer,

Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.”

As believers, we know that God calls us to pray. And seeing how others before us turned to God with their burdens can boost our own prayer life.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


Heather Adams 1200x1200Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather’s blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby!

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