Today marks the National Day of Prayer in the US. With that in mind, we asked a number of women to share prayers from Scripture and Christian history that hold significance for them as pastors, professors, community developers, writers, and parents. These 15 responses give a glimpse into the prayer lives of Christian women across the country who are on their knees on behalf of families, churches, and leaders.
1. One of my personal favorites is the prayer, “Great are you, Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Augustine uses this prayer—which draws on Psalm 48—to open his Confessions. He starts not with a reference to himself or even to what God can do or has done for him but simply by admitting his awe at God’s majesty: God is a great God!
This prayer reminds us of the ultimate reason why praying is worth doing: not first and foremost because of what we need or feel but because God deserves our unstinting and unremitting praise. The wellspring of profound prayer is the greatness of the Lord.
— Han-Luen Kantzer Komline, assistant professor of church history and theology, Western Theological Seminary
2. The Celtic Christians who lived on the British Isles during the early Middle Ages practiced a faith that reflected simple lives lived close to the earth, absent the later pomp and hierarchy that would come from the Roman church. Many of the prayers these Christians offered in their Gaelic tongue were collected later in the 19th-century work Carmina Gadelica.
The prayers are notable for the way they invoke God in every aspect of daily life—while kindling the morning fire, making the bed, and collecting the eggs. My favorite prayer seeks God’s blessing on the cow, her milk, and the milker. It models the way we modern-day believers, too, ought to ask God to bless every part of all we have and all we do:
Bless, O God, my little cow,
Bless, O God, my desire;
Bless our partnership
And the milking of my hands, O God.
Bless, O God, each teat,
Bless, O God, each finger,
Bless each drop that goes into my pitcher.
—Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English, Liberty University
3. Harriet Tubman, the small but bold African slave who escaped bondage and then risked recapture by returning South to free others, prayed short and to the point. You don’t have time for fancy words when you make up to 19 trips back into slave country to free parents, siblings, and friends.
Her prayer of “Unconditional Affirmation” cuts to the chase, beseeching God with keen and intimate expectation. Every time she led brave slaves beyond Maryland’s Eastern Shore to freedom, she told God, “I’m going to hold steady on You, and You’ve got to see me through.” It’s an unwavering and determined prayer, to which only one word needs to be added: Amen.
—Patricia Raybon, author of I Told the Mountain to Move
4. I started my doctoral journey at Fordham University. Like many of my classmates, we all came from work feeling tired, hungry, and ready to be done with class before we’d even started. My professor would have us stand, shake off the day, and recite this prayer below. She would say, “You are here to learn and to put your learning into action. Your action will change the world around you and you’ll need clarity for that. So let us pray!”
O God, make your words clear to me, as clear as the ice is.
Make your love be like a compass for me that gives me direction.
Make your truth be like a signpost to me that brings clarity.
Make your peace a guide for my directions.
Make your hope be like a flag that tells me that I am walking beside you.
Clear my mind of all the distractions that steal me from you.
O God, bless me with clarity.
I continue to pray this prayer because, now more than ever, in this age of distraction, we are in desperate need of clarity and direction from the Father.
—Elizabeth D. Rios, EdD, founder of The Passion Center
5. “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Ps. 91:2).
Years ago, I began praying Scripture for those who came to me with needs that seemed insurmountable. But what began as discipleship training soon evolved into a lifelong journey of praying the Word for my family, myself, and the precious people God put on my heart.
Still to this day my favorite passage is Psalm 91. I have memorized the entire 16 verses, and these verses have now become a deep space for reflective prayer. The psalm is not a magic formula but rather a reminder that God hears us when we pray.
—Gricel Medina, leadership and community developer
6. One of my favorite prayers in Scripture is found in Ephesians 1:15–23. The verses that I find most impactful are 18 and 19:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
This prayer reminds me of the magnitude of hope that we cling to in Christ and the unmatched power made available to us. This power emboldens us to be salt and light in the world. Accordingly, I pray that we, like the Ephesians, may have our hearts illumined to this truth and seek to live it out daily.
—Briana McCarthy, writer and speaker
7. My mornings often begin with clangs and cries—a child’s refusals to put on clothes, spilled milk at the breakfast table, or toys strewn across the living room floor. I wish I were always patient and kind with my children, but I’m not. I get upset; I yell. I struggle to see life through my son’s eyes, and incomprehension turns to anger. In moments like this, I find solace and renewed strength from “A Liturgy for a Moment of Frustration at a Child” by Douglas Kaine McKelvey:
Let me not react in this moment, O Lord,
in the blindness of my own emotion.
Rather give me—a fellow sinner—
wisdom to respond with a grace
that would shepherd my child’s heart
toward your mercies,
so equipping them
for the hard labors
of their own pilgrimage.
—Michelle Reyes, PhD, author and speaker
8. In Ephesians 1:17–19, Paul writes, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
I consider this prayer exemplary for church leaders who teach and disciple others. It includes important Christian principles for how we understand spiritual identity, spiritual growth, and intercession. My greatest desires for Christ’s church today are found in this prayer. May we, like the apostle Paul, “keep asking” for ourselves and for one another.
—Lekesha R. Barnett, minister of young adults and prayer, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church
9. “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.”
My mother proudly hung this prayer on the bedroom wall nearest her side of the bed. The hand-painted plaster plaque was obviously crafted by the hands of a novice; in fact, it was the product of a Vacation Bible School creative hour for fifth graders. Many mornings during my childhood, I heard my mother pray the words that were painted in faux gold leaf. Without knowing it, she was instilling a foundation into me so that when I faced my own challenges in life, I would turn to the very same prayer for direction.
—Mia Wright, co-pastor of the Fountain of Praise
10. David has always been a model pray-er to me. Although I cannot always identify with his circumstances, I often find myself praying his words as if they were my own. In the past, I saw Psalm 51 only as a prayer of forgiveness, as penned in its original context. Over time, however, it has transformed into a plea for daily bread from my creator. It’s my soul’s cry to be renewed, restored, and filled—a sacred supplication to be connected with him:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
—Quantrilla Ard, PhD candidate, Walden University
11. Years ago, I realized that I needed a new way to navigate the space between my head and my heart. My body often clashed with my prayers: My lips spoke peace, but my body buzzed with stress. After searching for something simple enough to speak while in a worry-prone space, I found a way to include my body rather than ignore it—through a breath prayer. I began saying a short version of the Jesus prayer, which I still pray on a regular basis. I inhale and say “Lord,” then I exhale with “have mercy.” As I pray and breathe, my head and heart begin to grasp that God has already drawn near.
—K. J. Ramsey, writer and therapist
12. As a special-needs parent and disability ministry consultant, I’m constantly advocating for the inclusion of our children and families, even at church. This (adapted) prayer undergirds my actions and reminds me that God is sovereign, and I am not:
God, grant me the serenity to accept diagnoses and gritty realities I cannot change, courage to advocate against diminished expectations, misconceptions, and exclusion, and the wisdom to know the difference
Fighting one IEP at a time,
Enjoying one inclusive environment at a time
Accepting hardship, rejection, and limitations as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that he will make all things right
If I surrender to his will;
So that I may be reasonably surrendered in this life,
And supremely sanctified with him forever in the next.
— Diane Dokko Kim, author of Unbroken Faith: Spiritual Recovery for the Special-Needs Parent
13. Through the years, Colossians 1:9–12 has been a go-to prayer for me. I turn to it especially when I’m unsure about a decision. It helps me to surrender my own will and seek the Lord’s. I personalize the prayer in this way:
“Lord, I ask to be filled with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that I will walk in a manner worthy of you to please you in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of you, strengthened with all power according to your glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to you, Father, who have qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”
— Kim Cash Tate, author & singer/songwriter
14. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)
What right have I, Gentile sinner that I am, to take hold of the boldness of Bartimaeus? I have no natural claim to the Jewish king, even less a moral one. Still, the blind man’s example has always injected courage into my own heart—like an adrenaline shot to my chest, saving my life through violence.
Jesus, by submitting his body to brutality, by allowing his flesh to be torn, tore down that dividing wall of hostility. He became our peace, grafting Gentiles in where we had no root and creating in himself one new man out of two. To Bartimaeus’s call, Jesus answered, “What do you want me to do for you?” He showed mercy.
Before I even knew to call, while I was still dead in my sins, he showed mercy. This king stops for sinners, therefore I pray boldly.
—Rachel Gilson, director of theological development for Cru northeast
15. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
I’m so unlike the man who prayed this prayer. I’m 2,000 years past his time and 5,000 miles from where he prayed. I’m not a murderer or a thief. I’m not stuck naked and bleeding on a cross, my life slow-draining in the scorching sun. And yet his prayer both shames and inspires my own.
It’s a desperate prayer of faith from a man who looks for all the world like he’s lost, a prayer of hope against all hope that Jesus really is the King—not just for a time, but for all time; not just of one life, but of life itself. As others mocked the crucified “King of the Jews,” this man asked for a place in his kingdom. And he got it: “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
—Rebecca McLaughlin, author of Confronting Christianity