Christian women throughout the centuries serve as a cloud of witnesses for us, and their stories of faith still speak to us today. These eight women exemplified goodness, truth, and beauty in the midst of struggles, questions, and suffering—and they found strength to do so through prayer. Their prayer practices can breathe new life and meaning into our own.

Vibia Perpetua: Courageous Love

Perpetua (c.182–203) grew up in a Roman family in Carthage when Tunisia was under Roman rule. Changing her faith from the Roman imperial cult to Christianity was illegal. Nonetheless, at the time of her arrest, Perpetua was a committed catechumen—a young believer undergoing training in the faith prior to baptism. As part of her formal instruction of Christian teachings, she likely would have read contemporary North African theologian Tertullian’s On Prayer, which emphasized placing hope in God. After several days of house arrest with her companions, Perpetua was baptized. She and her fellow catechumens were soon taken to prison. The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, one of the oldest Christian texts, describes how Perpetua and her fellow prisoner Felicity “poured out their prayer to the Lord” in the days preceding their execution. At age 22, Perpetua died as a martyr, being tossed by a wild bull and killed by the sword in an arena with many spectators watching. The Passion documents Perpetua calling out at the moment of death, “Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another.” For centuries, Christian communities in Carthage read her writing annually and were encouraged by her sacrificial love.

For Perpetua, prayer was an act of courageous love—a way of loving others as a mother ...

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