Chapter 35. God Calls Us to Pray • 465
He raises the needy from the dust;
from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, . . .
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s. (1 Sm 2:1, 7-8)
Examples of Prayer
The People of God learned how to pray at the shrine of God’s presence,
before the Ark of the Covenant in the temple. God raised up priests,
kings, and prophets to lead the people in prayer. The people assimilated
the prayerful attitudes of awe, wonder, and adoration of God at the
celebration of the various feasts and liturgies. The books of the Prophets
in particular show them praising God in prayer, seeking his help, and
crying out to him in times of opposition and persecution.
The Book of Esther is the story of a woman of faith who was an
example for her people of the importance of relying on God in prayer.
A prominent official in the Persian Empire conspired to destroy in a
single day all the Jews in the empire. At the same time, a Jewish woman,
Esther, was the queen. She sought the help of God, praying, “My Lord,
our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help
but you” (Est C:14).
With courage, she explained the plot to her husband the king: “I ask
that my life be spared, and I beg that you spare the lives of my people”
(Est 7:3). He heard her plea, canceled the massacre, and executed the
official. The people praised God that their sorrow was turned into joy.
Esther’s actions are remembered by the annual observance of the
Feast of Purim. The feast celebrates God’s providential care of his people
in response to Queen Esther’s prayers.
The Psalms: Prayers of the Assembly
Poets like King David and many other holy authors over a number of
years composed the masterpiece of prayer known as the Psalms. These
incomparable prayers nourished the people both personally and com-
munally. They embraced every age of history, while being rooted in each
moment of time. They were sung at the Temple, in local synagogues, in
family settings, on pilgrimages, and in the solitude of personal prayer.
They formed the basis of the prayer of Jesus and, as such, can be used to
draw us into his prayer as well. The Psalms are part of every celebration