One thing I noticed as I’ve been reading through the Apocrypha lately is the prayers included. Tobit, Esther and Judith share several prayers by the main characters as well as others around them. As I thought about those prayers, I realized they all had something in common. They start their prayers with gratitude.
Esther Prays for Help
For example, in the Greek version of Esther, we read Mordecai’s prayer after he finds out about Haman’s plot and begs Esther to do something. This prayer begins,
“Lord, Lord, you are the king who rules over all things. The universe is in your power, and there is no one to stop you when you have resolved to save Israel. You made the heavens and the earth, and everything that is wonderful under heaven. You are Lord of all, and there is no one who will oppose you, Lord” (Addition C:2-4 CEB).
Esther also starts her prayer by saying,
“My Lord, you alone are our king. Help me! I have no one to help me but you, and I am in great danger now. From my birth, Lord, I have heard how you chose Israel from among the rest of the nations, and our fathers from their ancestors, to be an everlasting inheritance. I have heard how you did for them all that you had promised.” (C:14-16).
Tobit and Sarah Bless God
In Tobit, Tobias and his new wife Sarah kneel down to pray together on their wedding night. Sarah has been married seven times already and each time, her husband has been killed by a jealous demon. Yet this is what Tobias says:
“Blessed are you, God of our ancestors, and blessed is your name for all generations. May the heavens and all your creation bless you forever! You created Adam and you created Eve his wife to help and support him, and from the two of them has come the human race. You said, ‘It isn’t good for the man to be alone; let’s make for him a helper like himself.’ I’m not taking this sister of mine now out of lust but with honest integrity. Grant that she and I will be shown mercy and grow old together.” (Tobit 8:5b-7)
Honestly, in any of those situations, I don’t think that’s what I’d pray. They were all in danger for their lives, yet they took time to remember their relationship with God before pleading for help.
Praying with Gratitude
Too often, I begin my prayers by asking God for what I need, instead of remembering what he’s done for me in the past and expressing my gratitude for that—and trusting he’ll meet this need because he already met those needs. Thinking of it in humans terms, I realized that if I had a friend who only came to me when she needed help, I’d get tired of that friendship. God wants a relationship with me, which means starting conversations, not just begging for help when I run into trouble.
Inspired by these prayers, I’m trying to remember to cultivate gratitude in my own prayer life.
Do you pray with gratitude like Tobit and Esther?