Introduction to the Prayers of Numbers ‣ Praying Through the Bible

Ark of the covenant

The book of Numbers contains prayers found within narrative sections, but it also contains a whole chapter of rules about a certain type of prayer. There are two intercessions, one blessing, a two-part petition, and a whole section of guidelines about offering prayer-vows.

Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant
Photo by Igor Rodrigues

The two blessings are part of the story of Israel wandering the desert and learning how to become the people of God. The first is the famous blessing of Numbers 6.24–26, which is often used as a benediction—a blessing on a congregation either at the beginning or end of a worship service. The second (the Prayer of the Ark) is a set of two petitionary prayers offered before and after a battle. Both of these prayers are excellent models of prayers to use at the beginnings and endings of events or times in our own lives.

There are two intercessions, both offered by Moses on behalf of the people who are suffering and complaining. These prayers show us some things about complaining and different ways God teaches us through prayer. Finally, there is a set of instructions about prayer-vows. This last section is difficult to understand and apply because it is rooted in ancient understandings of society, culture, and gender roles. Yet we can glean some important principles about how to offer prayer-vows.

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