Prayer is a fundamental part of many religions, allowing believers to communicate with and worship their god or gods. In the Bible, there are various accounts of individuals praying to God, but determining who was the first person to do so requires a close examination of Scripture. In exploring this question, we gain insight into the origins of prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Adam and Eve
After God created Adam and Eve, He would come and walk with them in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). This indicates open communication and fellowship between God and the first humans. Though the text does not explicitly state that Adam and Eve prayed to God, it seems likely they conversed with their Creator in the garden. However, after they sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve hid from God’s presence (Genesis 3:8), suggesting a disruption in their previous fellowship with Him.
Cain and Abel
Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, both brought offerings to the Lord, but God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s (Genesis 4:3-5). The passage does not provide details on how the offerings were given, but it implies Cain and Abel were communicating with God in some form of worship. As the first offspring of Adam and Eve, they may have learned to make offerings to God through the instruction of their parents. Some believe the different types of offerings reflect differing attitudes of worship towards God.
Later, Eve gives birth to another son named Seth, saying “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel” (Genesis 4:25). This statement hints that faith in God has continued in the lineage of Adam. While Seth’s communications with God are not explicitly described, the following verse states: “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). Thus, Seth appears to be the first named person for whom prayerful worship of God is affirmed in Scripture.
Noah also stands out as an individual who clearly communicated with God in the early Biblical narrative. God spoke to Noah and gave him directions to build the ark (Genesis 6:13-21). Noah demonstrated his faith by obeying all that God commanded him (Genesis 6:22). It also seems likely that Noah prayed, giving thanks to God for delivering him and his family from the flood waters (Genesis 8:15-20).
Of all the patriarchs, Abraham has one of the most prominent prayer lives recorded in Genesis. God often spoke to Abraham, revealing His promises and covenant to him. In return, Abraham built altars to worship the Lord and called on His name (Genesis 12:8; 13:4). At various times when Abraham prayed for Abimelech and interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah, God heard his petitions and responded (Genesis 20:7, 17-18). Through his conversations with the Lord, Abraham exemplifies an intimate prayer life.
Isaac, Jacob and Joseph
Abraham’s son Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife Rebekah when she was barren, and God granted her conception (Genesis 25:21). Isaac’s son Jacob famously wrestled with God in prayer, refusing to stop until he received God’s blessing (Genesis 32). Joseph does not have specific prayers recounted, but he demonstrated his faith in God through interpreting dreams, withholding judgment from his brothers, and crediting God for his leadership in Egypt (Genesis 40-50).
Moses and Aaron
As leaders of Israel, Moses and Aaron frequently petitioned God on behalf of the people and received guidance from Him in return. Exodus describes instances of their prayer during the plagues on Egypt, at the Red Sea crossing, and in the wilderness wanderings when God provided manna and quail for Israel (Exodus 8, 14, 16). Their role as intercessors points towards the later establishment of an Aaronic priesthood appointed to lead Israel in worship.
When Moses passed on leadership to Joshua, God promised to be with Joshua as He was with Moses if Joshua would obey His commands (Joshua 1:5-9). Joshua demonstrated his reliance upon God through prayer, especially seen in his petition for the sun to stand still during a battle (Joshua 10:12-14). Joshua’s communication reflects a close relationship with the God who fulfilled His promises to give Israel victory in Canaan.
In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah earnestly prays and weeps before God, asking for a child, and God answers her prayer with the birth of her son Samuel. Her beautiful song of thanksgiving (1 Sam 2:1-10) provides insight into prayer as intimate communication with a gracious God. Her experience illustrates how prayer privileges the barren and oppressed.
From composing heartfelt psalms to pleading for God’s mercy upon confession of his sins, David prominently models prayer and praise throughout his life. His psalms portray prayer as candid yet reverent, while also exalting God for His goodness, power and righteousness. The book of Psalms contains over 70 compositions attributed to David that still serve to guide and inspire prayer.
At the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, Solomon offers a profound public prayer to God, asking Him to hear the petitions made towards the temple from both Israelites and foreigners (1 Kings 8). Solomon asks the Lord to respond with mercy, forgiveness and justice when His people call upon Him. This event marks a key moment in Israel’s history of prayer.
The prophet Elijah engages in dramatic public showdowns wherein he calls upon the God of Israel to prove Himself over the prophets of Baal. When Elijah prays, God sends fire from heaven and ends a severe drought (1 Kings 18). He perseveres in prayer until the rain comes, demonstrating bold and persistent prayer.
Later Kings and Prophets
The books of 1 & 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel contain examples of righteous kings, prophets and apostles who cried out to God through prayer, seeking mercy, wisdom and intervention. Daniel’s habit of praying toward Jerusalem while captive in Babylon particularly illustrates steadfast prayerfulness among difficult circumstances. The Old Testament closes with glimpses of hoping and waiting on God’s salvation.
Jesus’ Teachings on Prayer
In the Gospels, Jesus provides significant teaching on prayer through both His words and example. The Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) gives disciples a pattern for praying with praise, submission, petition and humility. Jesus instructs His followers to persist in prayer and promises that the Father responds to His children’s needs (Luke 18:1-8). Christ himself demonstrates complete dependence on the Father through prayer at key moments like His baptism, the Last Supper, and His crucifixion.
Prayer in Acts and Epistles
The book of Acts records the disciples praying corporately before receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14; 2:1-4). As the early church expanded, prayer continued to be a source of guidance and a means of invoking God’s power, protection and Spirit. Paul’s epistles provide various instructions on prayer, emphasizing praying with thanksgiving, according to God’s will, and filled with the Spirit. Believers are encouraged to pray ceaselessly, boldly approaching God’s throne of grace.
Table Summarizing Major Figures and Their Prayers
|Figure||Key Prayers & Examples of Communication with God|
|Adam and Eve||Fellowshipped with God in the Garden (Gen 3:8)|
|Cain & Abel||Brought offerings in worship to the Lord (Gen 4:3-5)|
|Seth||Men began to call upon the name of the Lord (Gen 4:26)|
|Noah||Walked with God (Gen 6:9); Built ark according to God’s instructions (Gen 6); Offered sacrifices to God (Gen 8:20-21)|
|Abraham||Built altars to call upon the Lord (Gen 12, 13); Interceded for Abimelech and Sodom/Gomorrah (Gen 20, 18)|
|Moses & Aaron||Interceded for Israel during plagues and wilderness wanderings (Exodus)|
|Joshua||Prayed for sun to stand still in battle (Josh 10)|
|Hannah||Prayed earnestly for a child (1 Sam 1)|
|David||Psalms portray candid, intimate prayer|
|Solomon||Dedication prayer for the temple (1 Kings 8)|
|Elijah||Prayed for drought and rain; Called fire from heaven (1 Kings 17-18)|
|Later Prophets||Petitions and cries for mercy and intervention|
|Jesus||Prayed at baptism (Luke 3:21), Gethesame (Luke 22:39-46), crucifixion (Luke 23:34); Provided Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13)|
|Disciples||United prayer before Pentecost (Acts 1:14); Healing and bold preaching in Acts|
While prayer appears common from the earliest biblical narrative, key figures emerge who model foundational aspects of communicating with God, such as praise, petition, intercession, and dependence. Although the text does not always provide specific details, God’s people are consistently exhorted to call upon the Lord. answers. The act of prayer develops greater significance as it becomes formalized through priests and prophets, and toward pure worship in spirit through Christ. Ultimately prayer remains a cornerstone of the Christian faith enabling intimate relationship with the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit.