“A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape. But a woman of strength kneels in prayer and keeps her soul in shape.”
We are commanded to pray. Even though God knows our needs before we even think to ask Him. We can trust that God, in His providence will meet our needs – yet still we are commanded to pray. We do not pray in order to make sure God knows, or to remind him, or to give Him a nudge. We pray so that we acknowledge our utter dependence upon the Lord and give Him the glory due His name.
In Scripture, we notice many strong and faithful women of God. Today, we will be discussing 10 of these awesome women and what we can learn from them.
Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist. She was married to Zechariah. She is a cousin to Mary the mother of Jesus. We can read about Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-80. Elizabeth was barren, and in the culture in which she lived, being barren brought shame upon your family. Yet Scripture says that Elizabeth was, “righteous in the eyes of God, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commands and regulations.” (Luke 1:6) She never became bitter over her barrenness. She trusted God to do with her life what He deemed best. We can safely assume that Elizabeth prayed for a baby. And she waited, faithfully serving Him, regardless if He was to bless her with a child or not. Then, in His perfect timing, He did.
“After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, ‘Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.’” Luke 1:24-25. She considered herself immensely blessed by God – and didn’t need to parade around the town to show them that she was with child. She was overwhelmingly joyful simply because she knew that God saw her and heard her cry.
We should learn from Elizabeth – that we are called in life to be faithful to what God has commanded of us.
Mary the Mother of Jesus, the wife of Joseph. When the angel came to her to announce that she was to be miraculously pregnant, even though she was not married, she trusted God. In her culture, this could have brought shame on her and her entire home. Joseph could have legally broken the engagement. Yet Mary remained faithful and willing to serve the Lord.
“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Luke 1: 46-55
We can learn from Mary that we must always be a willing vessel, and that God is safe to trust. Even in what at first seems like a dire situation, God will be faithful and will keep us to the end. We can learn from her to look beyond our current circumstances and to keep focused on the Lord and His goodness.
3. The Canaanite Woman
This woman had a lot going against her. The Canaanites were viewed extremely poorly by the Israelites. She prayed to Jesus – and His disciples called her an annoyance. Yet she continued to cry out to Christ. She knew that He was God and she did not let the others around her to cause her faith to stumble.
“And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”And her daughter was healed instantly.” Matthew 15: 21-28
4. Anna the Prophetess
“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38
We are not told in Scripture what Anna prayed for. But we know that she prayed for many, many years. The Lord blessed her faithfulness and allowed her to be one of the very first people to recognize that the baby Jesus was the Messiah. Anna persisted in praying, day and night. And God did not overlook her.
Sarah prayed for many years for a child. Her husband Abraham was promised by God to be the Father of a great nation. Yet time passed and still no children. Sarah and Abraham grew old. Their time of fertility had apparently ended. Yet God blessed her with a son. During a time when it was physically impossible for her to have one. Sarah demonstrated great faith in the Lord and God blessed her tremendously.
“Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, ‘God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.’ She also said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.’” Genesis 21:5-7
Throughout the book of Ruth, we can learn a lot about prayer. The book begins with Naomi praying for her daughters-in-law. Now, Naomi was in a terrible situation. She was a foreigner in a hostile land, all of the men of the family who were supposed to take care of her were dead, and there was famine in the land. Her first response was not to pray for the Lord to rescue her, but she prayed for those whom she loved. Though she struggled in her faith, Naomi trusted God. And at the end of the book we can see how beautifully the Lord blessed her – he granted her a grandchild. May we learn to pray for others as faithfully as Naomi.
Hannah’s prayer is one of the most inspiring in the Bible. Hannah cried out to the Lord – unafraid to show Him her broken heart and depressed emotions. The Bible says that she wept bitterly. So much so that the priest at the temple thought that she was drunk. But even in her despair she did not waver in her belief that the Lord is good. When the Lord blessed her with a child, she sang His praises. Hannah never stopped believing that the Lord was good – even during her depression.
“Then Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. ‘There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. ‘Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. ‘The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. ‘The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. ‘For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. ‘It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. ‘He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” 1 Samuel 2:1-10
Miriam is the daughter of Jochebed and the sister to Moses. She helped hide Moses in the reeds and then when Pharoah’s daughter found Moses, she wisely mentioned that she knew of a wet nurse for the baby. Even as Moses followed the Lord’s commands and freed the Israelites, Miriam worked by his side faithfully. One of the oldest lines of poetry is the song of prayer that Miriam prayed to the Lord. This prayer occurred after they crossed the Red Sea while being chased by the Egyptian army. Miriam did not forget to praise the Lord for His faithfulness.
“Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted. Both horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.” Exodus 15:21.
Genesis 21:15-19 “When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. hen she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.”
Hagar had a rather dismal lot in life. She was a slave belonging to Sarah, and when Sarah disobeyed the Lord and sinned in convincing Abraham to sleep with Hagar so that she might become pregnant – she bore a son for Abraham, but this was not the son that God has promised would come to Abraham and Sarah. So, Sarah demanded she leave. Hagar and her son traveled across the desert and they ran out of water. They waited to die. But God had not forgotten he rand was gracious to her. He showed Hagar a well of water and promised to make her son the father of another great nation. From Hagar, we can learn that God is gracious and merciful. Even towards the most undeserving.
10. Mary Magdelene
Mary Magdalene was freed from demons by Jesus. She was able to experience freedom that is found only in Christ. Once she was saved, she became an entirely different person. Mary followed Christ, despite the risk. She was fully committed to the Lord. Mary was one of the very first people to be able to announce that Jesus had been risen from the dead. No matter how ugly our past looks, no matter what sins we have committed – Christ can cleanse us and make us new.
John 20:1-18 “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.”
There are several women whose faith is honored in the Bible. We would do well to remember the lives they lived, the prayers they prayed, and the faith they exhibited. The same God that these women called on and trusted is the same God who promises to be faithful to us today.