The book of Ruth records six prayers of intercession to Yahweh. Most are expressed as benedictions in the presence of the recipient. Each prayer emphasizes the Lord’s sovereign desire to bless, his hesed lovingkindness, and the importance of family relationships. The Lord then answers each petition favorably, often using the person who prayed as an instrument of his redeeming grace. May these prayers compel you to take up the ministry of intercession for the loved ones in your life.
One of the best ways to learn how to pray is by listening to the prayers of others. Children learn from the prayers of godly parents and older saints in the church. New believers are both encouraged and exhorted in prayer meetings with the fellowship of believers. All of us are continually instructed as we study the prayers recorded in Scripture. In this manner, the book of Ruth offers multiple examples of intercession and the Lord’s favorable answer each time. As Murray Gow has stated, “The author of Ruth expected readers to be alert to the work of God in answering prayer, as should we today.” By observing these characters, we learn to pray and to trust that God delights to answer.
A Mother’s Prayer for Her Daughters (1:8-9)
The book of Ruth opens with no mention of prayer and no mention even of God except, ironically, in the name of Elimelech: “My God is King” (Ruth 1:1-5). The setting takes place in the days of the judges when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 21:25; see Ruth 1:1). Lack of trust in God explains why Israel as a nation (and Elimelech’s family in particular) got into a mess in the first place. Against this backdrop of despair, Naomi mourns the loss of her husband, her two sons, and any future hope. Yet she then prays courageously that her sons’ widows, Ruth and Orpah, might receive God’s grace:
But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept (Ruth 1:8-9).
Naomi addresses Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, as the sovereign ruler over life and death, family, and future. She petitions the Lord to bestow his loyal love (hesed) upon her daughters-in-law, who have shown such loyal love to her. She also prays that they will “find rest” in the security of a husband and his family.
Application Insight: Increase your devotion to intercede for loved ones. Pray for their rest in the Lord, marital relationships, and physical well-being. Pray for them to find spiritual safety and security even in the midst of life’s difficulties. Consider how the Lord has faithfully shown his loyal love to you and pray that he will show the same lovingkindness to your family. Then thank the Lord for the many people and circumstances he has brought into your life to bless you.
A Man’s Prayers for His Future Wife (2:12; 3:10)
Boaz intercedes as a future husband for his future bride. He recognizes Ruth’s virtuous qualities and the loving sacrifices she has made for others: “The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge (2:12; see vv. 2-3, 6-7, 11)!” By God’s providence, Boaz will soon become the answer to his own prayer and also to Naomi’s previous benediction (Ruth 1:8-9). He, too, addresses Israel’s covenant God, Yahweh, who reigns sovereign over marriage. He asks the Lord to repay Ruth for her sacrificial kindness to Naomi and to bless Ruth for seeking divine refuge amidst her difficult trials (Exod 19:4; Deut 32:11; see Ps 61:4).
Application Insight: Husbands, thank the Lord today for the godly qualities you observe in your wife and learn from Boaz how to intercede for her. (If you are not yet married, then apply this prayer to your future wife). Pray for God to bless her and to reward her virtuous graces. Pray for her to know his protection and the comfort of his constant presence. As you grow in your knowledge of God’s character, let it increasingly bolster your prayer life.