Chapter Five: What is Blessing Prayer?
When God gave Moses the law, he included more than a simple list of rules and regulations. Part of his commands included instructions for the Israelite priests. They were told how to make sacrifices and how to judge righteously, among many other things. One of the most important - and least discussed - was the task of blessing prayer. God specifically commanded Aaron and his sons to pray blessings over the whole nation of Israel.
God tells Moses, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them” (Numbers 6:23-27).
Apostle Paul and blessing tradition
And so the Israelite priests made a habit out of praying blessing prayers over the people of Israel. Blessings became such a part of the Jewish mindset that once the Apostle Paul converted and began planting Christian churches throughout the Mediterranean, he carried the tradition of blessing prayers with him. In fact, if you read through Paul’s letters, you’ll find that he often begins his letters with a prayer of blessing. Paul in these prayers asks that God will work out his will in the lives of the Christians to whom he’s writing.
Apostle Paul on Blessing
In order to give you a better idea of what exactly one of these blessing prayers sounds like, listen to what he writes to the Colossian believers:
“We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light” (Colossians 1:9-12).
There are a number of similarities between the original blessing prayer given to Moses and that of Paul. Both of them ask for God’s provision and protection. Likewise, both of them see God as the ultimate source of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). Finally, both of these blessing prayers focuses on someone else rather than the one who is doing the praying.
In order to fully understand what a blessing prayer is, we should probably dig into the whole idea of blessing - and cursing. We don't practice these two things widely today but in biblical times were incredibly important.
Blessing and Cursing
Both Old and New Testaments use the language of blessing and cursing. Scripture tells us that God both blesses and curses people and things. This we can see in the first few chapters of the Bible. After creating the first human couple, God “blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
But the story doesn’t end with blessing. After Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the one forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, God pronounced a curse on the very ground of the earth (see Genesis 3:17). This pattern continues throughout the Bible with God blessing faithful men like Noah and Abraham and cursing rebellious, hateful ones like Cain.
This idea of blessing and cursing is made even more clear when the nation of Israel is on the cusp of the Promised Land. Before entering Canaan, God tells the Israelites that if they are faithful, he will bless them with health and prosperity. But, if they rebel and complain, then he will rain down curses on them. These curses included everything from famine and illness to exile and infertility.
God blesses and God curses. And when God blesses, you can count on good things coming your way. But when he curses, there’s nothing but loss ahead. However, even when he curses, God’s ultimate goal is often reconciliation. He brings curses down on a rebellious people in hopes that they will turn to him in repentance.
This Old Testament idea is in New Testament with slight modifications. When Jesus preached his famous Sermon on the Mount, he began with a series of statements that have come to be called ‘The Beatitudes.’ Each of them begins with the words, “Blessed are the...” (see Matthew 5:3-12). These ‘Beatitudes’ define the characteristics and attitudes valued by God and his kingdom. These important statements let each of us know that true blessing isn’t about mere words. God doesn’t bless those who say the right things. He blesses those who walk according to the right Spirit.
So, it’s important for us to keep all of this in mind as we reflect on what it would mean for us to pray a blessing prayer today.
Praying Prayers of Blessing
One of the most common forms of ‘blessing’ found today is the benediction. This is the part of a worship service when the pastor or priest sends the congregation out by praying for God to bless them. Some people have mistakenly thought that this is merely a dismissal ritual with little real spiritual value. But that simply is not the case. As we’ve already seen, prayers of blessing have a long history within both Judaism and Christianity. And so, if we’re going to be truly biblical, then we need to understand that the blessing prayer is more than just a fancy way to say “Until next time.” We also need to understand that blessing prayers should not be limited to the closing of a worship service.
Though many Christian traditions believe that true prayers of blessing can be performed by ordained clergy, simple blessing prayers can be prayed by anyone. Let’s take a moment to look at both the formal and informal varieties.
Formal Blessing Prayer
Formal blessing prayers is “a pronouncement of God’s gracious favor, to be given only by his ministers on the authority of Holy Scripture to faithful believers. In this action Christians are assured that the grace of God the Father, the love of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Spirit are with them.” These are most common at the end of a worship service but can also occur at other times. For example, some Christian traditions include a blessing prayer during the marriage ceremony or even when a couple moves into a new home.
Formal prayers of blessing offered during the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper. This is a particularly important time to pray a blessing prayer because of the belief that Jesus is supernaturally present when God’s people come together and worship (see Matthew 18:20).
Formal blessing prayers are valuable because they remind us of the spiritual reality that we inhabit. Our lives are often chaotic and confusing. There are times when it may feel like we’re completely alone. And yet, when we pray the blessing prayer, we remember that there is a God who loves us, cares for us, and draws us deeper and deeper into his presence. This kind of prayer allows one of God’s ordained ministers to speak spiritual truth into our lives. And for this reason they are incredibly valuable.
Informal Blessing Prayer
Even though blessing prayers are normally associated with the benediction of a service, informal blessing prayers can be prayed by anyone. We’ve already seen that prayers of petition focuses on asking God to help us. There are two kinds of prayers that we can pray for others. Blessing prayers and intercessory prayers.
As we’ve already seen, blessing prayers ask for God’s will to be done in the lives of others. When we pray for God to bring spiritual growth into another believer’s life, we’re praying a blessing prayer. We can say the same when we pray for his faith to increase or for him to get the love of God. Any time that we ask God to bless someone else, we’re praying a prayer of blessing.
These are important for a number of reasons. First, it’s important for us to make sure that our prayer lives are not first and foremost about us. When all of our prayers are nothing but petitions for what we need and we want, we miss out on some of the greatest blessings that God has for us. The Christian life is a life of death to self. And so the blessing prayer is one of the most Christian prayers we can pray because, rather than praying, “God, bless me!”, we cry out, “God, bless them!” It may go against our human nature but it is completely in line with the Spirit’s nature.
Importance of blessing prayer
Prayers of blessing are also important because they remind us that we are part of one Body. And so, when any one member of this body enjoys blessings, we are all blessed. Christianity is not a lone-ranger or solitary religion. It is social, through and through. Blessing prayers should flow naturally out of the love and concern that we have for other believers. But more than that. We should go further than simply praying, we should ask God for ways to actually bless our fellow Christians. For true Christianity is never enough only mere words. It always seeks to follow words up with actions.
So pray a prayer of blessing today. And when you’re done, follow it up by blessing the person you’re praying for.
Part 1.: CHRISTIAN PRAYER – Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 1
Part 2: WORSHIP AND PRAISE – Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 2
Part 3.: THANKSGIVING PRAYER – Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 3
Part 4.: PRAYER OF PETITION – Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 4
Part 6: INTERCESSORY PRAYER – Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 6
 Toon, P., & Winter, R. M. (1988). Bless, Blessing. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 364). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.