David and His Prayers
Prayer is a Christian’s great privilege but it is largely underused because of a spirit of self-satisfaction and self-confidence that marks many of us. Too often it takes adversity and extreme need to turn God’s people to exercise their privilege. Prayer betokens dependence upon God and confidence in God.
Prayer has numerous elements. Prayer is more than petition. Confession, worship, thanksgiving, praise, intercession, and supplication should also be in our prayers. There are more than forty different petitions of David’s recorded for us, including some he made for others. There are overlapping themes in them. We have space to consider only a few.
Preservation from his Enemies
David was likely anointed king by Samuel at age 22. He did not become king until after the death of Saul seven years later. For the greater part of that seven years, he was a fugitive fleeing from Saul who wanted to kill him. Though already anointed to succeed Saul, though Saul was his enemy, and though God on two occasions brought Saul into circumstances where David could easily have slain his enemy (1 Sam 24 and 26), David refused to “stretch forth mine hand against the Lord‘s anointed” (1 Sam 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11). In spite of David’s forbearance, Saul continued to pursue him. No wonder David prayed (Ps. 57:1), “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in Thee: yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.”
David knew an important principle of which Christians must also be aware. God has raised up men to govern and will not look lightly upon rejecting or disregarding them even when they are unworthy, as Saul surely was. There is government in God’s assembly. Rebellion against this is very serious and God will not honor that rebellion.
Preservation from Harm
Saul was not David’s only enemy. David was a warrior who fought many literal battles with those who would kill him. No wonder he prayed for safety as in Psalm 25:2, “O my God, I trust in Thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.” He prayed similarly on other occasions.
Though most Christians are not fighting physical battles, they are exposed to many dangers in their lives and do well to pray as David did to be delivered and preserved in safety. They should be grateful and thankful to the Lord for His grace to them in this way.
Preservation from Evil
David was aware of evil in the form of temptations on every hand, plus his own nature so prone to sin. He did well to pray, “Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me” (Ps 19:13). He also prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts” (Ps 139:23).
It is sad to note that though David prayed rightly that the Lord would preserve him from evil without and within, he did give way to his flesh and sinned with Bathsheba. Christians may learn to pray as he prayed but they should also avoid making any “provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom 13:14).
Supplication for Others
David is remembered as “the man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). This led to many features seen in David that remind us of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the most winsome of these features was a willingness to suffer himself instead of others. This caused him to pray for his people after he had personally sinned in numbering the people and God brought judgment upon the nation (2 Sam 24; 1 Chron 21). David’s conscience smote him and he prayed, “Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let Thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house” (2 Sam 24:17).
Christians, when praying, are too often only self-centered, forgetting the needs of others. They may be too preoccupied with their own circumstances to take note of others. Christians pray for the salvation of their own loved ones and that is surely right. They should remember to pray for the loved ones of others as well.
David’s petitions are certainly appropriate for believers today. But David also made some petitions which are not appropriate for Christians. David prayed, “Hide not Thy face far from me; put not Thy servant away in anger: Thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.” Believers today should ever bear in mind the Lord’s words in Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” He never will forsake them!
David also prayed, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” (Ps 51:11). The Holy Spirit indwells each believer and never departs from him. That was not true for Old Testament believers. The Spirit of God did come upon David and other Old Testament believers from time to time. He inspired David in the writing of the Psalms and David must have realized that and longed for the Spirit’s presence with him at all times. We have noted how David prayed for preservation from evil but sinned grievously in spite of that prayer. He did not have the resource of the indwelling Holy Spirit to assist in answering that prayer. Believers today must be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit against yielding to temptation for they have the same sinful nature within that David had.
May we all learn and profit from the examples of David’s petitions!