In Philippians, we are told to be anxious for nothing but by prayer and petition make our requests known to God.
Jesus told us to ask anything in His name and He will do it (John 14:14). He also says that our Father knows how to give good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11).
King David wrote one half of the Book of Psalms. He was skilled in the practice of prayer. His prayers aren’t always beautiful– poetic, yes; beautiful, no.
From the patterns of prayers found in the psalms, I have deduced that the power within David’s theology of prayer is that David felt he could say and ask for anything.
Nothing shows this more than the recounting of the death of David’s first son by Bathsheba– the child resulting from David’s sins of adultery and murder.
There is a principle of prayer in this passage of scripture that I am almost positive you haven’t considered:
Praying a prayer that you know God will reject.
2 Samuel 12:1-25:
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; 25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.
Even in sin, in punishment, in anguish, David turns to the Lord for help.
Having a relationship with the Lord is a hard thing to define. I’ve been trying! Relationship with God means that your hope is in Him even when you’re out of alignment with Him. It means even when you know God is disciplining you, it is Him that you run to for help. Relationship means love and communication despite disharmony– markedly different than reverential religious worship.
Cain, Jonah, Judas Iscariot all ran from God when they did wrong. David ran to God.
David knew that nothing he did took away his access to the throne room of grace. No matter what, the very least he could depend on was that God would let him make his request known. God would hear David’s prayers. David trusted that the Lord’s ears were never deaf to him.
There was absolutely nothing that David didn’t take to the Lord in prayer.
“Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” Psalm 121:1-2.
David poured out his strength to the Lord in requests for his son. And then, after the baby died, he got up, cleaned up, and went to the Tabernacle to worship.
David didn’t pray for his baby to live because he thought God would say yes. He prayed for his baby to live because God was his only hope.
You’ll notice that unlike what many of Israel’s wicked kings would have done, David never even thought of turning to magicians or shamans or healers or mediums to try to save the baby. He went to the One who had stricken the child with illness in the first place. Because that One, was his only god on that day and every other day of his life.
David had some bad traits, but idolater was not one of them. Good, bad, or indifferent, he worshipped and trusted in the strength of only One. I believe that this trait is the key to why even with serious moral failures, David is called “a man after God’s own heart.”
In this light, here are the instructions for the care of your soul when making your request known to God:
- Ask God for everything in your heart, because who else can you turn to?
- Don’t just pray for God’s will and for your basic needs in life while leaving your requests to be gotten illegitimately.
The odd thing about making requests that don’t seem particularly holy, is that those are the vulnerable prayers that keep us from idolatry and adultery.
Our faithfulness to the Lord is made possible by honest, every day, requests.
“Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
*image: “The Old Guitarist” Pablo Picasso