His Exemplary Prayer
2 Samuel 7
The latter part of 2 Samuel 7 contains the prayer made by David in the tabernacle, following the gracious revelation which he had received from the Lord through Nathan (vv. 5-16). This prayer is among the "whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning" (Rom. 15:4). it contains valuable instruction which we do well to take to heart. It makes known that which is a valuable preliminary aid unto stimulating the spirit of prayer. It shows us the attitude of soul which most becomes the creature when desirous of drawing nigh unto the great Creator. It reveals some of the elements which are found in those supplications that gain the ear of God and which "availeth much." If the Christian of today paid more attention unto the prayers of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testaments alike, and sought to pattern his invocations after theirs, there is little doubt they would be more acceptable and effectual.
We pointed out in our last that Davidís sitting before the Lord denoted his earnest attention unto the message he had received from Him, his careful pondering of it, his devout surveying of the riches of Divine grace which were then spread before his mindís eye. This preceded his prayer, and supplies a valuable hint for us to heed. Meditation upon the discoveries which God has made to us of His goodness, of His bounty, of the glorious things contained in His covenant, is a wondrous stimulant to the spirit of devotion and a suitable preparative for an approach unto the Mercy-seat. To review Godís past dealings with us, and to mix faith with His promises for the future, kindle the fires of gratitude and love. As we attend upon what God has spoken to us, when our consciences are pricked or our affections stirred, then is the best time to retire to our closets and pour out our hearts before Him.
Generally it is but an idle excuseóif not something worseówhen the Christian complains that his heart is cold and the spirit of prayer is quite inactive within him. Where this be the case, it must be shamefacedly confessed to God, accompanied by the request that He may be pleased to heal our malady and bring us back again into communion with Himself. But better still, the cause of the complaint should be corrected: nine times out of ten it is because the Word has been neglectedóif read at all, mechanically, without holy reflection and personal appropriation. The soul is likely to be in a sickly state if it be not regularly fed and nourished by the Bread of life. There is nothing like meditating upon Gods promises for warming the heart: "While I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue" (Ps. 39:3).
We commented in our last upon the deep humility manifested by David on this occasion. This too is recorded for our learning. If we are becomingly to approach the Most High, there must be the taking of a lowly place before Him. This is the chief design of prayer, the prime reason why God has appointed this holy ordinance: for the humbling of the soulóto take our proper place in the dust, to kneel before the Lord as beggars, dependent upon His bounty; to stretch forth empty hands, that He may fill them. Alas that so often man, in his pride and perverseness, turns the footstool of mercy into the bench of presumption, and instead of supplicating becomes guilty of dictating unto the Almighty. Ah, my readers, take careful note that He who prayed, "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt," was on His face before the Father (Matthew 26:39).
Now in seeking to ponder Davidís pattern prayeróhaving duly noted above what preceded it, let us seek to profit from the various features found in it. First, observe that all is ascribed to free grace. "And what can David say more unto Thee? for Thou, Lord God, knowest Thy servant. For Thy wordís sake, and according to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all these great things, to make Thy servant know them" (vv. 20, 21). Davidís heart was deeply moved by a sense of Godís sovereign benignity; that such blessings should be bestowed upon him and his posterity was more than he could understand. He was lost in wonderment: words utterly failed him, as his "what can David say more unto Thee?" evidences. And is it not thus, at times, with every true believer? As he contemplates the abounding of Godís mercies, the richness of His gifts, the supernal future promised him, is he not moved to exclaim, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" (Ps. 116:12).
Realizing his own nothingness and unworthiness (v. 18), viewing the future glories assured him (v. 19), knowing there was nothing in himself which merited any such blessings, David traces them to their true causes: "For Thy Wordís sake, and according to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all these great things" (v. 21). It is the personal "Word" which he had in mind, Him of whom it is declared, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). It was an acknowledgementó"for Christís sake" Thou hast so honored me! "And according to Thine own heart" signifies, according to His gracious counsels, out of His own mere good pleasure. Yes, those, and those alone, are the springs of all Godís dealings with us: He blesses His people for the sake of His beloved Son, "according to the riches of His grace" and "according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself" (Eph. 1:7, 9).
Second, the greatness of God is apprehended and extolled. "Wherefore Thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like Thee, neither is there any God beside Thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears" (v. 22). It is blessed to observe that Davidís sense of Godís goodness in nowise abated his awesome veneration of the divine majesty. There is ever a danger at this point: we may be so occupied with Godís love as to forget His holiness, so appreciative of His tenderness as to ignore His omnipotency. It is most needful that we should hold the balance here, as everywhere else; hence did the Saviour instruct us to say, "Our Father, who art in Heaven"óthe latter words reminding us of the exalted dignity of the One who has deigned to adopt us into His family. Apprehensions of Godís amazing grace toward us must not crowd out the realization of His infinite exaltation above us.
Godís greatness should be duly acknowledged by us when we seek an audience with the Majesty on high: it is but ascribing to Him the glory which is His due. Prayer is reduced to a low level if it is to be confined unto the presenting of requests. The soul needs to be so absorbed with the divine perfections that the worshiper will exclaim, "Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Ex. 15:11). Godís supreme excellency is to be reverently and freely owned by us. It was owned by Solomon, "Lord God of Israel, there is no God like Thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath" (1 Kings 8:23). It was owned by Jehoshaphat, "O Lord God of our fathers, art not Thou God in heaven? and rulest not Thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in Thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand Thee?" (2 Chron. 20:6). It was by Jeremiah, "Forasmuch as there is none like unto Thee, O Lord; Thou art great, and Thy name is great in might. Who would not fear Thee, O King of nations?" (Jer. 10:6, 7). What examples are these for us to take to heart. The more we heartily acknowledge Godís greatness, the more likely is He to answer our requests.
Third, The special goodness of God to His people is owned. "And what one nation in the earth is like Thy people, like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to Himself, and to make Him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible?" (v. 23). As none of the "gods" of the heathen could be compared to Jehovah, so none among the peopleís of the earth have been so highly favored and so richly blest as His privileged "Nation" (Matthew 21:43, 1 Peter 2:9). O what praise is due unto God for His distinguishing mercy and discriminating grace unto His elect. "We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation" (2 Thess. 2:13). The special blessings of God call for special acknowledgment: the "redemption" which we have in and by Christ Jesus demands our loudest hosannas. There is far too little praise in our prayers today: its absence denotes a low state of spiritualityóoccupation with self, instead of with the Lord. It is written "whoso offereth praise, glorifieth Me" (Ps. 50:23).
Fourth, the Covenant of Grace is celebrated. "For Thou hast confirmed to Thyself Thy people Israel to be a people unto Thee forever; and Thou, Lord art become their God" (v. 24). In the light of the whole context, it is evident that the spiritual "Israel" is here in view, contemplated as being taken into covenant relationship with the triune Jehovah. For, whenever a people is said to be Godís people, and He avows Himself as their God, it is the covenant relationship which is in view. Thus it was in the promise to Abraham: "And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee" (Gen. 17:7). Thus it is under the new covenant, "I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people" (Heb. 8:10). It greatly encourages and emboldens the praying soul to bear this in mind.
Fifth, a believing pleading of the promises. "And now, O Lord God, the word that Thou hast spoken concerning Thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it forever, and do as Thou hast said" (v.25). This is blessed, and most important for us to emulate. In these words the faith of David was expressed in two ways: in believing Godís word, in pleading its accomplishment. That should be the very heart of our petitionary prayers: laying hold of the divine promise, and pleading for its fulfillment. God is not only a Speaker, but a Doer as well: "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?" (Num. 23: 19). Ah, but it is one thing to assent mentally to such a declaration, but it is quite another for the heart to be really influenced thereby, and for the praying soul to appropriate that fact.
True faith looks to a promising God, and expects Him to be a performing God too: "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thess. 5:4). The business of faith in prayer is to appropriate Godís Word to our own case and beg for it to be made good unto us. Jacob did this: "And Thou saidest, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea" (Gen. 32: 10). David is another notable example: "Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope" (Ps, 119:49)ó"hope" in Scripture signifies far more than a vague and uncertain longing: it denotes a confident expectation. That confident expectation was his because his faith rested upon the sure promise of Jehovah, that promise of which he here reverently reminds God. Glance through this Psalm, dear reader, and observe how frequently David requested God to act "according to Thy Word"ó119:25, 28, 41, 58, etc.
"Do as Thou hast said." Faith has no other foundation to rest upon but the Word of God. One of Godís chief ends in giving us His Word was that His people might appropriate the same unto themselves (John 20:31, 1 John 5:13). Nothing honors Him more than for us to count upon His making it good to us (Rom. 4:20). Now whatever may be our case, there is something in the Word exactly suited thereto, and it is our privilege to lay hold of the same and plead it before God. Are we groaning under sinís defilement? then plead Isaiah 1:18. Are we bowed down with a sense of our backslidings? then plead Jeremiah 3:22. Do we feel so weak as to have no strength for the performance of duty? then plead Isaiah 40:29-31. Are we perplexed as to our path and in urgent need of divine guidance? then plead Proverbs 3:6 or James 1:5. Are you sorely harassed with temptation? then plead 1 Corinthians 10:13. Are you destitute and fearful of starving to death? then plead Philippians 4:19. Reverently urge that promise and plead "Do as Thou hast said."
Sixth, the supreme desire: that God might be glorified. "And let Thy name be magnified forever, saying, The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of Thy servant David be established before Thee. For Thou, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to Thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hast Thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto Thee" (vv. 26, 27). This must be the supreme desire and the chief end in all our praying: "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). The prayer which Christ has given for our pattern begins with "Hallowed be Thy name," and ends with "Thine is the glory." The Lord Jesus ever practiced what He preached: "Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say? . . . Father, glorify Thy name" (John 12:27); so too at the beginning of His high priestly prayer, "Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee" (John 17:1). O that more of His spirit may possess us: that the honor of God may be our great concern, His glory our constant aim.
Seventh, a final pleading for God to make good His Word. "And now, O Lord God, Thou art that God, and Thy words be true, and Thou hast promised this goodness unto Thy servant: therefore now let it please Thee to bless the house of Thy servant, that it may continue forever before Thee: for Thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it; and with Thy blessing let the house of Thy servant be blessed forever" (vv. 28, 29). David built his hopes upon the fidelity of God: "I entreated Thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to Thy Word" (Ps. 119:58)óI desire no more, I expect no less. We may be bold to ask for all God has engaged to give. As Matthew Henry said, "It is by turning Godís promises into petitions that they are turned into performances." Flow necessary it is then that we should diligently acquaint ourselves with the Scriptures, so that we ask not "amiss" (James 4:3). How necessary that the Word dwell in us richly, that we may act in faith, nothing doubting.
Our space is exhausted. Ponder carefully, dear reader, these seven features or elements in Davidís God-honoring prayer, and seek the help of the holy Spirit to pattern your supplications after his.