Tying shoelaces. Riding a bike. In all likelihood, these are things we learned alongside someone else. In his kindness, God has done something similar for us with prayer. He has given us some great models of prayer in the Bible. 2 Samuel 7 is a brilliant place to go to see this.
David’s prayer here is a response to some massive promises God has just made. Although David is the king, in another sense, he’s also a member of God’s people like us. Digging into what drives David to pray and exploring how he prays will really help us too. Just like having an older brother alongside us, we can watch and learn.
One striking thing about David’s prayer is how God-focused it is. There’s a pretty radical shift in David’s focus. David has his plans to build God a house, but God reveals his bigger, better plans. When David then comes to God in prayer, he’s on board with God’s plans. He wants God’s plans and promises to come about. ‘God’s will’ and ‘praying in line with God’s will’ is something we often hear being talked about, but here’s what it looks like—shifting from a me-and-my-plans focus to a God-and-his-plans focus. Praying in line with God’s will is a pretty radical thing. And a real challenge to our usual attitude and starting point in prayer.
One striking thing about David’s prayer is how God-focused it is.
But there’s a bigger surprise: how good praying in line with God’s will turns out to be—how it helps us to know what to pray. Our default is often to think of God’s will as something necessary but somewhat restrictive. What would it be like if we were praying more in line with God’s will? From how David prays, it would be very liberating. God’s told David what he’s going to do. So David knows God’s will. Therefore, he knows what to pray. We have what we need to know what to pray. God’s revealed his will. We can see it in the Bible. This is a great incentive to keep getting to know God’s purposes better and better—and letting them fuel our prayers.
David’s prayer also shows this would give us much more confidence as we pray. David’s boldness is pretty shocking. From verse 25 onwards he’s basically telling God to fulfil his promises! One thing that sometimes stops people praying is uncertainty about whether God will answer. Here’s the way to be confident, God will answer: to ask him to do what he’s promised. What might this mean in practice? Perhaps it will mean that, as we come to pray for things in the day-to-day, we think about God’s promises and how they might shape what we pray for. When we pray for our Christian friend’s job interview, for example, God hasn’t promised if they’ll get the job or not. But he has promised that in every circumstance he’s making them more like Jesus (Romans 8:28–29). So we can pray about the job. Our heavenly Father wants us to come to him with all our concerns. But we can boldly pray and trust that he will be growing and changing them for the better through this. Guaranteed!
And it’s not as though praying in line with God’s will is the second-best option; far from it. God’s plans are shown to be so much better than David’s. It’s not like David is missing out by aligning himself with God’s will. God has an everlasting, glorious plan for our good. It’s a win-win to ask him to fulfil his plans! We can get going or growing in prayer, using the fuel our Father has provided for us.