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The King’s Gratitud...

A Leader You Can Follow

Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. (2 Samuel 7:27)

Here we are being told how David found the courage to pray, how he got to the place where he was able to pray as he did, how he came to have the faith, the courage, the sheer nerve to come directly to God, and ask of God as he did.

We are going to walk through this prayer together today, and as we do, I want you to see three ways your prayers can be deepened and become more effective.

Let’s begin in verse 18 with the first word – then. Whenever you see the word “then”, you should ask: When? After God had spoken. This tells us something very important and very practical about prayer. God had given a marvelous promise through the prophet Nathan, and then David prayed.

Prayer is a response to what God says to you in the Word of God.

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord… (2 Samuel 7:18)

Prayer is a response to what God has said, so let him speak to you before you try to speak to him. Listening to what God says to you in his Word, will help you to know what you should say to him.

Read some verses from the Bible before you pray and use what you read as fuel for your prayer. When you start up a snow blower, you use the choke to get it going. Scripture is the choke, adding fuel to your prayers. So always pray with an open Bible. That will get you going in prayer.

“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord…” (2 Sam. 7:18). He sat. I think the significance of his sitting as opposed to kneeling lies in the fact that he took time to think and reflect. He stopped what he was doing. He slowed down and sat.

Prayer is a response to all that God has said and all that God has done.

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)

Having listened to the Word of God, David thinks about all that God has done for him. David was the youngest of eight brothers. He was a shepherd, born into an unremarkable family in an obscure village called Bethlehem.

David was not born a prince. He had no royal blood. Being a king was not his by nature. There is no path by which a hard working shepherd gets rewarded by becoming a king. That is not how the world works! He had not become the king as a result of his own hard work.

David ponders how he has become the king, and all that God has done for him. Here is something that all of us can do. Let’s apply what David is doing here so that we can practice this ourselves.

Cultivate a Spirit of Thanksgiving

1. Call to mind God’s past blessings

“Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)

Lord, you have brought all that is good into my life. You took hold of me, where I was and as I was, and you brought me into what I am and where I am. And without you, none of this would ever have happened.

David, like us, was not beyond the temptation to take credit for what he had done. A lesser man might have reacted like this: “Why has so much blessing come into my life? Well, I was the one who killed Goliath! And I honored the Lord by not taking the life of Saul when I could easily have done so. And I’ve served faithfully for seven years out in the sticks at Hebron, before I was recognized by others and brought to this prominence.”

The natural condition of the sinful heart is to take credit for all that is good and to blame God for all that is bad. Prayer will never flow from a proud, sinful heart like that. Prayer flows from a humble heart that remembers what God has done. David has a humble heart: “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?”

Here’s what you can do when your heart is cold: You get up in the morning and you don’t feel like praying. God seems far from you. Use the choke. Sit down and call to mind what God has done for you.

Think about all that God has poured into your life by nature and providence. Do you have gifts and talents? Have opportunities opened up for you? Are there people who love you and care for you? Who gave them to you?

Then think about all the gifts that are yours in Jesus Christ. You were forgiven for all your many sins. You were adopted into God’s own family. The wrath that is out in front for millions is behind you. You are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God who will never leave you or forsake you. What do you have that you did not receive?

Praise my soul the king of heaven,

to His feet your tribute bring

Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven

Who like thee his praise should sing! (Henry F. Lyte) [1]

This praise comes from a man who might easily have felt sorry for himself. David was not beyond sliding into self-pity: “I have all this burden of responsibility—the whole nation seems to rest on my shoulders. I have been opposed and misrepresented for seven difficult years. God closed the door on what I wanted to do, and that was to build a temple, and he gave me the miserable assignment of fighting all these wretched wars.”

But you read these verses and there’s nothing like that here. What does David do when God closes a door on something good that he wanted? He sits down in the presence of God and he counts his many, many blessings.

If you are facing a big disappointment in your life, I commend this to you. Sit down in the presence of the Lord with a pen and a notebook. Ask God to help you bring your many blessings to mind. Look back over your life and write down what God has done for you.

Count your blessings, name them one by one

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. (Johnson Oatman)

2. Anticipate God’s future promises

“And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come…” (2 Samuel 7:19)

Not only am I blessed now, but there are future blessings already stored up for me! In Christ, God has made you his child, and you have been given an everlasting life. There may be clouds in your life right now, but they will pass. You have a glorious future ahead of you.

3. Marvel at God’s inexplicable grace

“What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD!” (2 Samuel 7:20)

 That word “know” has the sense of being “singled out,” or “laid hold of.” It’s rather like, “those he foreknew” in Romans 8. “What can I say Lord? Why me? Why have I been blessed? Why have you dealt so graciously with me? I can’t explain it.”

Then we have this marvelous statement: “Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it” (2 Samuel 7:21). Notice, God’s grace flows from his heart and it is known through his promise.

If you ask the question, “Why was I chosen? Why did God set his love on me?” You will never be able to go further than “because of God’s own heart.” God loved you because he loved you (Deuteronomy 7:7). The mystery of God’s gracious love—you will marvel at it for all eternity.

But if you ask, “How can I know if I was chosen?” The answer lies in God’s promise: “Because of your promise… you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it” (2 Samuel 7:21).

John Calvin says:

There are those who say to themselves that even if they have been elected by God before the foundation of the world, how and by what means will they know it? Let us learn, therefore, to begin with the Word which is clear to us, and when we want to know if we are children of God, remember that it says that whoever believes in the Son of God will never die” (John 11:26). Let us realize that God grants this privilege to all creatures, that he will accept them as his own children in Jesus Christ. Let us realize that in believing the Gospel, we are made participants in all the blessings of the Son of God. [2]

The Word of God reveals the heart of God to those who believe the promise of God. If you ask me: How can I know if I am elect? My answer is: Believe the gospel. If you believe the promise, you can be sure that God has set his love on you!

When David brings to mind God’s past blessings, anticipates his future promises, and marvels at his inexplicable grace, he can only say, “Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you…” (2 Samuel 7:22).

Widen Your Prayer to Include Others

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things… (2 Samuel 7:23)

Notice how David moves from what God has done for him to what God has done for Israel. Who am I? (2 Samuel 7:18). Who is like your people Israel? (2 Samuel 7:23). Prayer opens a window on a wider world. And while prayer at its best is always personal, prayer at its best is always more than personal.

Reflecting on the past blessings, future promises, and inexplicable grace of God in your life will bring to mind the needs and blessings of others. Others who have shared the same blessings will come to mind. That, of course, is the significance of David rejoicing in the blessings given to Israel, God’s own people.

Others who have not yet experienced the blessings given to you will come to mind. That is the significance of verse 19, where David says that the promise of God’s blessing is “instruction for mankind.” Or, as Dr. Walt Kaiser translates this, “for the benefit of mankind.” The promise of the Messiah, and all the good that is found in him, is for all people, including those who have not yet found the blessing that David already enjoyed.

This widening of prayer is clearly taught in the Lord’s Prayer. I wonder if you’ve noticed how often the plural comes into play here—our, us, and we.

  • “Our Father who art in heaven… Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:9, 11).

I bring the need that I have to you, but there are others who also have great need today and I pray for them as well.

  • “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Lord, I stand in need of forgiveness and cleansing from you. And there are others who also need to find this forgiveness and I pray that they will find it too.

  • “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

Whatever temptation you allow me to face, keep me from any place where its power would overwhelm me. Exercise the same guarding power over my brothers and sisters who face many temptations as well.

Prayer begins with reflecting on God’s grace to you, but it never ends there. The very awareness of your own blessings leads to a widening of your prayer life. When you draw near to God in prayer, open your heart to the needs and blessings of others.

Turn God’s Promises Into Prayer

And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. (2 Samuel 7:25)

These words “do as you have spoken” get us to the heart of prayer. When we pray, we ask God to do what he has promised. David repeatedly turns God’s promise into prayer. Out of the word that God has spoken, comes David’s prayer: “Lord, what I am asking is what you have already said. Do as you have spoken!”

“For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you” (2 Samuel 7:27). How does David have the courage to pray this? If God had not spoken, David would not have had the courage. “Lord, if you had not said this, I would not have asked it, but your promise has given me courage to ask this of you.”

“You have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you” (2 Samuel 7:28-29). Faith takes what God has said—God’s promise—and turns it into prayer: “Do as you have spoken” (2 Samuel 7:25).

Now why would you pray for something that God has already promised? Because prayer is how God’s promises are delivered. Prayer is standing in the gap between what God has said and what you experience, and bringing them together. “I need what you have said.” That’s how prayer works!

Here is another reason for praying with an open Bible. What God says in his Word will suggest to you, day by day, fresh things that you can pray for someone you love. How can you pray for people you love year-after-year without sliding into vain repetition? “Lord, bless them! Lord, bless them! Lord, bless them!” And that’s only the first three days! How are you going to pray for them for 25 years?

If you pray with an open Bible, you will often find that the Bible suggests something that you can pray for yourself or for another person, and when you pray for something God has said, you can pray with great confidence.

I’m reading in the Psalms at the moment, so here is one week’s worth of turning God’s promises into prayer:

Psalm 20: “May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans” (Psalm 20:4). That suggests prayer for one who has a deep longing for something good that has not yet come to pass.

Psalm 21: “You make him glad with the joy of your presence” (Psalm 21:6). That prompts me to pray that someone I love will be deeply aware of the joy of the presence of God with them today and the confidence that comes with that joy.

Psalm 22: “From you comes my praise in the great congregation” (Psalm 22:25). That suggests prayer for someone who suffers, that the outcome will bring praise to God and strength to others.

Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures” (23:1-2). Here is a promise I can pray for someone who is hard pressed, hungry, thirsty, and needs to be renewed, nourished, and fed.

Psalm 24: “Who shall ascend the hill of Lord? …He who has clean hands and a pure heart… He will receive blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 24:3, 4, 5). Scripture is suggesting that I pray for the cleansing of my heart and hands, and to pray the same for others, so that they may be guarded and that they may know the Lord’s blessing.

Psalm 25: “O my God, in you I trust” (Psalm 25:2). Scripture is suggesting that I pray for strong faith and for not wavering, and to have a steadfast eye on the Lord for myself and for those I love.

If you pray with an open Bible, you will always have something fresh to ask of the Lord, and you will be able to pray with confidence, because you are saying to God: “Do as you have spoken!”

Years ago, I came across a sermon preached by C. H. Spurgeon called Order and Argument in Prayer based on Job’s words: “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:3-4).

Job suggests that we pray to God in the same way as a lawyer presents his or her case in a court of law. What does a lawyer do in a court of law? The lawyer presents arguments. He gives reasons. She quotes legal precedent for a particular verdict. If your lawyer says, “Well, we’ll just go into court and ask the judge for what we want and see what he says!” It’s time for you to get another lawyer! A good lawyer presents a case.

You may say, “We don’t come to God as Judge, we come to him as Father.” But if you listen to children, you will find that they do exactly the same thing: “Dad, can I have an ice cream, because you said…”

What is the clinching argument with God? The great and clinching argument in all of our prayers is the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. His name always carries weight with God. You may already be in the habit of laying your case before God and presenting Jesus Christ as your clinching argument without realizing what you are doing.

At the end of your prayer you say, “For Jesus’ sake. Amen.” Why did you say, “For Jesus’ sake”? Because, intuitively, you know that God is committed to do whatever glorifies the person of Jesus and advances the work of Jesus. When you pray “in the name of Jesus,” you always have the ear of the Father.

This is why our Lord said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23). Asking in the name of Jesus, means submitting what you ask to the will of Jesus, but coming to God in the name of Jesus. And basing your prayers on what he has promised, will give you courage when you ask.

Jesus Christ is the clinching argument for every person who draws near to God in his name. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

How can you be sure of God’s promises? How can you know that what God promises is actually yours? Look to Jesus Christ. Put your faith and your trust in him and everything that God has ever promised will be ‘Yes’ for you!

[1] Henry F. Lyte, from the hymn Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven, 1834. [2] Calvin, Sermons on 2 Samuel, p. 367.
© Colin S. Smith
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