What kind of prayer does God answer? That is really the $1M question isn’t it? A publisher made a pile of money with a book called “The Prayer of Jabez” in 2002. People took that little truncated sermon and treated it like a magic spell, “just pray this, and you’ll get rich.”
God is not a cosmic vending machine. There is no magic way to pray that guarantees God will say “yes” to us. We aren’t given a formula.
But we are given models, many models or patterns for prayer throughout the Bible. We aren’t commanded to use one form or another. But having them and not using them is a surely a waste of spiritual treasure because the prayers of the Bible are the prayers God the Holy Spirit breathed through the lives and personalities of the authors.
Every prayer in the Bible is a model prayer. But the one King David prayed, in 2nd Samuel 7:18-29 after God established his kingdom, is an especially good model of praying a prayer that God answers with a profound and majestic yes.
So how do we pray the kind of prayer that God answers?
Three things stand out about this prayer.
First, it resonates with humility. “Who am I … and what is my family … that you have brought me thus far?”
David is the undisputed king of Israel. It has taken him a long time to get there, over 10 years. But now he has the full support of the nation. He is a masterful warrior, victorious in hundreds of conflicts. He is a statesman strategist who has successfully negotiated treaties with powerful forces on his borders. He’s also the guy who dropped Goliath with a rock. David is big time successful.
But he hasn’t let it go to his head. “God, let’s not kid ourselves here. I’m nobody from nowhere with no pedigree whatsoever yet you’ve made me king and given me all of this success.” That’s humility.
James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” God answers the prayer of the humble.
The second is just as powerful. David calls God the “sovereign Lord.” That’s a specific compound name for God that recurs seven times in David’s prayer. It means “owner, ruler, maker” combined with “self-existing one.” When it comes to creation, God existed before it, created it, owns it and rules it. Owner/Ruler is his name.
David recognized that God was not just the God of the Hebrews only. He is the God of all creation, the sovereign of the universe.
America is experiencing unprecedented prosperity but also facing enormous problems. People everywhere are divided and angry. It’s tempting to give up.
We need to remember who is really in charge. It isn’t Washington, D.C., the media, the right or the left wing. God is the sovereign of the universe. He owns it all. When we pray to Him, we pray to the one in charge. Nothing is too hard for Him. No request is too difficult. No enemy is too strong. No task is beyond His ability. He has all power.
Finally, David recites God’s plan. “And as if this were not enough…you have also spoken about the future…of your servant.”
Our brains are programmed by upbringing, by our personality type, by our life experiences, or by the world and our natural bent toward sin, to believe that God’s primary attitude toward us is one of condemnation. That isn’t true. One of the most encouraging, faith building things we can do is to rehearse before God all the good things he has already done for us or promised us.
“For God so loved the world,” said Jesus, “that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” God’s primary attitude toward us is love. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,” Jesus continued in John 3:17, “but to save the world (from condemnation) through Him.”
That’s why David’s model is so good for us: He is rehearsing God’s blessings. It changes how we think about God and how we think about ourselves when we do this. And it changes the way we pray.
For this year’s National Day of Prayer, pray like King David. Pray with humility. Recognize God is in charge. And recite the good things He’s done. That is the kind of prayer God answers.