The story of David in 2 Samuel 12 tells of how King David approached God in prayer. Here’s the context: David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then plotted out the death of Uriah. In a series of events David had committed adultery, murder, theft and as a result brought disgrace to the Lord.
The Prophet Nathan then comes into the presence of David and tells him a parable that indirectly indicts King David. It was a story of a rich man who owned a herd of sheep and a poor man who owned only one sheep whom he loved. One day a traveler was visiting the rich man. In order to feed the traveler the rich man killed a sheep for food. But instead of taking a sheep from his herd, he took the only sheep belonging to the poor man. The parable enraged the King who demanded that the rich man be brought to justice. Nathan then pointed his finger to the angered king, “You are that man.” The son of David who will soon be born is then condemned to die as a result of his son.
Something interesting happens at this point. David then fasts and prays for about 7 days straight. He puts on ashes and sackcloth and lies prostrate before the Lord. David’s behavior becomes concerning to his servants. In fact, when David’s newborn son ultimately dies, they withhold the information from the king thinking he might commit suicide if he finds out. David eventually finds out his child is dead and his response catches the servants off guard. Upon finding out the death of his child, David gets up bathes, washes himself, eats and returns to his life as normal.
Here’s the interaction between King David and his servants after David resumes his normal life:
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.’
Tension at the Heart of Prayer
It seems to me there are two ideas at tension in prayer. Teachings on prayer will often lean on one of these two ideas. The first idea is found in Hebrews 11:6, “He who comes God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of him that diligently seeks him.” When we press in to seek God he blesses us. We draw close to him as we fast and pray and weep and sacrifice for him. Our earnestness and effort matter a great deal to God.
The second idea is that of trust. Proverbs 3:5,6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your hear and lean not on your own understanding, In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.” This verse tells us that we can ultimately trust in the Heavenly Father to guide and direct our lives. That it is not our effort but rather the goodness of God that leads to our ultimate blessing. It is this goodness that we can ultimately put our trust into.
We must hold these two ideas in tension without falling into one of two pitfalls. One pitfall is that I can lean so much on my effort that I fall into presumption. I can think that because of my earnestness that God must answer my prayers. Then when the prayer doesn’t get answered, I become angry with God because he didn’t hold up his end of the deal. My relationship with God as a result suffers.
The second pitfall is fatalism. We can look at a situation and be convinced that whatever happens is God’s will and nothing we say or do or pray about will make any difference. In fact, the Bible speaks highly of the handful of men that tried (many times successfully) to change the mind of God. Here are a few: Abraham, Moses, and Paul.
Our Baby is Breech
Right now our baby is breech. In other words, he’s sitting upright instead of upside down, not optimal for a natural vaginal delivery. It happens to about 3-4% of women who are pregnant. It’s been a bit of a disappointment, because you hope for a vaginal delivery. But our little boy has stubbornly had his head up and has yet to flip in our late stage of the third trimester.
We are now doing everything in our power to turn this baby. Melanie is doing 40 minutes of exercises three times a day. At any given moment if you were to walk into our house, you may see my wife on her head. We are seeing a chiropracter. We are doing myofascial massage. And we’re even doing this weird acupuncture move involving smokeless moxa sticks. Moreover I have fasted and prayed. We really want this baby to turn!
On the hand, I am prepared to take this baby to C-section. And I can do that without being angry or upset or frustrated.
So I am doing everything I can with all my heart to turn this baby. But at the same time I recognize that God may have other ideas in mind that end in a surgical procedure.
The story of David in 2 Samuel 12 captures the tension of prayer. We must pray as if it matters everything to us. Then the next moment, it must not matter to us at all. We seek God with everything we have. But when all is said in done, our trust in him remains unmovable.
If you do get the chance, please lift up our little one in your prayers.