How to Pray Like David
“Mirror, mirror on the wall…what does prayer look like after all?”
What would it look like if we were to hold a mirror up to prayer as we know it in America?
Perhaps there is a mirror of sorts, though dim it may be. Google.
When one does an image search of “pray” on Google, our prayerful features take shape in its reflection.
Not surprisingly, the results we behold are consistent with what the Barna Group discovered in their 2017 on How Americans Pray. Their study revealed that there are two primary features that characterize how we pray— silent and solo.
This was my story for the first half of my life. I pictured prayer the way that Google reveals before Google — alone on my knees, head bowed, hands folded , eyes closed, mouth shut, thoughts directed towards God.
Yet for the last 20 years of my life the picture of prayer progressively changed radically. Instead of Google, the “image search” of the bible reveals a very different portrait of prayer — vocal and communal.
A cursory reading of the psalms of David shows us this in breathtaking simplicity. Consider how David prays in Psalm 5:1-3, not with his mind, bur with his voice.
Give ear to my words…consider my groaning. (v.1)
Give attention to the sound of my cry…(v.2)
…you hear my voice… (v.3)
No less than six times in three verses, David draws attention to the fact that when he prays, he uses his voice. David doesn’t forget the essential use of his own voice in prayer.
I am sure that David fellowshipped with God in silence, and directed his thoughts to God in loving communion and fervent intercession. Yet David points out that prayer by definition is vocal, spoken, uttered, shouted, even whispered.
Also in Psalm 5, we see a peculiar phrase in the title or heading of the psalm, as is found in many more of his psalms— to the Choirmaster, or chief musician, or choir director. This peculiar phrase informs us that this psalm, like many others, is to be prayed and sung together by the community.
If you are like me, we mostly imagine David writing his psalms and prayers as simply an expression of his personal devotional life before God. Undoubtedly that did occur on numerous occasions. But here we see that David intended this to be prayed and sang with others, with a community.
How can we be so sure?
Because David gave this prayerful song to the choir director. The only reason one gives a song to a choir director is so that he would teach it to the choir, in order for the community to join in prayer with their voices together.
When I look back over the development of my prayer life, without a doubt, these two characteristics of prayer have had the greatest impact and encouragement to me. I would have never guessed that would have been the case.
My goal in drawing attention to this, is to highlight the emphasis biblically and invite us to consider its wisdom. Perhaps some of our struggle in prayer is thinking our thoughts towards God, rather than opening our mouths and speaking to Jesus as we would our dear friend, father or husband, with our voice.
Perhaps Jesus, the greater David, was more intentional than we initially realized when he said, “when you pray, say…” (Luke 11:2)
He would go on to tell them that they were to realize that they were part of an a community, an “our.”
I am convinced that Jesus is teaching the church how to pray again. And like the disciples, his first two lessons are for us to bring words and bring each other.
Lets join Jesus and discover afresh the enjoyable power of praying together as the family of God, voices raised to the ear of our loving Father
by Matthew Candler
Matthew Candler lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with his wife Dana and their four children where they serve on the leadership team at the International House of Prayer of Kansas City (IHOPKC). Matthew is the director of Intro to IHOPKC, a 6-month prayer internship. as well as an instructor at the International House of Prayer University (IHOPU) on prayer, the psalms, and more.