The last post I made was about prayer identities. The idea of a prayer identity – a unique personality that encompasses your focus during prayer at a particular time in your life – is not mine. It was an idea I read about in my current Bible study, Disciple’s Prayer Life, by T.W. Hunt and Catherine Walker. More specifically, in that study they talk about the fact that there are 2 “secrets” to improving your fellowship with God:
- Knowing God enhances your fellowship with Him.
- Knowing and understanding your personal and unique identity before God strengthens your fellowship with Him.
We come to know God by studying His Word and applying it to our lives. But coming to understand our identity before Him isn’t quite that simple. For one thing, as our circumstances change, our identity before Him also changes. Thankfully, He doesn’t change (which is something we come to know by getting to know Him better), so there is one solid anchor to hold on to in all of this. As I mentioned in my last post, my current prayer identity is most like that of Jacob, who clung to God until He blessed him. Nine months ago, I would have probably told you that my prayer identity was more like that of David in Psalm 103, where he praised God and acknowledged His many great deeds. I had just started my current job, which I know was a gift of God.
So it’s obvious that a person has multiple prayer identities before God, sometimes from week to week, sometimes within the same day. I think David’s life is a great Biblical example of a person who had multiple prayer identities before God (though all characters surely did – we just happen to have much of David’s identity captured in the Psalms). Here are some of the different prayer identities that David held in his life:
- Soldier. If you know the story of David, you know he ran away from and was even forced to fight against the armies of Saul. In Psalm 18:1-3, David gave a clue as to His identity before God as a soldier: “1I love you, O LORD, my strength. 2The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”
- Sinner. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then sent her husband Uriah off to be killed so that he wouldn’t find out. This grievous sin led him to write Psalm 51: “1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” and “10Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Who couldn’t claim this prayer identity at some point in their life?
- Sheep. David saw God as his shepherd, leading him, providing for him, and protecting him. “1The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23)
- Fleeing victim. As I mentioned, David spent a lot of time running from Saul, which probably caused him to write words like “1O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, 2or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.” (Psalm 7:1-2)
- Offerer. David knew that God was the source of all blessing, and that to offer that blessing back to God was all we have to give. “10David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, ‘Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 14But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.’ ” (1 Chronicles 29:10-14)
- Father. After his sin with Bathsheba, and conceiving a child with her in that sin, David still loved the child and wanted it to live regardless of the fact that God had told him through Nathan the prophet that the boy would die. “15After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground.” (2 Samuel 12:15-16)
- King. David knew his position as king over the people of Israel carried great responsibility. “15So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. 16 When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the LORD was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the LORD, ‘I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family.’ ” (2 Samuel 24:15-17)
- Worshiper. And as we mentioned above, David knew that God deserved all praise. “1Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-3who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103)
So are all these different identities proof that David had Multiple Personality Disorder? Nope. It only proves that he was uniquely human, and that he acknowledged the Lord, his God, and our God, in all things, good or bad. We can take a lot from this. For one, I believe that I can now focus on who I am before God at a particular time when I’m praying, and that it will strengthen my fellowship with Him. And that’s the real goal.