11 July 2016

2 Samuel 7:18-29

"And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant may know it." (v. 20)

Psalm: Psalm 118:1-18


This long, fulsome and repetitive prayer of King David is quoted in response to the earlier prediction from the prophet Nathan that David should build a house of God (the Temple), and that God would bless David with many descendants, most notably his son Solomon (who actually built the first Temple). Many scholars see this whole chapter as propaganda on behalf of Solomon, and if you read around earlier and later chapters, you will see that this section has a very different 'feel' to it.

The books of 1 and 2 Samuel contain some of the most astonishing, gripping, and brilliantly told human narratives in the whole of ancient literature (the only real comparison from a similar era is the work of Homer). There is a depth of understanding of human behaviour and an observation of significant detail that brings the political world of the early Israelite monarchy alive. And David is certainly flawed, cunning, and engaged in frequent behaviour of dubious morality, rather than the ideal, devout king who is apparently praying this rather dull if worthy prayer.

But, even if this prayer has been shoehorned into the story by another editor, it has made sense to the final redactor of this book to let it stand, and there are things to learn from it.

The language we use to God in public worship or private prayer is likely to contain what we aspire to, rather than what we regularly manage to do in our lives. We, like David, need to acknowledge that God's blessings to us come not because we deserve them but because of the goodness of God's heart towards us, even though God knows us at our worst, as well as at our best.

To Ponder

  • If you had to sum up David's prayer in one sentence, what would it be?
  • How wordy or otherwise are your own prayers? How far do you bring your real self before God, rather than the ideal person you wish you were?

Bible notes author

Janet Morley

Janet Morley is currently the Commissioning Editor for HOLINESS, the journal of Wesley House, Cambridge ( She worked for ten years in the Connexional Team, with the training and development officers, and latterly, as Head of Christian Communication, Evangelism and Advocacy.