Praying with Mixed Motives

David was an inspiring and capable leader and his list of achievements are impressive. But he was also an ambitious ruler. He had, for example, built himself a palace to complement his status as the ruler of Israel. Then he had consolidated the twin symbols of statehood by bringing the tabernacle in which God’s people worshipped, into Jerusalem. But when he looked out from his palace to the new centre of religious worship, the Holy of Holies remained housed in a tent. Compared with the other nations, the absence of a building made the worship of God seem cheapened. So David asked God if he could build a temple to house Israel’s worship. Initially, Nathan, the prophet agreed (2 Sam 7:1-5), but in a dream that night, Nathan was told that David could not proceed. The reason? David is a warrior and is tainted with the history of past battles. His feet have blood spilt on them (1 Ki 5:3; 1 Chron 22:8; 28:2-3).
The story exposes David’s mixed motives when he prays (a common aspect of our own prayers as well.). David wants the twin symbols of national power: a palace and a temple in his new capital. God will answer his prayer, but differently from his expectations. Despite his mixed motives, God will honour him (in fulfilment of Deut 12). God will build a house (a lineage) for David and appoint his son (who will be Solomon) to build the house of God. But there is more; God promises that this son and his successors will never be rejected; God’s love for him will be unconditional and enduring for ever. David didn’t receive what he wanted, but he was given something far better, and his lineage becomes the basis for Christ’s status as the ‘Son of David’.

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