The Lord Jesus warns us against “the blind leading the blind.” If we’re blind and desire to walk a path, we need someone who knows the way. This is true literally and spiritually. If we want to pray, we need someone who knows how to pray.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes this simple principle and provides us with a strong litany of people dedicated to prayer. The list includes Abraham, Moses, Hannah, David, and many others.
Of all the people mentioned, everything changes when we speak about the person of King David. He encapsulates the whole of the Old Testament spiritual tradition within his person and his service to God. The Catechism teaches: “David is par excellence the king ‘after God’s own heart,’ the shepherd who prays for his people and prays in their name.”
The Sacred Scriptures cannot speak enough about David. While a sinner, he is beloved of God. While broken and wayward at times, he is chosen and given a sacred call within God’s people. While a human being, he is considered a friend of God. In many ways, the person of David prefigured Jesus Christ, while in another way, he prefigures the status of the children of God in the New Covenant.
The person of David was great because he was loved by God, and he reciprocated that love in a fervent and heartfelt life of prayer.
The Catechism continues its teaching about King David: “His submission to the will of God, his praise, and his repentance, will be a model for the prayer of the people.”
While the Catechism provides many examples of people who pray, none of them are given such a clear affirmation as David does. He is hailed as “a model” for the people of God. The entire life of the man – which was marred by serious sin and moments of great melancholy – is a template of a life lived by the means of prayer. When David sinned, he repented with profound sorrow. When he was victorious, he gave praise. When he was uncertain or in emotional darkness, he cried out for help. When he needed to move forward, he sought divine guidance.
David was a fallen human being like each of us. He recognized his fallenness and sought the presence of God to heal and direct him. In this way, he is the praiseworthy model of every person who wants to be a friend of God.
The Catechism teaches further about David: “His prayer, the prayer of God’s Anointed, is a faithful adherence to the divine promise and expressed a loving and joyful trust in God, the only King and Lord.”
The life of King David only makes sense when placed within the context of the covenant and promises of God. Outside of such promises, the life of the man looks peculiar. The life of prayer lived by King David can only be fully understood, appreciated, and imitated when it’s seen within his relationship with God and placed within his utter trust and confidence in the goodness and kindness of the living God.
From David’s personal prayer to God, he grew in devotion to liturgical prayer. The prayers of the king led him to a reverence for the prayers for and by God’s people. As such, he sought to codify and formalize the various prayers of God’s people. As he collected them, he also added his own prayers to God, which added to the depth and beauty of the collection. The codification of these prayers has come to be called the Book of Psalms.
Due to David’s work on the Book of Psalms and their continual use within the Jewish and Christian communities, the Catechism notes: “In the Psalms David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the first prophet of Jewish and Christian prayer.”
While the psalms can be prayed by anyone at any time, they also form the basis of the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Hours is the rhythmic praying of the psalms throughout the day by the community of believers as they rejoice in live in the New Covenant and await the return of the Lord.
For this reason, the Catechism teaches: “The prayer of Christ, the true Messiah and Son of David, will reveal and fulfill the meaning of this prayer.”
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