Offering a prayer for someone else’s safety occurs regularly in our family. Indeed, such a request often comes before the throne of God at the close of an assembly of the saints. Sometimes we make this request in passing when we have taken that safety for granted. At other times, when the weather threatens or other danger looms, the appeal for safe-keeping for a journey has added emotion and fervor. But the twentieth psalm presents David as a young king preparing for battle with the prayers of deliverance and victory being offered by his people on his behalf. David had survived numerous attempts on his life previously, but an approaching battle—with all its attending perils—multiplies the intensity of the prayer when duly considered.
The petition reflects an urgency worthy of emulation. Trouble is no mirage; it is an impending reality. David will need help—without a doubt—and only Yahweh can provide it (Psa. 20:1). Therefore, this help is not incidental or accidental but providential and intentional, coming from the throne of God in heaven (Psa. 20:2). However, this divine assistance is related to what the LORD remembers—whether He sees a man faithful to Him and sacrificing for Him or something else entirely (Psa. 20:3). Thus, with a purpose and life in harmony with God’s will, the power of the prayer anticipates complete efficacy (Psa. 20:4), so much so that those who ask, with great confidence in God, may look forward to an answer that delivers on the request for victory and supplies ample reason to glorify the LORD even more (Psa. 20:5). Approaching God with such faith (Jas. 1:5-8) is rooted in knowing the LORD’s will and having confidence in His character, and this will be expressed through the language of prayer and praise (Psa. 20:6). More than that, our faith will find expression in our lives as we learn to rely increasingly on the LORD rather than our own devices with assurance both that He answers and that HE will secure our salvation and victory in the end (Psa. 20:7-8). Thus, the psalm closes with the summarized appeal for the King’s deliverance with faith rooted in knowledge of God and His will (Psa. 20:9).
The message of the power of faith and prayer conveyed in this psalm is more than sufficient. However, consider briefly the appeal of this psalm for the deliverance of the LORD’s “anointed” (Psa. 20:6) from trouble and granting him victory in the end as another instance in which David’s life and writing offered a type for the life of Christ. Imagine the moment when Jesus left heaven to go into spiritual battle in the form of a man (Phil. 2:5-8). Would this not have been an appropriate prayer? Think about the consequences of failure and the meaning of victory. And then remember what the LORD accomplished (Heb. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:54-57). Everything hung in the balance. Everything. How would you have prayed? We sometimes pray as if we are passive in the process, unaware or unconcerned about the significance of the act or the power of real faith. Yet we battle a terrible enemy daily (1 Pet. 5:8) and often do so without approaching God in prayer. Prayer without faith is empty ritual. But how empty is faith without prayer? The Son of God prayed to the Father at every opportunity because He longed for His assistance and His fellowship. When we long for the same things, we will pray more too.