Psalm 20: A Prayer for the King of Israel

While struggling with a bout of insomnia, King Henry IV declared, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” These words were penned by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare in his 1597 work Henry IV Part II.  This revealed the truth regarding leaders in all walks of life.  They carry serious responsibilities and heavy burdens and must make important decisions that affect the lives of those they oversee.  Because of this they face constant scrutiny and criticism.  Because of this scrutiny and criticism God commands His people to honor their leaders, pray for them, and support them in their efforts to oversee the church. The Hebrew writer wrote: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

Notice there are six requests of the people for their king: (1) May God answer the king in his distress, (2) may God protect the king, (3) may God send the king help and grant support, (4) may God remember the king’s sacrifices and accept the offerings, (5) may God give the king what his heart desires and all his plans succeed, and (6) may God grant all your requests.  These are wonderful things we should pray for our eleders.

God’s law commanded the people to assemble before going to war to be exhorted by Israel’s priest (De. 20:1-4). The rally recorded in Psalm 20 likely took place during such a gathering. The conversation between the people, King David, and the Lord reveals the nation’s unity and their dependence upon the Lord.  

Throughout the Scriptures God commanded His people to be united.  Unity is essential because the church is the “body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27), and a body cannot be in disunity or disharmony with itself. If disunity occurs, it essentially ceases to be a body and becomes a disjointed group of individuals.  That is why Paul wrote:  “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10).  The most valuable service we can offer to our elders is to faithfully uphold them before the Lord in prayer and let them know that we support them,

Not only did the people pray for David they also encouraged him by expressing confidence in him (v. 5).  They prayed that God would grant him a great victory and that God would answer all his petitions to the Lord.  Leaders need encouragement. This is especially true within the church. Satan has used discouragement to defeat as many godly leaders as he can. Disheartened by the murmuring of the people, Moses sinned by striking the rock when God had commanded him to speak to it (Num. 20:1-13). When God called Joshua to succeed Moses in leading Israel, He repeatedly admonished him about the importance of staying encouraged (Jos. 1:6, 7, 9).

One of the important parts of this great Psalm is verse 7. The writer compares Israel’s trust in God to the confidence the pagan nations had in in their military strength.  “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”  Remember this: God is mightier than any enemy that engages you. He will raise His right hand of power on your behalf. You are kept by His power, a power that is beyond human imagination and comprehension (1 Pe. 1:5; Eph. 3:20).  We must be confident in every battle by prayer and by standing on the promises of God. We can do this by immersing ourselves in the Scripture, for faith comes through the Word of God (Ro. 10:17).  But Israel was different: their hope was not in the resources of warriors and military machinery. They were courageous in battle because of their confidence in the Lord, (v. 1). Without Him, they knew that all their military strength would be in vain. God had given His people a very special promise: “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (De. 20:1).

As followers of Christ, we are constantly engaged in spiritual warfare (2 Tim. 2:3; 1 Tim. 6:12). Our heavenly Father warns us that we cannot conquer spiritual enemies with physical weapons—in the power of our own flesh. We can only prevail using spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-4).  We must be strong in the Lord, for He has equipped us with every spiritual resource we need to resist Satan, and his demonic forces (Eph. 6:10-18).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro. 8:35-39).

May I suggest three things for us to consider: 

  1. Pray for our elders.
  2. Pursue peace and enjoy the unity the Lord commands.
  3. Strap on the spiritual armor God has provided and march into the spiritual battles against Satan knowing we will be victorious.