Continuing his catechesis on prayer, Pope Francis looks at King David, who has a unique and central role in salvation history, as the promised Messiah would come from the descendants of David: a King completely after God’s heart, perfectly obedience to the Father, faithfully realizing His plan of salvation.
David is, first and foremost, a shepherd: when he becomes a leader by God’s will, he will continue to be a man who takes care of his flock, defends them from danger, and provides for their sustenance. David learned a lot from his previous job and thus the image of the shepherd frequently occurs in the Bible. Even Jesus defines himself as “the good shepherd” who offers his life for the sheep, he guides them and knows them each by name (cf. Jn 10:11-18).
A second characteristic of David is his poet’s soul. David, the great artist traditionally attributed with the composition of many Psalms, is a sensitive person who loves music and song. Sometimes he raises a hymn of joy to God (cf. 2 Sam 6:16), at other times he expresses lament, or confesses his own sin (cf. Ps 51:3). David had a way of observing the mystery of the world and life, and Pope Francis says that is exactly where his prayer arises: “from the conviction that life is not something that takes us by surprise, but an astonishing mystery that inspires poetry, music, gratitude, praise, even lament and supplication in us.”
David’s life recorded in scripture is full of drama and contradiction. David is holy and sinful, persecuted and persecutor, victim and manslayer. Yet one thing gives unity to everything that happens: his prayer. Pope Francis notes, “David the saint prays; David the sinner prays; David the persecuted prays; David the persecutor prays. Even David the manslayer prays. This is the golden thread that runs through his life. A man of prayer.”
In particular, David teaches us in the psalms to let everything enter into our conversation with God. Bring it all to him: your joy as well as guilt, your love and suffering, your friendship as much as your sickness. Everything can become a word spoken to Him and this honest prayer secures our relationship with God, the true Companion on the journey who always listens to us.
“Like David, if we persevere in prayer – whatever our own vocation and the difficulties we may face – we will come to know the closeness of the Lord and be able to share this joy with others.”
Pope Francis invites us to meditate on the Psalms of David. Particularly appropriate in the Lent season is Psalm 51, a prayer of repentance written by David after his affair with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, her husband (2 Sam. 11–12). David recognized fully how horrendous his sin was against God, blamed no one but himself, and begged for divine forgiveness. It is one of the seven penitential psalms (Ps. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143).