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Did you know that the Bible is actually a prayer playbook?

It’s like a diary of characters in Scripture that taught us and tells us their secrets. The only difference is that this diary isn’t hidden in a secret place under lock and key. This diary is God’s Word, the Bible, and it’s available and free to anyone who wants to read it and access the “secrets” of prayer. 

In 1 Samuel 23, we get a glimpse into David’s prayer playbook. Starting with verse 4 here’s what we read:

“When David was told, ‘Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,’ he inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ The Lord answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ But David’s men said to him, ‘Here in Judah, we’re afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces?’ Once again, David inquired of the Lord and the Lord answered him, ‘Go down to Keilah, for I’m going to give the Philistines into your hand.’ So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines, and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah.” Verse 6 says, “Now, Abiathar, son of Ahimelek, had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.

It’s important for us to understand some of the cultural requirements of the text. It was a king’s job to protect the people, but Saul could care less about the Israelites living at Keilah, in the area of Judah. He could care less.

Why? He was so envious of David. Driven by jealousy, all he could think about was killing David. Saul then went to Nob, a place where there were some 85 priests who lived there along with their families. When Saul found out that one of the priests had helped out David, Saul was so enraged that he then had all the priests killed. Only one priest escaped named Abiathar. 

As Abiathar escaped he took the linen ephod with him. It’s a garment, an outer garment, that the priest would wear. Then on top of the ephod will be a breastplate, and the breastplate would have the 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel. In essence, when a priest would go into prayer, they don’t go in by themselves; they go in bringing the needs of the people to prayer before God. 

After Abiathar escaped, he ran to the cave of Adullam where David was because Saul was trying to kill him. When David found out what’s going on at Keilah and the Philistines there, he had somehow empathy for them and he goes into prayer.

Prayer Play One: Pray Strategically

The starting point of prayer is always a genuine concern for the needs of people in your sphere of influence. Now, no doubt, David had his own worries. Saul is trying to kill him. He’s hunting him down like a wild animal and he has an army with him. So though David was being hunted, he had this concern, this sense of compassion; the Philistines, they are raiding all of the food pantries of those living at Keilah and they’re fighting against these Israelite brothers, and Keilah was … the word Keilah means fortress. That means that they’re surrounded by mountains and they’re walled in, so to speak.

So David’s … David’s so concerned about them. They’re being starved; no food left. They’re being fought against by the Philistines. David goes into prayer. 

Most of us would say,  “Wait, I’ve got my own problems. Why am I going to pray about you? I need prayer. I need help.” But David strategically inquired of God. 

Sometimes we’re so preoccupied with ourselves we don’t even realize that God has a plan for us. The interesting thing about God, and I must admit that I don’t like it, but it’s fact anyway, God, He tells you the things that He wants to do for you. He told David, “David, I’m going to make you king,” and that’s great. You would think “next stop, the throne.” No. Scholars say for about 10 years, Saul chased David up hills, down hills, in caves, out of caves. For some 10 years, Saul tried to kill David. 

So my question then to God would be, “God, you spoke through Samuel, the prophet. You gave a very clear prophetic word that David would be king. Why all this trouble? Why give him all these problems? Why have him run for his life for 10 years?” 

They had the Bible as the answer. Troubles help us. You would never have a prayer life if you didn’t have trouble. You would never grow up if you didn’t have trouble. Come on, we can applaud the Lord. We all want a college degree, but we don’t want to pay tuition. I mean, you understand. We just want everything by osmosis. The same thing, we all want to have God’s blessings, but we don’t want to have a life of prayer. 

But it’s through the troubles and the fights that we find ourselves getting stronger.

Oftentimes, we’re not like David. David was very specific and he prayed strategically and we ought to do the same. When God said to him, “Go and fight the Philistines. Go and save Keilah,” he announced it to his 400 men. “Guys, we’re going to go and fight the Philistines and save Keilah.” The men said, “Oh no, we’re not going anywhere,” and they gave three plausible reasons. First, “We’re afraid right here in Judah. In other words, Saul’s trying to kill us. Right where we are, we’re afraid. Why are we going to go three miles away in this fortress area?” Second, “Keilah is a fortress. We’re not going to go in there because the moment we go in, all Saul has to do is block the entrance and we can’t come back out. We’re dead.” Third, “those Philistines, they’re crazy. We only have 400 men and why are we going to go and fight against Keilah that has nothing to do with us?”

Prayer Play Two: Listen Carefully

So they gave those three plausible reasons. David, he didn’t dismiss them. What he did was he went back to God in prayer. May I suggest now, as I pull this second principle from David’s Prayer Playbook, what I learned when I go into prayer is this: Listen carefully. 

David went in prayer to God: ‘Should I go after these Philistines and teach them a lesson?’ God said, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ But David’s men said, ‘We live in fear of our lives right here in Judah. How can you think of going to Keilah in the thick of the Philistines?’ So David went back to God in prayer. God said, ‘Get going. Head for Keilah. I’m placing the Philistines in your hands.’ “

Now watch this. God never chastised or was angry with David because he inquired about the same thing a second time. Inquiring to God about the same thing multiple times is not an indicator of doubt necessarily. It’s an indication that you just want clarity, and God is very patient. He’s very kind. He’s very gentle. He’s very sensitive. 

So when David cried out to God, he gave space for God to respond. Never let selfishness or pride cause you to monopolize spiritual conversations with God. Don’t think that the amount and number of words you are using are going to somehow get God to respond faster.

Pause. Be quiet for a moment. Listen. Consider even going on a prayer walk, taking the Lord with you. 

Prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue. 

God wants you to talk with Him and He also wants to talk to you. 

Prayer Play Three: Rescue People

Now we come to the point where, when David returns to his men and he tells them, “Guys, I went back to prayer and God told me the same thing He told me before. He said, ‘Go and fight the Philistines. Go and rescue Keilah.’ ” The men say, “Okay, cool, let’s do it.” They went and they pummeled the Philistines, and not only rescued Keilah but took the Philistine stuff. 

What would have happened had David not prayed on the front end? Thankfully, he prayed. 

So I ask the question, what would happen if you committed to praying every day? If you don’t, what promises of God would you have left on the table unfulfilled? What blessings would you have left in the camp of the enemy and that you have not retained? 1 Samuel 23:5 says, “David and his men went there,” that is, to Keilah, “and fiercely attacked the Philistines. They killed many of them, and then led away their cattle, and rescued the people of Keilah.”

Create a prayer plan and think about what goals you have in terms of prayer goals and prayer requests or objectives. Who needs to get delivered that’s bound? What marriages need to get rescued and healed that is faltering? What relationship needs to be just set free? What child or children or grandchildren that the enemy has just hoodwinked and fooled and they’re so wrapped in darkness, they don’t even know who they are, lost their mind, lost their mental faculties? Who needs to get delivered?

Get Out of Your Own Way

David’s victory motivated others to conquer fear. David’s victory, motivated others to not be controlled by reason or logic. Sometimes our biggest enemy is reason and logic. We reason ourselves away. We’re intelligent people. Some of you have three, four master’s degrees. Some of you have not just one PhD. You have a couple of them. I’m scared of you. But the problem is you have no power. 

You’re smart analytically, foolish spiritually, and that is my biggest enemy. My educational accomplishments get in the way, often. The first thing that happened to me spiritually when I finished my Ph.D., that was back in 2002, God said to me, “David, give Me the degree.” What He’s saying in essence, “I still want you to depend on Me. Don’t let your intellect be the source of everything you do. You need to wait on Me. You need to understand,” and I’m saying the same thing for you. 

I’m not against education or degrees. I love education. But I realize that oftentimes when we reason through things with our natural intellect, it oftentimes makes us feel so independent of God.

To recap, three lessons we can learn from David’s Prayer Playbook: pray strategically, listen carefully and rescue the people. 

If you can do these three things, you’re on your way to experiencing tremendous victory in God in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead of us.

NOTE: We have put together two books that will help you jump-start your prayer life. They are 40-Day Journey: The Power of Prayer and Spiritual Warfare. You can download them both by CLICKING HERE.


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