But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting…
The ancient garments were loose and flowing, and fell in a hollow fold upon the bosom; into which fold were often put articles of use, or value, for the convenience of carriage; and especially when presents were made, they were frequently deposited there. By his prayer returning into his own bosom, therefore, David meant, that though it failed to bring the desired benefit to those for whom it was delivered, it should turn to his own recompense and advantage. Such is the case, more or less, with all the acts of kindness rendered to our neighbour; they conduce not only to his benefit but our own. Ye who take delight in the well-being of others, and make it a business in your life to minister thereto, know well the value of this grace to your own hearts; it is a perpetual source of consolation and satisfaction. And even if you fail in pleasing those whom you seek to please, or in benefiting those whom you seek to benefit; still the good to yourself is not lost; there is joy in the endeavour, independent of the result. The pious act to which the text alludes was the fruit of love, of the most disinterested and holy affection. David was surrounded with bitter and violent enemies, who daily sought his life; and the manner in which he expresses himself respecting them reminds us strongly of David's Lord. He lifted up his heart in supplication to the mercy-seat; he did all that in him lay. But his prayer was not granted, as neither was the prayer of Jesus for the reckless Jew. From this remarkable instance before us, I am led to speak of the value of intercessory prayer, of prayer for our brethren, and for all our fellow-creatures. God has ordained it (1 Timothy 2:1). We know not what may be dependent upon our prayers. What good they may bring to them for whom we pray. And assuredly they bring much good to us.
I. The prayer FOR SUPERIORS of every kind begets in us that spirit of obedience, which God has commanded, and which God will bless.
II. Children pray FOR PARENTS. Who can tell the benefits which they themselves derive from this duty? On the other hand, the parent prays for the child. The child is wayward and wanton: the parent prays for correction and amendment; but they do not always come. But the supplication is not without its fruit, in blessed peace of mind from knowing that he has done his best: that his child was not ruined by his neglect to pray for him. And so —
III. FOR ALL RELATIVES. The principle of mutual love is kept alive thereby.
IV. But perhaps the most observable instance of all is that wherewith the text is connected, the supplication FOR ENEMIES. This is a peculiar exercise of faith: this requires a greater struggle in the inner man, to obtain the mastery over our own self-love; and to make us desire with godly sincerity the good of those who have injured us, and to entreat the Lord for it, as for our own favour and blessing. This is indeed a victory of the Spirit of grace; and the Lord honours it with a signal reward, and makes it productive of vast benefit to our souls. Such was the Lord's own example. Let us also herein follow our Lord.
(J. Slade, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.