David dealt with three big narcissists in his life – his oldest brother Eliab, his benefactor Saul, and his son Absalom. As David was “a man after God’s heart” who turned his hurts into prayers, it is divinely natural for David to talk to God about those in his life with insolent pride. These prayers in the Psalms provide a range of examples for how we can pray in our own difficult situations.
One example is in Psalm 86:14-17
O God, arrogant men have risen up against me,
And a band of violent men have sought my life,
And they have not set You before them.
But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
The word David uses for “arrogant” in verse 14 is “zed”, the same word for insolent pride found in Proverbs 21:24 – “proud, haughty, scoffer, are his names who acts with insolent pride”.
David specifically prayed for 4 things.
- “Turn to me and gracious to me” – David humbly asked God for His gracious help
- “Grant Your strength to Your servant – David didn’t ask that he would be stronger, but that God would give David HIS strength – a much stronger strength
- “Save the son of Your handmaid” – David cried to God, “save me!”
- “Show me a sign for good, that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed”
This last one is particular interesting. David asked God to do something special for him that would prove to the arrogant narcissist that God was on his side.
Narcissists are in a power play with their targets in a quest for dominance. This leaves the target with two “natural” choices – fight back to win, or acquiesce and be a doormat. (In some cases you can avoid them – see here). But there is another option – rather than do head to head battle with someone seeking superiority, David showed that we can invite God into the picture. God can exalt us in front the narcissist in a way that puts the narcissist in his place.
This sign of favor may not always come on our timetable, but just as God will ultimately show with Jesus, it will come.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11