Several years ago, a friend of a friend tried to educate me on the concept of Dog Prayers versus Cat Prayers: Dogs think only of pleasing their masters, while cats think only of pleasing themselves. Dogs ask, “How can I serve you?” while cats demand, “How can you serve me?” She tried to convince me that God only wanted to hear Dog Prayers.
This analogy bothered me for several reasons:
- All analogies—even biblical ones—logically break down after a certain point. (Jesus isn’t literally a grapevine.) This analogy didn’t even come from scripture.
- My experience as a dog owner (Nowadays people say Pet Parent) demonstrated the selfishness of my mutt Max. He wanted to go out. He wanted to eat. He wanted me to pet him non-stop for hours.
- Most importantly, my familiarity with Psalms proves David (and the other writers) to be just as much cat as dog.
To defend my theory that David was self-absorbed when he prayed, I spent several months poring over the Psalms, making hash marks in a notebook. I counted every first person personal pronoun in every psalm. For those not as devoted to grammar as I, that means I tallied up every me, my, myself, and I in 150 psalms.
Today I rehashed David’s anguished prayer in Psalm 31 and counted 18 occurrences of me, 25 of my, and 19 of I. (NIV, 1984) I find his pattern of prayer encouraging, and I dare to believe that God cares about me as much as he cared about David.
I suspect David experienced literally what I experience figuratively. He had real enemies (v.8) conspiring to actually kill him (v. 13). When he says he was in a besieged city (v. 21), he probably had a specific location in mind. But that image particularly gives me hope. So many times I have felt trapped, panicky, and separated from any help, human or divine. Even then, I am assured that God hears and cares.
Because David “selfishly” cried out to God, I am bold enough to do so, too. If that makes me a cat, “Meow.”
Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Psalm 31:21 – 22, NIV
Roberta Tucker Brosius teaches Bible to high school students at Watsontown Christian Academy, using curricula she has written. She has been published in newspapers, magazines, The Secret Place, and Barbour’s 365-Day Fun Bible Fact Book and Heavenly Humor for the Teacher’s Soul. Visit her blog, “wit, word, & the Word,” at www.robertabrosius.blogspot.com.