Disunity is making headlines this morning. Democrats are threatening to block Judge Neil Gorsuch’s path to the Supreme Court; Republicans are threatening to change Senate rules to allow a simple majority to confirm his nomination. The UK has formally begun its departure from the European Union while Scotland is taking steps toward independence.
Meanwhile, good news on unity comes from a source you might not have considered: trailer parks.
Let’s say you’re planning to retire to Florida so you can play golf, go to the beach, and generally enjoy life. But you don’t have the money for an expensive retirement village. According to today’s Time magazine, more and more people are moving into mobile homes located in senior adult trailer parks. For instance, one section of one Florida county features 150 trailer parks for seniors.
Their allure is not the mobile home but the community that surrounds it. Here, seniors go shopping and play games and look out for one another. They are safer and happier together than they are apart. They know intuitively what the Bible says explicitly: we are broken people in need of unity.
Do you feel a need for inner cohesion, a sense of centeredness in a conflicted and fragmented culture? I feel the same way. I’ve been meditating lately on this brief prayer by King David: “Unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). “Unite” translates the Hebrew yahed, meaning “to concentrate” or “to be joined exclusively to.” The “heart” in Jewish psychology is the center of our emotions and will. David prays that his life would be focused, centered, holistic, indivisible. He seeks to be one person in every dimension and circumstance of his life.
Three facts follow:
One: We are not who we need to be.
David’s prayer acknowledges that he is not the centered, united man he longs to become. He is one person in one context and another person in another. We see this in his life story: courageous with Goliath but silent in the face of his son’s sin (2 Samuel 13:21), virtuous with Abigail (1 Samuel 25:39) but adulterous with Bathsheba. Like him, we are all fractured and fallen.
Two: We cannot unite our hearts.
David’s prayer acknowledges that he cannot unite his soul in his own strength. No amount of thinking, resolving, or working will heal what the Fall and human sinfulness have broken. From the time Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit to this morning, humans have been shattered selves, not single souls. Only God can unite our hearts.
Three: We must be one person to worship the one true God.
Note the second part of David’s prayer: “to fear your name.” “Fear” (yirah in the Hebrew) means to revere and honor. We’re told in Scripture that “the fear of the Lord” is “the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), “the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10), and “a fountain of life” (Proverbs 14:27). We are exhorted to “fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” (Psalm 34:9).
David therefore teaches us to pray for God to give us unity, focus, and purpose centered in worshiping and serving him. Only then can we have the knowledge, wisdom, and life he intends for us.
“Unite my heart to fear your name”—seven simple words that I will begin praying every morning. Will you join me?