Is it appropriate for Christians to pray for physical safety? For example, whenever my family takes a trip, we ask God for protection, that He would keep us out of harm’s way, and that we’d arrive at our destination safe and sound.
Countless times God has answered our prayer. But when I think of all the Christians who have died in car accidents and plane crashes, as well as the thousands of believers who have been senselessly martyred for their faith over the centuries, I do wonder: is it appropriate for us to ask God to protect us when it may not be His will to do so?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is OK to pray for our physical well-being. Here’s why.
In Psalm 16:1 we read the simple prayer: “Keep me safe, O God” (NIV). Make no mistake, this is a prayer for physical safety. The ESV and NASB translate this verse as “Preserve me.” The psalmist is asking for God to protect him like a bodyguard protects the President or a shepherd defends his flock.
David prayed this prayer often. It’s a recurring theme in his psalms. (See Psalm 3:7-8, 4:1, 5:-13, 6:4, 7:1-2, 9:11-14.) And we need only to read 1and 2 Samuel to know why.
According to Peter in Acts 2:29-31 and Paul in Acts 13:35-38, Psalm 16 finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah. Certainly it has initial application to David, but in light of these New Testament passages, we are to see Jesus as the primary subject here.
So while David the son of Jesse prayed this prayer for physical protection, so did the Greater David, the Son of God. Throughout our Savior’s earthly sojourn, He, too, was hounded by those who sought to destroy him. Most of the time it appears as if Jesus moved about freely, for He came to preach the Good News to the poor and lay his hands on the sick. But we also read of how Jesus “withdrew” to remote areas to escape both the crush of the crowds and the plot of His enemies to kill him (see Mark 3:6-7).
We should, too.
We are to trust God for physical safety, all the while knowing that in this life, such protection is not guaranteed. Our lives are in His hands. He has sovereign control over us, and He decides how long we get to stay on earth.
In the end, God’s protection of us does extend to both our physical and spiritual well-being. Psalm 16 is one of the Bible’s most breath-taking promises of God’s eternal protection of both Jesus and His people.
When Jesus was on the cross, He could pray with confidence that “you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Psalm 16:10). Jesus knew that His heavenly Father would raise Him from the dead. While suffering for our sins, theSavior knew that infinite joy was only moments away and that “you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).
And because David and Jesus prayed this prayer, so can we. Regardless of whether God answers our prayer for physical safety in this life, He will answer it forever in the next. The promise of the resurrection found in Psalm 16 is for David, for Jesus, and for all God’s people.