Psalm 86 (ESV)
A Prayer of David.
1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace.
7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant
17 Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
Day 1: Loving God
Psalm 86 is structured symmetrically, with the prayers of verses 1-7 and verses 14-17 mirroring each other, and the praise of God in verses 8-13 forming the heart of the psalm. There is an emphasis in both of the prayer sections on how “gracious” God is (vv. 3, 16), and on his “steadfast love” (vv. 5, 15). The psalmist prays that God would “incline [His] ear” toward him, which pictures God as a gracious Master who is stretching himself out to hear and attend to the needs of his “servant” (vv. 2, 4, 16). Do you picture God as gracious, or as stingy and stringent? Do you know that God is inclining His ear toward you?
Because the psalmist knows God’s character, he clings to God in prayer, saying, “Preserve my life, for I am godly,” godly not godless, meaning he is devoted to his God. He says, “save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.” And again in verses 3-4, “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.” The psalmist is confessing that he is the LORD’s servant and that he, therefore, has no one else to turn to. He isn’t crying out to other lords or gods, because God is all he has. Do you seek God with this kind of singular focus and desperation? It’s so easy for us to take things into our own hands or to turn to other things and people for help in times of need. Our first impulse often is to solve our problems ourselves with human solutions and resources, but as people who belong to God, as servants of the Lord, our primary sense of allegiance and dependence should be on God! Because our God is a gracious Master who loves to come to the aid of His servants!
At the very center of the psalm is verse 11, which is the main point of the psalm: “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” There is a clear logical flow here. In verse 8, the psalmist said, “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,” and in verse 10, he just said, “you alone are God.” And it’s because there is only one God and there is none like Him that the psalmist is prompted to pray for God’s way to prevail in His life and to say, “unite my heart to fear your name.” The “heart,” in Jewish conception, is more than just an emotional center, it’s the volitional center, it’s the center of all our hopes, loves, and desires, it refers to the entire inner person and orientation. Examine your life. Are there hopes, loves, and desires that compete with and conflict with your allegiance to God, your service to God, your love for God?
- Repent of inaccurate representations of God that you have believed that have prevented you from going to God eagerly in prayer.
- Renounce the other “lords” and “gods” that you turn to when troubled (e.g. relationships, money, overworking, etc.), and present your requests to God.
- Pray that God would give you a united heart that fears God only and loves Him wholly.
Day 2: Loving One Another
Though this psalm is a “A Prayer of David,” its inclusion in the Psalter shows that it was written and used for the purpose of congregational worship. In Ephesians 5:19, we are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” by “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart.” Do you remind your brothers and sisters in Christ of the precious truth that God is “good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon [him]”? Think of some people in the church who are “poor and needy” (v. 1) or in “trouble” (v. 7). Have you prayed for them? How can you serve them?
- Pray that we would be an honest church that confess their sins and share their needs with one another.
- Pray that we would be a gracious church that ministers the good news of Jesus Christ and shares our resources with one another.
- Pray for the Baptism Class and Membership Class running for three weeks starting on Sunday, September 30th. Pray that God would grant unbelievers saving faith and integrate new members into the life and love of our church.
Day 3: Loving Our Neighbors
The psalmist declares, “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name” (v. 9). The reason for this is given in verse 10, “For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.” When was the last time you were filled with wonder? Did you tell anyone else about that experience? As C.S. Lewis writes, “all enjoyment spontaneously overflows in praise, unless (sometimes even if) we bring shyness or the fear of bring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise: lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite games, praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, [etc.]” Do you recognize that we serve a great God who does wondrous things? Does your enjoyment of God spontaneously overflow in praise? Because God alone is God, only He deserves to be worshipped among all the nations. It’s this reality that necessitates the work of evangelism and foreign missions.
- Pray that God would increase your enjoyment of Him so that you might freely tell others about Him.
- Pray for the salvation of specific family members, friends, and neighbors who do not yet worship God.
- Pray that God would raise up and send missionaries to “the nations” from our church.