Psalm 86: A Child’s Prayer

Following Asaph’s songs about the demise of Israel and the destruction of the temple (73-83), and in the middle of Korah’s songs about God’s future kingdom and our pains while we wait for it (84-85, 87-88), sits a single psalm of David (86). The keepers of the temple and the directors of worship have their say about the national problems regarding the fall of Israel, but it is the king of Israel to whom God made promises who pens words of a more personal nature. David pours out his heart and soul to God for he knows that the true problems in the nation are sin and an untrusting heart. David realizes that the destruction Asaph describes and the hope for which Korah sings both hinge upon each person realizing their active role in the progressive demise of the nation around them.

As such, instead of writing an exhortation regarding how to read Psalm 86, I have decided to write personal responses to each verse of this psalm. If it isn’t too awkward for you, I hope that by reading them you would be compelled to take the time this week to write your own responses to David’s prompting as found in Psalm 86.

A Prayer of David.
1 Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
I can think of no better phrase to describe me most of the time: poor and needy. On the outside I do a pretty good job of appearing strong and untouchable, but Lord, you know how frightened of a little child I really am inside. You know how I long to be heard…by someone…just once. You know how that frightened little child within longs to hear a strong voice that will sustain me.

2 Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
You know I try, don’t you? I really do try to trust you. But for some reason, the weak child within seeks to place his trust in so many other things. I need to be saved from myself, Lord. I need you to teach me to trust you.

3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
After five decades, it would be understandable if you grew weary of my same cry every day. It would be understandable if you told me that I need to grow up. But, I know you are more gracious than I imagine and you are willing to listen to my same cries day after day.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
Lift my soul from its self-imposed depths. Lift me from despair and to yourself. Hold me and assure me you love me.

5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Though I don’t often feel this, I know you are good. You forgive me even when I walk headlong into sin. You love me, not with a shallow love built upon good circumstances but a deep and lasting love built upon the eternal foundations of your very being.

6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
Because of your love, Lord, offer me grace. Let me know that you forgive. Let me be held in the arms of your loving forgiveness. The desperate child within me longs to be held by you Lord. Hold me, for I am nothing without you.

7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.
I know…it seems that my “day of trouble” is every day. It starts when I wake and only ends when I finally fall asleep. I have become adept at drowning out the small voice that cries to you. I cover it by thinking I am strong and able to handle life on my own. Listen to the small voice coming from that little child within me, my true voice that cries to you, for you know I don’t listen to it often enough.

8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
Even though I seek for help and fulfillment elsewhere, the child within me knows you are the only source of strength. You are the only one who can purify my heart. You are the only one who can satisfy my soul. Teach me to cry out to you alone and not to the other ‘gods’ I have created or bought or to which I have bowed down.

9 All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
It is inevitable that I should worship you, for that is for what I was created. Keep my knees from bowing elsewhere. Let me bow willingly.

10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
I know this, but why can’t I always believe this? Why does my heart long for its fulfillment elsewhere. I should not dismiss this truth so easily, yet nearly every day I do as I seek for miracles from your creation and not from you.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
I wonder what a life spent walking in your truth and fearing only you would look like? Teach me to live this way. Help me to live this way. Let me receive your lessons and be changed.

12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
Let me walk with you with my whole being. Let me walk with you and not run from you as Adam did when he heard you in the cool of the garden.

13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
But you know I will run. Lord, even when I run from you let me remember that you love me. Let me remember you are waiting for me. Let me remember you pursue me. Let me remember you promised to resurrect me from the grave of my own sin and death.

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.
I know there are those who would love to see me fail. I see their faces and I know their names. I know they do not seek my good. I know they have quickly rushed to judgment. I know and feel the weight of their hatred.

15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
But you do not seek my demise. You do not take pleasure in my failures. You do not weigh me down with guilt, rather your love and mercy remove the burdens that evil men place on me.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.
I know all of these things, and yet I am still weak. I still cry out of my neediness like an inconsolable little child. Quiet me so I can hear you. Strengthen me so I can reach for you. I don’t need to be strong enough to stand, only strong enough to raise my arms to you.

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.
I know when I reach for you, you will help me stand by your strength. My fears will be gone and the cries of the needy child within will turn to songs of praise. I know that. But, Lord, I am still poor and needy. Be patient with me and continue to love me: that is my prayer.

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