Everyone who prays believes that they are not just talking into space where no one hears. Prayer is evidence of faith in our God who hears and answers prayers. In the psalm this week, Psalm 86, David asked God to hear his prayers, for he believed that God surely would do so, and the very fact of God’s ability to hear and respond to prayers were ways in which He was different and more powerful than any other gods that people served and expected to help them.
Psalm 86: 1-7 Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help. Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord; hear my urgent cry. I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble, and you will answer me.
Interestingly, David felt the need to tell God why He should hear his prayers. First, he needed help. Second, he was devoted to God. Third, he was a servant who trusted and knew his God. He also asked God to hear because of the qualities of God: good, forgiving, and unfailingly loving. David had endured many things in his walk with God, and God had saved him out of them all, so he knew to pray to God when troubles arose. David had no doubt that God would answer.
This is the way that prayers and supplication should be made, by letting God know that we trust Him to respond and that in Him alone we put our confident hope and trust. Instead of beginning with requests for blessings, let us begin with honor and praise.
Psalm 86: 8-10 No pagan god is like you, O Lord. None can do what you do! All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name. For you are great and perform wonderful deeds. You alone are God.
David continued his praise by letting God know that there is no other god like Him, who could do all that God had done and continued to do. I am reminded of God’s conversation with Job and his friends in Job 38-41. God asks many interesting questions of these men who thought they knew Him and could speak for Him.
Job listened to the Lord and then said in Job 42:1-3, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” He learned that God made everything and controls all things, among animals, humans, and in the heavens and the waters of the earth. Definitely, He alone are God. David used “are” because of the Trinity of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Psalm 86: 11-13: Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth. Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death.
David understood that in order to praise God and know how to pray to God, he needed to know the ways and will of God, so that his heart would be pure. David’s praise is so beautiful to read, as he offered God glory and honor to His name. He recognized God’s love had been demonstrated by the triumphs in his life that God had orchestrated, including saving him from death’s tentacles many times as a shepherd and after he was anointed as king.
We, too, should remind God that we remember when He has rescued us, to allow Him to know that we are convinced by past help for us or for others that He alone is able to change situations for the better. Let God know that we perceive the very depth, width, breadth, and length of His love through His good deeds in our lives.
Psalm 86: 14-17 O God, insolent people rise up against me; a violent gang is trying to kill me. You mean nothing to them. But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Look down and have mercy on me. Give your strength to your servant; save me, the son of your servant. Send me a sign of your favor. Then those who hate me will be put to shame, for you, O Lord, help and comfort me.
David ended by making his requests for blessings of strength, mercy, and salvation. He compared his enemies to himself, relating that the violent gang does not know God as David knows Him. In Psalm 53:1, David stated, “Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God. They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!”
David was not a fool, for he knew who God was and what God could and would do for those who accepted His love and feared Him. David asked for a sign that God had heard his prayers, something tangible that would show his enemies that God was with him and would help and comfort Him. In the case of Nabal, Abigail’s husband, God sent a heart attack that eventually killed him.
David was persistent in his prayers, but this does not mean that he kept praying for the same things until God answered. It means that David understood that his help came from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth. David continuously praised God for his goodness, mercy, grace, compassion, and unfailing love. David began with praise and letting his God know that he was a servant who believed in the fairness and justice of the God he served.
He knew that his God was unlike any other thing that people placed their trust in, for David had experienced the saving grace of God. Let this psalm serve as a model for our prayers, and let our faith be as strong. Furthermore, let it be our ambition to learn more about our great God each day as we read and reflect on God’s word and experience His grace in our lives, so that our prayers are full of praise and honor.