“Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you,
for you will answer me.”
~Psalm 86:6-7 (NRSV).
Whenever we open up any of the Psalms of David we might readily make the assumption that what we’re about to read will be a lament. It seems David took every complaint direct to the Father; a practice we’re commended for doing.
Broad Features of This Psalm
In the first four verses, David — the Lord’s royal servant — is found coming into God’s holy Presence. He goes straight to the heart of intimacy; there’s no time wasted in formalities. Neither do we need to be formal when we’re approaching God.
Some of the admirable Divine character traits are lauded in verses 5-7 and 8-10. David’s worship, here, is foundational and pure; no fancy phrases in sight. This is validated by the plea of verses 6-7, abovementioned. This is proof of the informal nature of David’s prayer-style. Neither do we need to follow a set structure so far as prayer is concerned.
Thanksgiving becomes the psalmist through verses 11-13, initiated by a positive plea to be taught truth, love, the undivided heart.
Verses 14-17 concluded the psalm in much the way it started — an appeal for deliverance. This bookending characterises the psalm home to lament. These psalms of desperation are good news for us; our lives are not always ‘cherry pie’.
This psalm is really an anthology of the psalmist’s favourite verses; it’s their ‘best-of’ collection. It is a safe place to come when life is awry; to snippets of personally reliable Scripture. We’re also encouraged to self-select verses that God speaks to us through; we write them in a safe place and go to them in our need.
The ‘Refrain’ of David’s Prayer Life
As we read each of the seventeen verses of this psalm, knowing that each one is an echo of other parts of the Old Testament, we can see a part of David’s personality shimmering throughout.
David, of course, was a praying person at heart. That each verse is a throwback to previous writings demonstrates, perhaps, the reliance that David had on the words of refrain — the choral function of repeating meaningful verses or proverbs, as in meditating on them, in the tradition of Psalm 1:2 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (the Shema).
David had simply learned the power in humbly casting his innermost needs before God. Being honest about what he felt was not only a pressure relief for him, it also enhanced the personal relationship he had with the Lord, his God.
A Reminder to Fully Rely On God in Prayer
To fully rely on God is to maximise the intimacy that is possible with our God. He is your God and mine. Such a personal God wants us to pray, be real, and shed our true feelings and thoughts. Christians are not to be always-chipper and clichéd souls. Our spiritual destiny is resplendent in a pilgrimage toward knowledge of our true selves, and therefore God within.
So, we’re reminded that fully relying on God is the thing we do in our living moments out in community, when we’re tested and pressed-in by difficulty.
We can readily see, now, that prayer is not only undertaken in one’s private closet, but it also occurs in the midst of life in community when we most need to dwell in the safety of God’s immediate Presence.
The Lord is with us everywhere.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.