Psalm 86

Prayer of the Lonely

What have you prayed for in times of loneliness? How did God answer your prayer?

At one time or another, we all experience loneliness. Those times, we yearn for a little friendship, and little understanding, a little patience. The world seems too cold, too indifferent to our plight. If someone, anyone, would just listen, we would feel better.

Psalm 86 echoed those sentiments. It is a lament psalm for an individual; unlike many other psalms that use personal laments to symbolize the nation's dire conditions, this psalm if focused on the self.

The psalm can be divided into three parts: 1) call for help, 2) declaration of God's unique glory, and 3) a statement of God's power in life and ending petition.

A Prayer by David.

1 Hear, YHWH , and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my soul, for I am godly.
You, my God, save your servant who trusts in you.
3 Be merciful to me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
4 Bring joy to the soul of your servant,
for to you, Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive;
abundant in loving kindness to all those who call on you.
6 Hear, YHWH , my prayer.
Listen to the voice of my petitions.
7 In the day of my trouble I will call on you,
for you will answer me.

World English Bible

The psalm began with a call for help from one "poor and oppressed," one endanger of losing his life (86:1). Whether this call is real or a rhetorical device, the call for deliverance is heart-felt. The petitioner declared his fidelity to God and implicitly reminded the Lord of his covenant love for his people (He is loving and forgiving, as a patriarch over his family). If God listened to all his people, the psalmist reasoned, then the Lord would hear individual requests (86:5-7).

8 There is no one like you among the gods, Lord,
nor any deeds like your deeds.
9 All nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord.
They shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great, and do wondrous things.
You are God alone.

The centerpiece of the psalm was a remarkable statement of God's uniqueness. 86:8-10 form a quasi "A-B-A" structure. As the "A" components, 86:8, 10 speak of God's deeds; 86:8 compared those deeds to other gods, but 86:10 declared God was alone, unique, one of a kind. The uniqueness of God and his acts differed radically from any other deity, to the extent that, these other gods didn't really exist. The psalmist prayed to the only God and, so, could insist upon universal worship (the "B" component in 86:9). This psalm truly did lay out a monotheistic view.

11 Teach me your way, YHWH .
I will walk in your truth.
Make my heart undivided to fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with my whole heart.
I will glorify your name forevermore.
13 For your loving kindness is great toward me.
You have delivered my soul from the lowest Sheol.
14 God, the proud have risen up against me.
A company of violent men have sought after my soul,
and they don't hold regard for you before them.
15 But you, Lord, are a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth.

86:11-15 responded to that declaration. The petitioner asked God to "teach him" the way of the Lord (have knowledge of and dedication to the Law), so he could become a steadfast and faithful worshiper. God's love saved the psalmist from the brink of death, but did not save him the arrogant (86:13-14). Despite the trial that this might cause, the petitioner could depend on God's patient indulgence. He leaned on the Lord one last time for comfort and strength. In this way, his enemies would be confounded.

16 Turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give your strength to your servant.
Save the son of your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign of your goodness,
that those who hate me may see it, and be shamed,
because you, YHWH , have helped me, and comforted me.

Despite the loneliness of the psalmist, his faith was remarkable. He remained steadfast throughout his trials and hoped in the Lord to act on his behave. We can learn from his honest, yet expectant attitude. While we might be feel abandoned, we can still call out to the Lord for a timely response. He will hear us.

Pray for those who are lonely or suffer from depression. Take time this week to visit a friend you have not seen in a while. Your presence might be just what this person needs.