(A sermon outline based on Psalm 86)
Many of us find prayer hard and difficult, but it is surprising how much easier prayer is when we have some matter of urgency to pray over.
Here in Psalm 86 we find David’s urgent prayer. David’s life is in danger. He prays “Guard my life” (v2). “Arrogant foes are attacking, O God, ruthless people are trying to kill me”.
Let us look at this Psalm:
1. David’s description of himself.
David calls out “Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (verse1)
David describes himself as “poor”. We often forget what it is like to be poor. The truly (or very) poor are not able to help themselves, they are dependent upon others for help. An example would be the very low wage migrant workers in India who were not able to work because of the Corona virus lockdown and were also not able to return home. They were in need of others to provide food as they could not even provide food for themselves.
This is how David comes to God, with open hands realising that he cannot help himself. This is surely how we must come to God, with open hands, realising that we are dependent on him.
We recall “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). It is the opposite to the Pharisee in Luke 18
“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”
The Pharisee did not need (seemingly) to pray. He did not need God, (so he thought), as he was totally self-sufficient. We are to have an attitude totally different to that of the Pharisee. We pray because we recognise our dependence and need of God.
David also prays “Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;” (verse 2). He agues his case my reminding the Lord that he is faithful. We can use arguments with God as to why he should answer our requests. We also notice that David does not say he is perfect but faithful. He attempted to constantly to follow the Lord and his commands. Let this encourage us to be faithful to the Lord, remembering that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16).
It is clear that he is not making a vague prayer to “someone up there”, but he has a relationship with God. He calls him “my God” (verse 2) and calls him “Lord” and describes himself as a “servant”.
We also have a relationship with God. He is “our God” our “Lord” and we are his “servants”. However, we go one stage further, because we understand from the New Testament that we are brought into God’s family when we come to him in faith. We pray “Our Father, which art in heaven”.
Jesus reminds the disciples of this and says:
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! ” (Matthew 7:9-12)
We are encouraged to bring our requests to our heavenly Father, who gives good gifts!
David also says “I call to you all day long.” (verse 2).
How is David praying all day, laying, kneeling standing or how? David may have assumed a posture as he prayed, but many of us also know that when we are in need, we pray quietly to ourselves where ever we are. It is very likely David prayed not in one fixed position but also prayed in his particular situation or task that he was doing, much as we often do.
2. David’s description of the Lord and what he can do.
David believes the Lord is able to answer his prayer and then he will have joy. He prays “Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.” (verse 4)
He reminds himself in his prayer that the Lord has answered him in the past.”When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” (verse 7). In the scriptures we have many examples of God answering prayer. We can be encouraged to know that God answers our prayers when our requests are according to his will.
He says that the Lord is good (verse 5). The answers that the Lord gives us will be good, (for our good and God’s purposes).
He also answers in ways that are immeasurably more than all we can ask, think or imagine, (see Ephesians 3:20). Remember at the time David wrote, only a small number of people from the world’s population worshipped the Lord. Most of the peoples of the world worshipped other gods, Yet David believes that the Lord is not only different from these other gods, but that he created the nations of the world. David believes as did a number of the saints in the Old Testament that the nations of the earth would worship the Lord (as for example Isaiah in chapter 2 of his book). “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord;” (verse 9).
If you had asked an ordinary person in the time of David it would have seemed impossible that the nations of the world would worship the Lord. However, look around you and see the many countries Christians come from. There are not many from a jewish background. The prayer expectation of David has been answered in a way that David and others of his day could not expect or imagine.
3 Two other requests of David
David also prays “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness;” (verse 11)
This is a prayer we as believers will often need to pray. We know from scripture what God expects, but knowing how we should apply that knowledge is not easy. This is why we pray “Teach me your way, Lord”.
David prays “..give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (verse 11).
David desires to be totally committed to the Lord. It is easy to get distracted with our career, family, hobbies, sport etc. We also should desire and pray for total commitment to the Lord.
A number of us have been in need in the past. Many of us will be in need in the future. Some of you are in need at the moment, if so then: Look to the Lord, call out to him for help, remember we have a relationship to him, he is not only our Lord but also our Father. He can not only answer prayer, he has a record of answering, if it is according to his will and purposes. He answers in ways that we cannot even think or imagine.
Call out to him like David! “Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”!
A prayer of David.
1 Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2 Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; 3 have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
5 You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
6 Hear my prayer, Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
7 When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me.
8 Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
9 All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead.
14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
ruthless people are trying to kill me—
they have no regard for you.
15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;
show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you
just as my mother did.
17 Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.