Psalm 86 is a very powerful Psalm – you can tell that David is writing this as someone in the midst of a trial as v1 shows a man desperately seeking God as he is “poor and needy,” v2 asks for God to “preserve his life,” and “save your servant.”
David is crying out to God in a desperate time in his life – in the Hebrew “Lord” in v3 (and 6 other places” is “Adonai” which is “Sovereign.” Here we see a very important thing about David’s perspective – he is in a desperate situation,but he knows who God is and he is calling up on the Sovereign nature of God. God is in control of all things, and is working his plan for his glory.
It’s interesting to note what David does not pray for – that God would get him out of this situation, or simply ‘make the pain go away.’ Verses 11-13 a great summary of what he is praying for:
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
He wants to know God’s ways more, he wants to live them, he want his whole being to be one to honor, respect, revere God. As one commentator puts it:
[David] does not mean ‘teach me how to get out of this trouble’ but ‘teach me, while the trouble still rages, to live your way’. Undivided heart, ‘unite/unify my heart’, deliver me from being double–minded, two–faced with God; give me ‘a single, steady aim, unmoved by threatening or reward, to you and your great name’.
As comfy Americans, this goes against everything we know in our blood. God is there to make our lives more comfortable and take the pain away. When we are facing pain, we just call out to God and ask him to make it stop. Yet, that is not what we see here from David – God is sovereign above all, and yes, even the pain he is working in for his purposes and our growth. This Psalm should change the way we pray, moving the focus from us to God himself – that we may turn over all of our selves to him and seek to know him more. As v12-13 says:
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
God has rescued us from our sin and the penalty of it in Jesus. May our focus on Him create thankfulness in our hearts and outward lives lead for his glory.