Help needed, help sought, help found – Psalm 86:1-6
Help needed, help sought, help found – Psalm 86:1-6
Psalm 86:1-6 is the Psalm for today’s liturgy at the Eucharist. However, it would do well to read the entire psalm. It is one of the five prayer psalms of King David in the book of psalms. This psalm is an individual lament (compare psalm 56), in which David expresses his distress and overcomes that distress through praise and worship. But while the psalm may seem to resonate the desperate plea of the king asking for help, nothing can be further from the truth.
This is a psalm of a confident servant placing his prayer and his petition before his Lord. However, there is a sense of urgency demonstrated by some 14 prayer requests in the psalm. So is King David merely crying out to God because he is in need of something? Verse 3 tells us that he is in the habit of “crying all day to the Lord.” Which does not mean he is a ‘cry-baby’ but indicates to us that in all things he turns to God. David was in the habit of turning to God for everything, even if it was his fourteenth petition that day.
Everyone needs God, even a king like David and David expresses his confidence in God. He knows his prayer will be heard, in fact there is an assertion of confidence. That confidence is seen in the covenantal relationship shared between David and God. (verse 2, 5, 13). Seven times in the psalm the psalmist refers to the LORD as “my Lord,” while three times the psalmist refers to himself as “your servant.”. This relationship, lord to servant, means that the servant can cry out to his Lord and that he can confidently expect a positive response to his cry.
The psalm opens with a sense of familiarity. This is not a stranger approaching his God with a request; this is clearly a ‘servant’ knowing who is capable of solving an issue. David begins by asking the Lord to “incline his ear” and answer him. I love this imagery. Imagine a child who indicates to a parent, asking them to stop down to their level because they want to whisper something into the parents’ ear. David does the same and once again in verse six he will ask the Lord to “give ear to his prayer.” David is confident that the Lord will bend down to hear him. Such was his confidence and this confidence is reflected in the way David addresses God as “MY Lord.”
There can be no reason for praying if there be no expectation of the Lord’s answering. Who would make an effort of pleading with the winds, or find a solace in supplicating the waves? The mercy seat of God is a mockery if there be no hearing nor answering. David, as the following verses show, believed the Lord to be a living and potent God, and indeed to be “God alone”, and it was on that account that he resolved in every hour of trouble to call upon him. David was confident that his singular plea would be answered by the singular grace of God.
See how David pleaded, first that he was poor and needy, next that he was the Lord’s set apart one, then that he was God’s servant and had learned to trust in the Lord, and lastly that he had been taught to pray daily; surely these are such holy pleadings as any tried believer may employ when wrestling with a prayer hearing God, and with such weapons the most trembling suppliant may hope to win the day.
Even in his struggle it is interesting to see what King David is asking for. Verse 4 tells us that David asks the lord to ‘gladden his soul’. Interestingly, he did not say, ‘fill my pocket lord’; it’s his soul that he seeks to be kept happy in his difficult hour. He simply wants to be happy. He wants, as he says, ‘ to lift up this (happy) soul to the Lord (verse 4). It is here that we find a clue as to what’s going on in David’s day. In verse five he acknowledges God as ‘good and forgiving’. Surely this good King had realized the flaws of his acts that day but he also knew from his experience that God is good at giving as well as forgiving. This is a God who is “abounding in steadfast love to ALL who call on him.” David knew he had goofed up that day but he know who could fix it. Such is David’s confidence that God will hear his plea that he says ‘ in (this) my day ( or hour) of trouble I call on you for YOU WILL answer me.” There is so much confidence in this prayer. Think about it, there can be no reason for praying if there be no expectation of answering
The pious trust of King David serves as a model for us and God whom he repeatedly addresses as “my Lord” deserves our praise. If we knew no more about this God than what appears in this psalm we would still know much. This LORD answers the prayers of the poor and needy (verse 1), a claim that should give pause for thought to those of us who are neither poor nor needy. More, this LORD is known by a character that is good, forgiving, and abounding in steadfast love (verse 5), a God who both in the past and in the psalmist’s, experience is known to be merciful, gracious, slow to anger and (again!) abounding in steadfast love (verse 15).
Today is a good day to turn to God. We can expect comfort from God, when we keep up our communion with God. This is key, that we are in communion with God and not turn to him merely in our need. God’s goodness appears in two things, in giving and forgiving. Whatever others do, let us call upon God, and commit our case to him; we shall not seek in vain.
– Dedicated to Joan, who though is struggling with cancer has King David’s faith in HER Lord.
Fr. Warner D'Souza is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Bombay. He has served in the parishes of St Michael's (Mahim), St Paul's (Dadar East), Our Lady of Mount Carmel, (Bandra), a ten year stint as priest-in-charge at St Jude Church (Malad East) and at present is the Parish Priest at St Stephen's Church (Cumballa Hill). He is also the Director of the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum and is the co-ordinator of the Committee for the Promotion and Preservation of the Artistic and Historic Patrimony of the Church.