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.
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.