In this world, it is not possible to be a friend of God and not be in trouble with the world. Friendship with the world is enmity with God, James tells us (Jas. 4:4). It goes the other way also. Friendship with God means that you will be constantly and regularly at odds with the world. This provides you with material to pray about.
“Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: For I am poor and needy. Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee . . .” (Psalm 86:1–17).
Summary of the Text:
The text divides into three sections, with an expression of confidence or gratitude at the conclusion of each (vv. 7, 13, 17). This psalm is a prayer of David, with God being addressed directly with petitions throughout.
The petitioner is poor and needy, and asks God to bow down to hear (v. 1). He prays that God would deliver him with his innocence and trust in view (v. 2). God, be merciful, because the prayer is offered every day (v. 3). The soul is lifted up to God so that God might pour joy into it (v. 4). God is good and ready to forgive, and full of mercy to those who call upon Him (v. 5). God, please listen (v. 6). When the psalmist is in trouble, he will call upon God and God will answer (v. 7).
None of the other gods are like God at all, and their works are not like His (v. 8). The nations will all stream to Him, and will glorify His name (v. 9). God is great, and does wonderful things (v. 10). Teach me to obey; integrate my heart (v. 11). I will praise God with everything I have (v. 12). God’s mercy is great, and He has delivered me from the very worst place, the lowest hell (v. 13).
Here is my trouble—proud and violent men are after me (v. 14). By contrast, God is full and overflowing with compassion, grace, patience, and abundant mercy and truth (v. 15). God, give me strength—I was born in your house, the son of your handmaid (v. 16). Show me a token for good, so that those proud men who come after me might see that You are with me and be ashamed (v. 17).
The God Who Reveals Himself:
In this psalm, David echoes in several places what Jehovah had declared to Moses when He passed by him at the second inscription of the Ten Commandments. “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6).
All prayer carries within it an assumption of what God is like. Faithful prayer is that which echoes God’s self-revelation of what He is like.
All Nations Bow Down:
David is praying for his own deliverance. He looks forward to his rescue by God. But at the same time, he marks his deliverance in the context of a much larger deliverance. All nations that God made will come before Him and will acknowledge it (v. 9). The coming salvation will gather up much more than David, much more than Israel. The coming salvation encompasses all nations.
Charles Spurgeon commented on this verse this way: “Earth’s sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed. Not so do we expect, but we look for a day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, ‘and shall glorify thy name.’ The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions, and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better for the cause of God.”
Proud Men Gather:
Proud men are wolves and they hunt in packs. It looks as though it will all go their way. Violent men gather in their assemblies. They assume it will all be theirs because they do not take God into account. This is because proud men serve false gods, and yet among the gods there is none like our God. Their works of accusation and persecution are not like God’s works of triumph and deliverance.
A Token for Good:
The prayer is not just for deliverance. The prayer is for a very public deliverance. David does not just want to be delivered from his enemies; he wants his enemies to see him being delivered. He wants them to see him getting away.
The token for good might be the deliverance itself. On the other hand, it might be a down payment on the deliverance, placed there in the middle of the troubles, in such a way as to make his enemies think uh oh to themselves. It could be either or both, and one commentator suggests that the token for good might be found earlier in v. 4. When the psalmist lifts up his soul to God, and God pours out His joy into it, that joy in the midst of the trial may be the token for good. A peace that passes all understanding, given in the midst of great trial, is something that can only be explained in terms of the presence of God.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7).
A Savior Who Loves:
So come back to what God revealed of Himself to Moses (and to David). Jehovah God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, loves you and loves to deliver you. Assuming you are in Christ at all, God could not love you more than He does. He could not desire your well-being with greater intensity than He has. He could not have done more for you than He has done. Remember the cross, and remember the resurrection. Remember your forgiveness, your salvation, and your justification.