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Psalm 86: Help!

‘Help! I need somebody;

Help! Not just anybody;

Help! You know I need someone;

Help!’ (- The Beatles)

Who do you turn to when you’re in need of help? We modern people are not as independent as we think we are. We all need somebody to lean on – someone who can take the weight, won’t let us down, and is able to help us. Sometimes we only turn to God when we run out of human options; but time and again, when we’re desperate, we cry out to him for help, without even knowing if he’s there. 

In this Psalm, David is under attack from ruthless men who want his life (v14); but he is certain that God can help him, so he cries out for help. In the first seven verses, each half of each line is either a prayer to God (from a person in need), or a reason to pray to him. If you’re under attack today (from real people, or from thoughts in your head), perhaps you could speak these verses as your own prayer to God. 

But how can we be certain that God will hear us? If we trust our friends when we’re in need, it’s because we know what they’re like; over time we’ve observed their character and have learned if they’re trustworthy. It’s the same with God: although he is a spirit, he is a person with a character. We can observe him through the Bible, and discover that he can be trusted 100%. Look at v15, at what David had learned about God. Even if we tried, we couldn’t come up with a more perfect description of who we would like God to be: compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. This is the God we all want to exist – and he does. No other religion has a God like this (v8), because this is a God who sees us in trouble and does something about it. He cared so much for people in need that 2000 years ago he came down to help us. 

The night before he was arrested, Jesus prayed just like David did in this Psalm. Jesus was being hounded by men who wanted his life, and his friends would desert him in his hour of need. But he knew he could trust his heavenly Father. His love for us was so great that he went to the depths of the grave to deliver us (v13). Jesus’ death on the cross is the ultimate sign of God’s goodness (v17), and that he wants to and can help us in a way nobody else can. 

PRAYER God in heaven, ‘you are abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer; listen to my cry for mercy.’ (v5-6) Please show me today that you can hear me, and that you care. Amen. 

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 marvellous 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 for ever.

13 For great is your love towards 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 on 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.


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