Sunday, January 24, 2021

“Hear My Prayer, O LORD” Psalm 86 [Matt's Messages]

“Hear My Prayer, O LORD”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 24, 2021 :: Psalm 86

Yesterday, I said to Heather Joy, “Psalm 86 does not want to be preached. It just wants to be prayed.”

Psalm 86 is not easily captured in a sermon. It does not follow a logical progression of thought, a series of rational propositions: A, B, C, 1, 2, 3.

No, Psalm 86 follows an emotional progression of thought. It is meant to be sung and especially prayed directly to the Lord.

Psalm 86 is a favorite of Heather Joy’s and mine. Nearly thirty years ago, we picked Psalm 86 to be “our psalm.” Not that it’s particularly romantic or anything. We just wanted to have a psalm that we, as a couple, could and would return to again and again and again. A psalm that we owned and that owns us. Heather and I have probably read it several thousand times together, especially at bedtime.

Psalm 86 is a personal prayer of King David. It’s the only prayer by David in the third book of the Psalter, and it’s highly personal.

When you read it, it’s like tuning in to the personal prayer time of another person.

Have you ever listened to somebody pray in private? They are pouring out their heart to the Lord, and you are just a fly on the wall?

That’s kind of what Psalm 86 is like. Like we’re sitting out in the surveillance van listening in to a bug that was planted to eavesdrop on a man’s personal prayers.

But this man published his personal prayers for us to pray, too.

And King David wrote and prayed this prayer in one of those (many) times when he was in trouble. We’re going to see that David is under attack. He’s gotten himself (again) into a spot of trouble.

Where do you typically turn when you get in trouble?

There are all kinds of options:

Ourselves. Self-reliance.
Escapism. Running away from our problems.
Our saving accounts.
Our social media accounts.
Our government.

Where do you typically turn when you get in trouble?

Well, King David turned to the Lord in prayer.

He just pours out his heart to the Lord, and he asks for a lot! We’re going to see that he asks for a lot of things. In just 17 verses, King David asks for a long list of things. Though many of them amount to the same thing, different ways of asking for the Lord to help him and save to him from these enemies. There are a lot of psalms like this!

I took the title of this message from verse 6 where David just comes out and says it: “Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.”

“Hear my prayer, O LORD.”

That doesn’t mean that David thinks that Yahweh hasn’t been listening.

David is asking the LORD to not just hear his prayers, but to seriously consider his requests. To pay special attention, turning His divine ear to what David is asking for in the day of his trouble.

And David fully expects to be heard.


There is so much here in Psalm 86. We will only begin to scratch the surface. I know! I’ve read it thousands of times.

Let’s take the first seven verses together, and I want you listen as I read it for two big things.

First, for the urgency in his voice. The plaintive cry for help. David is in trouble, and you can hear it in his voice. And the other main thing I want you to listen for is why David expects to be heard. Why? 

“A prayer of David. Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.”

Do you hear the urgency in his voice?

How many times does he ask basically the same thing?

“Hear me.
Answer me.
Guard my life.
Save me.
Have mercy on me.
Bring me joy. [That’s an interesting one, isn’t it? Not just rescue but rejoicing.]
Hear my prayer.
Listen to my cry.
Answer me.”

Would you be ashamed to pray that way? Maybe a little sheepish, to repeat yourself like that?

Don’t be. This is in the Bible to show us how to pray.

And David prays and prays and prays.
He asks and asks and asks.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD!”

What did you catch about why David expects to be heard?

I’m going to say it this way. First of three points this morning of how we can pray like David. Three summary prayers of this prayer:


You can feel how needy he is. And he says it in verse 1, “Hear O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”

"I can’t do it on my own."

David recognizes that he doesn’t have the resources to deal with his problems on his own. He’s in trouble, and he’s coming up short.

But! He belongs to the LORD. Look again at verse 2.

“Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.”

That is not saying that David has earned his salvation by being devoted as if he’s achieved something.

No. He’s saying that he belongs to the LORD. He is faithful, devoted, committed to Yahweh. The Hebrew comes from the same root word as “hesedthat word to describe God’s loyal love for us that we’ve seen again and again in the Psalms.

He’s emphasizing that he belongs to the LORD. Next phrase in verse 2. “You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.”

That language of “your servant” runs through this psalm: verse 2, verse 4, verse 16.

He’s not trying to say that he deserves God’s help. He’s saying that he and God are in a covenantal relationship so that David has committed himself to God and God has committed Himself to David[!]so that David’s problems are God’s problems, too.

Isn’t that amazing?!

That’s why he keeps praying, and why he keeps expecting God to answer.

Now, that does not mean that David believes that God must give him exactly what he asks when he asks it. That’s not how prayer works. God has not committed Himself to David like that.

But He has committed Himself to David, and He is a gracious God.

Did you catch that in verse 5? It’s not just that David is needy, but God is good. V.5

“You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.”

That’s Whom we pray to!

How much more should you and I pray today when we know how deep is the Father’s love for us?!  How we are joined to Him through God the Holy Spirit?! And how gracious He has been to us through the death of God the Son?!

We are needy, and we are His.

I think that verse 5 gives us a hint that David knows that he is, at least, at some fault for the predicament he finds himself in this day.

This trouble may not be of his own doing, but he may have done something to contribute to it. That’s why he needs God to be forgiving and good. That’s why he needs mercy.

That good for us, too, isn’t it? I mean, sometimes, I fail to pray for my problems, because I know on some level I caused them.

I got myself into this trouble, and I think I have to dig myself out.

But David says, “You are forgiving and the day of my trouble I will call to you for you will answer me.” 

Not because I am so great, but because He is.

That’s where David goes next in verse 8.

“Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.”

That’s what David does right here in verses 8 through 10.

He gets his eyes off of his problems (as scary and unresolved as they were), and he gets his eyes onto the Lord.

He says that the Lord is incomparable and greater than all of the gods out there. [Small “g,” pagan gods which we know are really principalities and powers and demons. They can’t hold a candle to the real God.]

And David predicts a day when all of the nations, every tribe and tongue and people group gather before the Lord and worship Him.

Interestingly, the book of Revelation quotes Psalm 86 verse 9 in Revelation chapter 15, verse 4.

This is a picture of the end times, when every knee will bow and every tongue confess. David could see it coming.

Because He could see how worthy the Lord is of worship. V.10

“For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” Capital “G.”  “The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Here is our second summary prayer:


Because that’s where David goes next. Not just glorified above all gods and before all nations, but in all of David’s heart. Look at verse 11.

“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”

If I was going to put forward a new Hide the Word verse for 2021, that’s what it would be.

“Be glorified in all of my heart.”

In the midst of all of his troubles, [His troubles are still there! They have not gone away. In the midst of all of his troubles,] David focuses his prayer on his own heart.

David doesn’t just want to be saved from his enemies out there. He wants to make sure that he is not taken down by his enemy in here.

“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth”

That’s a great prayer. “Show me Your path. The course you want me to take, and I will truly walk it.”

“[G]ive me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

It could actually translated, “Unite my heart.”

Bring all of the divided things in my heart together so that I fear You–which is the beginning of wisdom.

I don’t know about you, but I need this prayer. My heart can be so divided. Not with rebellious high-handed sin. But just distracted. Double-minded. Part of my heart going this way and part of my heart going that way.

I want to be wholehearted in my worship. Don’t you?

“[G]ive me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

“Even if you don’t take away my problems (though please take away my problems! But even if you don’t...) unite my heart to bring you glory.

Verse 12. “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”

David knows that he has been saved. Time and time again. He has been.

He could be expecting it now once more. That’s possible. But I tend to think he’s just being thankful for having been rescued from death again and again.

And you and I have been rescued from eternal death because of the Cross and the empty Tomb. What great love! How much more should we glorify His name forever?!

Do you see how this psalm just wants to be prayed?

In the last section (verse 14-17), nothing has changed. The problem is still there, but so is David’s prayer and so is David’s God. Verse 14.

“The arrogant are attacking me, O God; a band of ruthless men seeks my life–men without regard for you. [I’m under attack here, Lord, from a gang of ferocious thugs who act as if you don’t exist. But I know you do! V.15] But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Does that sound familiar?

I hope it does by now. David is quoting God Himself in Exodus 34. That time when He passed by Moses and declared His holy name? 

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness...”

Just like in verse 5, this is Who God is. This is Whom we pray to!

If this is our God, then no wonder we expect good answers to our prayers. V.16

“Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant [My Mom loved and served and belonged to you, too.] Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.”

Last summary prayer request:


That “sign” that he asks for in verse 17 might be just another way of saying, “Rescue me from the bad guys. That will show your goodness.”

But I tend to think he’s asking for a little preview of coming attractions. A little glimpse of how the Lord is going to work things out for David’s good.

I don’t think that most of the time we ought to ask for a sign for guidance. Should I turn right or left, Lord? Should I pick the orange or the green, Lord? Give me a sign!

But this asking God for a sign of His goodness.

I think that’s a request for a reminder that God is good. That God is Who He said He was in Exodus 34 and Psalm 86:15.

Lord, give me a little taste of your goodness so that I know that you will be bringing yourself glory.

My enemies are your enemies.

They have (v.14) no regard for you.

So, please turn things around so that they are put to shame and you get the glory.

Are you ready to pray like that?

I don’t know what your trouble is right now.

Maybe you don’t have any trouble right now.

If so, get ready, because that day of trouble will come soon enough.

And get ready to pray to this God above all gods who alone is God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Ask this God to give you an undivided heart to fear His name.

And to rescue you by His grace and for His glory.

Because you are needy and because you belong to Him.

Ask Him, “Hear my prayer, O LORD.”


Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 / Winter 2021

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2
17. "Search Me" - Psalm 139
18. "Cleanse Me" - Psalm 51
19. "A New Song" - Psalm 96