Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
It’s tempting to think that we should have no enemies. But followers of the God who has revealed himself in Jesus have always had enemies. As followers of a crucified Messiah it should not surprise us that there have always been people who have had no regard for God and his ways (v. 14). Jesus warned us it would be thus (John 15:20, 21). We may face opposition at work, we may face opposition in our family, or we may feel that vocal elements in society are increasingly hostile to Christianity. Opposition to Christian faith is explicit in many countries around the world: our brothers and sisters in Somalia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere know all too well that there can be a high cost for following Jesus.
What do we do when we feel got at? The Psalmist takes his burdens to the Lord. David is not perfect, none of us is (1 John 1:8), but he is faithful and trusts in God – specifically he trusts in God to be merciful to him (v. 3), to bring him joy (v. 4) and to answer him in his distress (v. 7). Although David’s prayer is very personal it is also universal in scope. He recognises that God will answer all those who call upon his name (v. 5) because God is concerned about all the nations of earth (v. 9).
The reason that David can trust God in the midst of his difficulties is because he knows that there is none like God (v. 8). He is a God of power whose purposes, in spite of seeming temporary setbacks, will nonetheless succeed (v. 9). And he is the God of grace and compassion (v. 15).
David wants to learn more about this God (v. 11) and asks for ‘an undivided heart’ so that God’s name might be honoured in his life. Jesus challenged his followers to make God their priority and to seek his kingdom, his rule, over all else. In more recent times, Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it well in Discipleship: ‘When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.’ Christ invites us to rip up our agenda and adopt his agenda – a better agenda for ourselves and the world in which we live.
Looking at the biblical record of his life, David struggled with the idea of an undivided heart, he was at times led astray by pursuing his own agenda and he had to deal with the tragic consequences. It’s not only kings, though, who struggle. If we’re honest there are times when we all struggle to put God’s rule first. Our hearts are often very divided and that makes Psalm 86 a good prayer to pray!