Psalm 86  – A Prayer of Dependence

We begin with a very quick look at Psalm 86.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed in recent years, the last decade or so,

that as a society we now really push the ideal of being independent.

We encourage children at school to be independent in their learning.  We equip them with some basic skills and knowledge but then, from quite a young age, we ask them to research topics for themselves, to monitor their own learning, to assess their own needs.  Very early they are taught to plan, then do, then review.  Each learner is unique and different.

And the same is true at the end of our lives, we work very hard to keep the elderly self-reliant and independent as long as possible.  Living on their own at home, with minimal support. 

Independence is a key objective of modern society – Self-containment, self-sufficiency, autonomy, self-confidence, self-reliance.

Now in many ways this striving for independence is a good thing….

It allows for growth, meets individual needs and encourages a can-do attitude.

However, sometimes I think we expect too much, independence isn’t always the best thing, for it breeds the idea that somehow individuals are invincible, indomitable, unshakable, that as individuals we can do anything and everything.

It promotes the idea that we are islands – that we don’t need others….  That we don’t need God.

It is often only when life gets hard, when we get ill, when a partner or child gets ill, when we struggle with a difficult issue, when we lose a loved one, when we suddenly find ourselves redundant or homeless or abandoned, that we suddenly realise we are not as independent and self-reliant as we think…. 

It is at such times we realise that actually, deep within us, is a hunger for relationship,

a hunger for intimacy,

a hunger for friendship and security. 

At such times, we acknowledge that actually, we can’t do everything,

we need others, and yes, we even need God.

Psalm 86 is a very direct, frank and unselfconscious expression of need. 

The psalmist in many ways sounds like a small child, dependent on God for love and goodness. 

The Psalmist in verse 1, describes himself as poor and needy, honestly acknowledging his need and appealing to God for help. 

It is a very frank admission that he is not independent and self-reliant but vulnerable and frail. 

He is needy, and since God made him and his needs, he brings them all before God. 

And so, the psalmist calls out to God, asking that God will hear him, and listen to his cries and preserve his life.

The Psalmist recognises that God is gracious, good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love…    

He recognises that there is no other like God…. no one else compares.

And it is to this powerful and faithful God, that the Psalmist calls out, he cries out, because a band of ruthless men are seeking his life.

This is a situation that is too big for the Psalmist – he feels overwhelmed and scared.  Worried what tomorrow might bring…. Worried what might happen next.

And in this fear, in this uncertainty – he realises that he must come before God, lift his needs to God, and trust that he will answer, and comfort him.

The Psalmist asks that God will help him to walk in his ways, to follow in his truth.

And then he prays what I think is the most amazing prayer – give me an undivided heart to revere your name….that I will glorify your name for ever.

Now, we may not have bands of ruthless people chasing after us today,

but many of us will be facing all sorts of difficult situations. 

Illness, grief,

problems at work or home…

we may feel threatened, scared and overwhelmed. 

You see we all experience days of trouble,

times when we realise that we need help from God.

And so, Psalm 86 seemed a good place to start this morning as we begin to explore the Psalms.   

This Psalm sets the right context as we move forwards and look at other psalms this summer. 

This Psalm models a level of honesty and dependency on God…. Perhaps in a way that we’re not used to, perhaps in way that society might scorn.   

And so, this morning I wanted us to pause for a minute, to think and pray and to simply acknowledge those areas in our lives where we need to be less independent and more dependent on God.

There may be particular things, that are overwhelming us this morning, and I’d encourage you now to bring those things before God in your heart and cry out to him for his help and comfort.

Lord, we thank you for your grace, goodness and forgiveness.  We thank you for your unwavering, steadfast love.  Father help us this morning, indeed every day, to acknowledge that we are finite, that we are frail, that we are needy.  Help us to come to you in honesty, to bring before you those areas in our lives where we need your help and comfort.   Help us to be dependent on you.  Father create in us undivided hearts that we might honour your name in all we do and say.  We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.