When we feel in some way in particular need or estranged from God it can be difficult to order our thoughts and prayer. We are in those moments particularly prone to be governed by our feelings as opposed to the nature and person of God. We have then centred our thoughts on ourselves and not on him. In David we have a guide who has experienced the highs and lows of spiritual life. Some of his actions have been catastrophic at other times he has lived closely unified with God. He has experienced the intimate love and blessing of God and also God’s discipline when he has gone directly against God’s ways. David like modern Christians was a flawed but loved servant to the living God. David’s prayer in psalm 86 provides us with a framework for prayer in times of urgent need. We however have the additional benefit of knowing how God has fulfilled his plans through Jesus and so are in an even more fortunate position than David.
David bases his prayer on his knowledge of God as forgiving, good and loving. v5 When we approach God because he is good we know he only wants what is good for us. Because we live in the New Testament age we know that God expressed his good, forgiving and loving nature perfectly in Jesus’ death and resurrection and as believers we are enabled by him to abide in his love. ‘So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.’ 1 John 4:16 It is God who stirred up that love in us, ‘We love because he first loved us.’ 1 John 4:19 We need not have any fear when approaching God because Jesus has already taken our righteous judgment upon himself through his wrath bearing sacrifice. ‘In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’ 1 John 4:10
Whoever we are and wherever we come from it is right for us to be able to approach God as Lord and give him praise for the ‘great and wondrous things he alone has done.’ vv 9-10 John confirms this confidence in Revelation 15:4, ‘Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’
Frequently when approaching God people try to make God confirm to their desires, in effect attempting to create God in their own image. It is not enough to intellectually accept the presence of God, it is when we want to be united with God so that we conform to his desires that we have made the step into being a Christian. Which is why the ESV translation of verse 11 is so helpful using the phrase ‘unite my heart’ because it is when our desires are aligned with his that we will pray and live aright. ‘Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.’ v11
The Lord knows our frailty and tendency to divert from his ways which is why we need to restore our ongoing relationship with him through confessing to him our weaknesses and sin. We can do so in confidence because his love for us is unchanging. We do not fall in and out of being a child of God but just as a child may spoil their ongoing relationship with a parent so through sin we can spoil our relationship with God. Therefore, David is able to pray, ‘But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant.’ vv 15-16
Do we want God to be in our image or do we want to conform to him?
Undivided (acoustic) // Emu Music