Praise in the Middle


Psalm 86
A Prayer of David.
1Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
2Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
3Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.
4Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
6Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace.
7In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
8There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
9All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
10For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
11Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
12I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
13For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.
15But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant.
17Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Much is made (and rightfully so) of holding on tightly to God in times of distress or disaster. And if a careful search of the Scriptures is made, we will find that it is actually God who is doing the holding. When we are distressed it is His strength that holds on to us. With this Psalm, we find David taking a different approach.

We don’t really know the historical impetus for this prayer of King David. As we know, his life was fraught with trouble. So the writing of this prayer could have come at any one of a number of events. What we find in this psalm is a determination to go a step further than just being sheltered in the storms of life. David takes a moment, in the middle of the stress to praise God and acknowledge Him as Lord of All.

8There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
9All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
10For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
11Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
12I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
13For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

This is an interesting decision on David’s part and one that bear emulation. The choice to praise God during the struggle is a good but difficult one. Notice that these words of praise don’t even mention the fact that there are problems. The focus is solely on the Lord and His greatness. There is a request for instruction in the ways of God and finally a remembrance of the fact that God has indeed rescued him in the past. (Also a wonderful discipline to practice.)

Praising God in the struggles demands intentionality and maybe even some advanced planning, if you will. Maybe I decide today, when life is just chugging along fairly easily, that my praises will resound even when I’m troubled. You will notice that David doesn’t even mention the fact that he’s surrounded by fears. Instead, he just praises God and declares His goodness. He takes his sight off himself and his trouble and focuses instead on God; not on what he wants God to do for him – just on God Himself. This takes some incredible restraint. Our attention can be fickle and quickly flits back to our own situation. Perhaps if I’m focused on God every day and spend time in praise of His name every day I too will be prepared to focus on Him during the difficult times as well. Sounds good on paper. Let’s see how it plays out.

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