When we pray, what do our prayers say about the God to whom we pray? Do we pray to God as judge, or to God as liberator, or to God as counselor, or to God who is made in our image more than our being made in his? Our prayers express our fears, our hopes, and our desires, but we also voice our dreams, our grief, and our confessions. As we articulate these prayers, we describe the God to whom we pray.
Psalm 86, described as a prayer of David, records the words of a man in need, who endures attack from godless men who seek to him. He prays, “Guard my life” (86:2). “Teach me your way”(86:11), “Turn to me and have mercy on me;…save the son of your maidservant” (86:16), and “Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame” (86:17). He prays these petitions with assurance that God will hear him; he says, “In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me”(86:7). Despite the pursuit of determined enemies, he trusts that God will provide a way for him to escape.
His prayer also describes God in terms of his virtue, his attributes, and his actions. God is “forgiving and good…, abounding in love to all who call on [him]”(86:5). God is great and performs marvelous works. He alone is God (86:10). God loves, God delivers, God forgives. David acknowledges the threat posed by his enemies, but confesses while under attack, “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (86:15).
David, aware that his enemies want to kill him, calls for fire. He identifies the danger to himself (“ruthless men,” “the arrogant”), identifies the method of fire (“Give me a sign of your goodness”), and the desired effect on his enemies (“that my enemies may see it and be put to shame”). He encircles this cry for God’s action with a firm declaration of faith that God will deliver.
When we, like David, sense that we are under attack, how and what do we pray? David describes for us in his prayer a God on whom we can rely. We too may pray with assurance that God hears those who trust in him. Tell God your dreams and disappointments; reveal your hopes and fears. Remember what he has done for you. Pray, remember, trust. God will provide.