Psalm 86 - Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer

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A Prayer of David.
1) Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2) Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; 3) be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all day long.
4) Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5) For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
6) Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
7) In the day of my trouble I call on you,
for you will answer me.

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

14) O God, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
15) But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16) Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving girl.
17) Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Psalm 86
Proper 7, Sunday between June 19 and June 25, Year A, verses 1-10
Proper 11, Sunday between July 17 and July 23, Year A, verses 11-17, 22

The Church, for unknown reasons, splits the psalm into two parts, which are read once every three years on Sundays four weeks apart.

This psalm brings together several themes of the Psalms. Verses 1-7 are an appeal for help, Verses 8-10 praise God's unique status above all. Verses 10-13 brings together the desire for wisdom and knowledge of God's ways, with heartfelt thanks for God's hesed, steadfast love. Finally, verses 14-17 turn back to the problem at hand, a plea for help and rescue: "Turn to me and be gracious to me."

One of the ways you know someone is listening to you is their body language. Do they lean in to the conversation? Do they incline their ear to hear better, to focus attention?

God is not like human beings, in that you can't "see" God's body language. But you can certainly picture it, desire it, imagine God turning to pay attention.

When we are in trouble, difficulty, or distress, we often suffer from an attention deficit, a lack of attention. Family, friends, allies may abandon us. And where is God in this circumstance?

"Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me.... Turn to me and be gracious to me."

We may not always see God in action. We may not always know what God is up to. But we can always turn our attention to God. There is no time when God does not welcome our prayer, our pain, our question and plea. And there is no time when we do not benefit from attending to our relationship with the Lord.

It is our acts of watching and listening for God,that we might see and hear and intuit what God is up to. If you consider these middle verses at the center of this psalm, we note that they are the place where the psalm inclines its ear to the Lord. There is praise and thankfulness for who God is. There is the prayer to be taught and let and reoriented in a godly direction: give me an undivided heart.

While the psalm explicitly asks for God's attention, it is just as much an example of our "leaning in," giving our attention to God. Our prayer may start with a plea, but the act of prayer activates us. Our hope, our memory, our trust. In the words of the psalm, in the act of prayer, we give ourselves the opportunity to hear how God is speaking to us and where God is in the world.

As we declare, "Great is your steadfast love toward me," we both call upon God, and remember the one who is our deliverance.

Credits:
JoanDragonfly, Auditory Learner. Used under (CC BY 2.0).

* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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