Prayer in Suffering and Distress
1 A prayer of David.
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.[b]
2 Preserve my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who puts his trust in you.
3 You are my God;[c] have pity on me, O Lord,
for to you I cry out all day long.
4 Give joy to the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord,
I lift up my soul.[d]
5 O Lord, you are kind and forgiving,
filled with kindness[e] for all who cry to you.
6 Hear my prayer, O Lord,
and listen to my voice in supplication.
7 In the time of trouble I call to you,
for you will answer me.
8 There is no one among the gods like you, O Lord,
nor can any deeds compare with yours.
9 All the nations[f] you have made
will come and bow down before you, O Lord,
and glorify your name.
10 For you are great and you do marvelous deeds;[g]
you alone are God.
11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
so that I may walk in your truth;
let me worship your name
with an undivided heart.[h]
12 I will praise you with all my heart,[i]
O Lord, my God,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 Your kindness[j] toward me is great;
you have rescued me from the depths of the netherworld.
14 Arrogant men are rising up against me, O God;
a violent mob seeks my life;
they do not keep you before their eyes.[k]
15 But you, O Lord, are a merciful and compassionate God,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness and faithfulness.[l]
16 Turn to me and grant me your gracious favor;
endow your servant with strength
and rescue the child of your handmaid.[m]
17 Grant me a sign of your favor,[n]
so that those who hate me
may see it and be put to shame,
because you, O Lord,
have helped and comforted me.
- Psalm 86:1 The psalmist passes in turn from supplication to an act of trust and gratitude toward God. This poem, composed most likely after the Exile, is the prayer of devout Israelites who believed in the Lord’s goodness as a result of their own experience. After all, he brought Israel back to life in the most somber moment of her history! The Lord seemed so close to them that he could listen, pardon, and save; the psalmist contemplates the mystical experience of Moses encountering God (see Ex 34:6). The conviction of God’s goodness overwhelms us by its evidence and its simplicity of expression. It already paves the way for a “missionary” sensitivity. The imprecations against the pagans lose their vehemence, and one foresees the day when, touched by the Lord, they will render glory to the only God.
By means of this psalm, Christians can pray for their well-being in this world and beyond. Prolonging Christ’s Passion, the Church and Christians experience the same anguish he did and seek to take refuge in the same heavenly Father.
- Psalm 86:1 Poor and needy: see note on Ps 34:7.
- Psalm 86:3 You are my God: indeed, God himself has chosen David to be his servant (see 1 Sam 13:14; 15:28; 16:12; 2 Sam 7:8).
- Psalm 86:4 My soul: see note on Ps 6:4.
- Psalm 86:5 Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
- Psalm 86:9 All the nations: see note on Ps 46:11. Your name: see note on Ps 5:12.
- Psalm 86:10 Marvelous deeds: see note on Ps 9:2.
- Psalm 86:11 The psalmist asks God to save him from his enemies and also from himself (see Pss 25:5; 51:9, 12). Undivided heart: see 1 Chr 12:33; as well as Ezek 11:19; 1 Cor 7:35.
- Psalm 86:12 The psalmist vows to praise the Lord for his help (see note on Ps 7:18). Heart: see note on Ps 4:8.
- Psalm 86:13 The psalmist anticipates being heard. Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5. Depths: see note on Ps 30:2.
- Psalm 86:14 These haughty foes disregard God—to their ruin (see Ps 54:5; Jer 20:11).
- Psalm 86:15 This verse recalls Ex 34:6.
- Psalm 86:16 Child of your handmaid: another translation is: “faithful child.” See also Ps 116:16.
- Psalm 86:17 Favor: the good things promised in the covenant (see notes on Pss 27:13; 31:20). Those who hate me . . . put to shame: the imprecations against enemies that conclude a good number of the psalms are here kept to a minimum.