A Servant Prays
“Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.”
Prayer is an important part of your life as a Christian. Through prayer, you can thank and praise God and you can also lay your needs, concerns, and trials before Him. Prayer keeps you close to theLord and is a means by which you can receive strength, comfort, hope, and assurance.
Prayer is an activity that we must continually practice and renew ourselves in. Our sinful nature pulls away from prayer. But without prayer, we cannot persevere for long in our service of God and in our faith.
Psalm 86 is labelled a “prayer “of David. In fact, all the psalms are prayers of one form or another. But this psalm is particularly a prayer because in it David seeks out the Lord’s help. It’s a prayer not only in the sense of talking to God, but more specifically in the sense of being an earnest entreaty. As we study this psalm, we can learn about prayer and can be encouraged to seek help from God by following the example of the psalmist.
No special occasion is mentioned as the reason for Psalm 86. The song is written in the first-person throughout, which gives insight into the heart of the author. This also encourages us to be personal, humble, and direct in our private prayers.
In verse 4 David prays, “Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” This verse comes in a list of similar petitions that form the beginning of the psalm (v. 1-7). A special feature of verse 4 is that David approaches God from the point of view of a servant. This is a theme that is worked into the whole psalm. Seven times the author appeals to “my Lord,” and “Lord” here means “Master.” Three times, he also calls himself “your servant.” In verse 16 he even calls himself “the son of your maidservant,” which implies a person who is born into service and slavery.
When you pray, it is important to realize that you are in the position of a servant and that you’re dependent upon your Master. While the servant lives for the purpose and plan of the Master, the Master in return gives the servant the right to expect help, protection, and support from his Lord. In prayer, you acknowledge your dependence upon God; He is the source of every good thing that you need for body and soul. You also acknowledge your Master’s wisdom and his plan; He knows better than you do what you need and so you are willing to submit to his greatness and authority.
In verse 4 David’s position of dependence is further shown by the phrase, “To you I lift up my soul.” To lift up your soul to God means that you reach out to Him, that you lay yourself open before Him with all your frailties, and that you appeal to Him for the needs of your soul. Many saints in the Scriptures would indicate their reaching out to God by physically lifting their hands to heaven. “To lift up your soul” to God means that you reach out to Him for help. You know that He sees and hears you and will answer you
In this psalm David lifted up his soul to the Lord to ask for joy. In whatever trial David was experiencing at that time, his soul was weighed down. Perhaps he was feeling oppressed by the “arrogant” and “ruthless” men that we read about in verse 14. Perhaps his own sins made him feel guilty and unworthy before God, leading him to confess his trust in God’s forgiving grace (v. 5). In either case, David turned to the Lord for joy, which is what all Christians must do. There is no other source for true joy than God himself.
Your Master in heaven has promised to give you peace (Phil 4:7) and joy (Ps 4:7). Keep in mind however, the words of the Catechism in Lord’s Day 45. “God will give His grace and the Holy Spirit only to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask Him for these gifts and thank Him for them.” You are commanded by God to lift up your soul to Him so that He might pour his gifts upon you. Through Christ, the way is open. Your Master, your Father, will not turn you away when you lift your soul to Him.
Rev. David DeBoer
Clarion, The Canadian Reformed magazine, Volume 59, Volume 2 p. 29 January 15, 2010