Psalm 86 is called ‘A Prayer of David.’ It is one of five Psalms classified in this way. Whether it was used in public worship or reserved only for private meditations cannot be definitively answered. If you sometimes find it challenging to know how to word your prayers, I recommend this Psalm to be read and offered as a prayer to the Lord. Each verse exudes the yearning of one who desired God to help with his troubles, who begged the Lord for greater strength, and who extolled the Creator for His marvelous works.
Verse 11 powerfully proclaims: “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.” David was perplexed by his circumstances, but he desired to gain understanding. Once taught and instructed more fully, David promised to walk in the way of truth.
The last request in the verse is the part I find myself returning to again repeatedly. “Unite my heart to fear Your name,” is a request informing us that the heart of David was sometimes divided. This is a common malady that still affects many; this author included.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus warned: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (money or wealth).” Divided loyalties or desires and the proper placement of wealth in verses 19-23 provides context for this struggle for sovereignty Jesus cautions against. Spurgeon comments: “Our minds are apt to be divided between a variety of objects, like a trickling stream that wastes its force in a hundred tiny channels.”
Paul described the challenging predicament for all who desire to serve the Lord in Galatians 5:16-17: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Commentators disagree on if Paul was describing his attempts to live according to the Law of Moses or if he were describing the battle Christians wage against competing natures in Romans 7:13-25. Whichever view one adopts does not negate the fact that most have experienced what the apostle expresses in verse 15: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” Again, we identify with the experience of verse 19: “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” The person who is unstable and only “has half a mind” or is double-minded, according to James 1:8, needs to have their heart united to fear, honor, and obey God.
To unite our hearts, we must set our priority, not priorities, on seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness first as Jesus declared in Matthew 6:33. Our minds must focus on things above as Paul teaches in Colossians 3:1-4. Romans 13:14 continues to warn that we must try to avoid providing any opportunity for our flesh to be tempted. How this works itself out in each life individually will vary, but my prayer, like David, is to have a united heart.
Is your heart divided? Let the blood of Christ wash away the sin that divides it. When our hearts are divided, the heart of God is broken.