Psalm 86: Incline Your Ear to Me, O Lord

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 19, 2020

From 2017:

Today, in Mercy, we pray with a tiny mustard seed. Like this seed, any small act of kindness, courage or faith multiplies and yields a harvest greater than seems possible. A holy life is made of such small seeds… given daily with loving intention. We pray today for a vibrant and firmly rooted faith that, like the mature tree, offers a haven for others on the journey.


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 86, “a prayer of David”. Today’s verses provide a bridge between our first and second readings, as is usually the case on Sundays.

The thread holding all three passages together is the topic of prayer.

Both the first reading and psalm display a particular type of prayer, which I think of as a “Butter God Up” prayer. Both the Wisdom writer and psalmist tell God how good God is, presumably hoping that God will be good to them:

There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned….
…. But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us .

Wisdom 12

You, O LORD, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.

Psalm 86

There’s nothing wrong with the human psychology here. I used it on my parents a few times when I was young:

Mom, Dad, you’ve always trusted me.
Would it be OK if I go to the shore overnight with my friends?

In other words, “You are good, so bless me.” It’s an innocent prayer that pleads for the Provider’s benevolence and mercy on our petition


But Paul, in our second reading, teaches another, deeper way of prayer:

The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.

This deeper prayer arises out of a complete confidence and abandonment to God’s Mercy. Convinced that God loves us and wills our good, our prayer becomes an underlying, often wordless, relationship with God.

And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.


Poetry: Primary Wonder – Denise Levertov

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
                                                        And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng's clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

Music:  Bow Thine Ear, O Lord – by William Byrd, sung here by The Cambridge Singers with John Rutter
The loss of Jerusalem is an inspiration for William Byrd (1539-1623) in his setting of Bow thine ear, O Lord.

Bow thine ear, O Lord, and hear us:
Let thine anger cease from us.
Sion is wasted and brought low,
Jerusalem desolate and void.

4 thoughts on “Psalm 86: Incline Your Ear to Me, O Lord

  1. There have been occasions when I just can’t say the words that I should because of how miserable I’ve felt. Then, I sighed out loud to express what I thought or how I felt, allowing the Spirit to speak for me by forming my breath into words. Or I might recite the Our Father mentally while exhaling the words silently so God would receive my petition. It’s like breathing out to God. He acknowledges what we mean to say by how we express our thoughts and feelings without the use of words.

    Liked by 1 person

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